By Laura Sayles
MNA Government Affairs Specialist
Last Tuesday, MNA nurses staged informational pickets at Essentia St. Mary’s and St. Luke’s hospitals in Duluth. The nurses that work at those hospitals have been working without a contract since June of this year. They’ve been in negotiations with management but because they were unable to make headway to come to a solution that works for nurses and the hospital management, nurses want patients to know the nurses’ contract affects the care they receive.
MNA nurses made the decision to stage an informational picket when they felt that their voices weren’t being heard in negotiations. For background, an informational picket is not a strike or work-stoppage. It is strictly informational and designed to publicize the fact that a dispute exists with an employer. Workers can participate in an informational picket as long they are off work. A unique feature of pickets at a health care facility is that the union must give the employer 10-days notice of their intent to picket.
August 20 turned into a hot (for Duluth), sunny day, but the nurses were determined to show their employers that they were tired of excuses and stonewalling from management. Wearing their MNA red and carrying signs, over 900 nurses, members of other unions, and community members marched for 6 hours in front of both hospitals. It was a family-friendly affair with kids in strollers, dogs on leashes, chanting, and LOTS of honking from passing cars. And it appears that this collective action has worked as planned.
The Essentia bargaining team came to a tentative agreement the next day. St. Luke’s has yet to meet again with management since the picket, but we are hopeful that they will have a similar outcome. The actions of the nurses, their families, and the Duluth community shows that there is power in collective action!