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About 15,000 nurses in Minnesota will begin a three-day strike Monday in what is believed to be the largest private sector nurse strike in U.S. history, according to an announcement from the union that represents them, the Nurses Association of Minnesota.
The nurses work at 16 hospitals across the state owned by seven different health systems: M Health Fairview, Essentia Health, HealthPartners, Allina Health, Children’s Hospital, North Memorial and St. Luke’s.
They have been in negotiations for new contracts since March, and like many other nurses across the country want measures to help correct staffing shortages and retention concerns exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread burnout.
With thousands of nurses off duty until Thursday, health systems have created contingency plans and hired replacement staff to keep operations afloat.
Twins Cities Hospitals Group, which includes Methodist, North Memorial, Children’s and Fairview hospitals, will shoulder more than $20 million a day in additional costs for the duration of the three-day strike, according to an emailed statement.
Depending on the specialty, travel substitute nurses during the strike will earn $7,980 to $10,640 for a 60-hour work week with travel and lodging expenses provided, according to a post from travel staffing firm Medical Staffing Solutions.
Travel nurses who act as substitute staff in the midst of strikes “are typically paid at higher industry rates because of the intensity of the duty and the high level of skill required to staff a strike,” said Jason Kohl, vice president of top of another staffing firm, US Nursing. an email.
After all, about half of all labor disputes that USA Nursing helps staff end up being resolved before any care is interrupted, Kohl said.
While staffing concerns are a key point in negotiations in Minnesota, higher wages are also important demands from nurses in the new contracts.
In negotiations, nurses have asked for raises of more than 30% over three years, according to a statement from Twin Cities Hospitals Group.
The hospitals have pushed back, saying full-time nurses at Methodist, North Memorial, Children’s and Fairview hospitals regularly earn $100,000 or more a year, according to the statement.
The hospitals have proposed increases of more than 10% over the course of a three-year contract, and the statement said “these are the biggest increases in more than a decade.”
Through the negotiations, the nurses have also emphasized the nonprofit status of their hospitals, launching an advertising campaign in an effort to “put patient care before profit,” according to the MNA.
Only two hospitals in Minnesota are for-profit, while the rest are nonprofit or community-owned, according to the state’s hospital association.
The union is arguing that for-profit hospitals operate like for-profit hospitals with “patients overwhelmed by hospital executives trying to boost their bottom lines.”
“Corporate health care policies in our hospitals have left nurses understaffed and overworked, while patients are overburdened, hospitals and local services have closed, and executives take home multi-million dollar checks,” Chris Rubesch, a registered nurse at Essentia in Duluth and vice president of MNA. , said a union statement.
“Nurses are a priority in our hospitals, caring for our patients, and we are determined to fight for fair contracts so nurses can stay at the bedside to provide the quality care our patients deserve,” Rubesch said.