Metro nurses to strike June 10

The MN Nurses Union and hospitals will attempt to reach an agreement before the strike deadline.

Kyle Potter

With a sea of nurses behind them, representatives from the Minnesota Nurses Association announced Friday that 12,000 nurses will walk away from their jobs June 10 if they cannot reach a contract agreement with hospitals before then. If the strike occurs, it will begin at 7 a.m. that Thursday morning and end at 7 a.m. the following day. Cindy Olson, a nurse at St. JohnâÄôs Hospital, said nurses promised they would spend âÄúany and/or every day until thenâÄù bargaining in order to avoid the strike. âÄúWe feel that this is what is needed in order to get bargaining going again so that we can settle this contract,âÄù said Nellie Munn, a nurse and member of the MNA bargaining team. Among the contested parts of the contract, nurses are seeking a fixed nurse-to-patient ratio. Such a permanent system would improve patient outcome, nurses said. Nurses in the emergency room would be assigned no more than three patients at once. In intensive care units, it would be one patient per nurse. The hospitals said the proposed ratios are far too rigid and costly and suggest an alternative system in which the head nurse on each floor will make staffing decisions based upon the number and sickness of patients. A federal mediator will join bargaining teams from MNA and the 14 metro area hospitals when they return to the table Wednesday and Friday in hopes of reaching an agreement before the planned strike. The strike announcement is the latest news since May 19, when nurses overwhelmingly voted to authorize the strike. Nine thousand nurses gathered to cast their vote on whether to accept the most recent contract proposals from the hospitals or to authorize a strike. More than 90 percent voted in favor of a strike. Contract negotiations between the two parties have been tense since they began in March. MNA hopes the threat of a looming strike will improve bargaining. âÄúWeâÄôre hopeful that the hospitals will get serious and get to the real issues,âÄù said John Nemo, MNA spokesman. But the hospitals involved in the bargaining expressed concern over the announcement and what it may mean for negotiating. âÄúIt does seem to call into question their good-faith efforts,âÄù said Maureen Schriner, spokeswoman for the six hospital systems involved. Schriner said she wonders whether the national nurses union, National Nurses United, may have played too large a role in the decision to strike. On Friday, 13,000 nurses in California announced they intend to walk out on the same date if they cannot reach an agreement in their own contract negotiations. California is the only state in the United States that currently uses a fixed nurse-to-patient ratio. Whether the system is effective is still unclear. Nurses and hospitals in Minnesota said they remain committed to avoiding a strike if possible, but nurses said they are not afraid to walk out in the name of patient safety.