Nurses vote for 2nd strike

Nurses and the hospitals have agreed to meet with a federal mediator this week.

Kyle Potter

Just 11 days after walking out of their hospitals for one day, metro area nurses have voted to strike again.
More than 84 percent of Minnesota Nurses Association members voted Monday to approve a second strike. They are willing to walk again, this time for as long as it takes if they cannot finalize a new contract with their employers.
By Tuesday afternoon, nurses and the hospitals agreed to meet with a federal mediator to resume contract negotiations, hospital spokeswoman Maureen Schriner said.
The two parties will meet Thursday to negotiate for the first time since June 4.
Prior to the vote, MNA spokesman John Nemo said nurses felt the threat of an indefinite strike was necessary to reach an agreement.
The vote came on the heels of the June 10 one-day strike — a walkout which appears to have changed nothing in the tense contract negotiation process that began in March.
Ninety percent of nurses voted to authorize that strike May 19.
“Tonight’s vote was the strongest possible statement we could send to the hospitals regarding our unwavering commitment to our patients and our profession,” MNA President Linda Hamilton said in a statement late Monday night.
Nurses and hospital administrators have spent a large part of the past three months arguing about staffing levels. Nurses want strict nurse-to-patient ratios, which they say will improve patient care. Hospital officials say such a system is too costly and isn’t proven to work.
The 14 hospitals locked in contract negotiations were disappointed with the results of the second strike vote in just more than a month, Schriner said.
“Clearly we need to be sitting down to negotiate a contract, not having another strike,” she said.
All 12,000 MNA nurses must give their employers at least 10 days notice of intent to strike. Nurses have promised to delay a second strike so long as “productive negotiations are continuing.”
In the week preceding Monday’s vote, nurses and hospital officials argued about returning to the bargaining table. Disputes over the conditions of resuming negotiations have become nearly as sticky as the contract itself.
After nurses called upon hospitals to resume bargaining, hospital officials said they would do so if the union delayed a second strike until August at the earliest — a condition MNA rejected.
Echoing statements after last month’s strike vote, both sides said they are committed to reaching an agreement and avoiding another strike.
The ball, both sides maintain, is in their opponent’s court.