Three-day nurses strike begins Monday. Here’s the basics

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			Three-day nurses strike begins Monday. Here’s the basics
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Roughly 15,000 nurses at 16 hospitals in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports region plan to walk off the job Monday morning for three days for what is expected to be one of the nation’s largest nurses strikes.

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association gave the required 10-day notice Sept. 1 for a three-day work stoppage that’s part of their months-long push for a new labor agreement. Hospitals will likely have to call on temporary workers to care for patients during the walk out.

WHY ARE NURSES STRIKING?

Nurses are asking health system leaders for about 31 percent in wage increases over the next three years as well as improved staffing levels, better employee retention and increased safety protections.

Hospital leaders say they cannot afford nurses’ demands and they have already offered wage increases of about 11 percent as well as some other actions to address their concerns.

They note that hospital systems have been financially damaged by the coronavirus pandemic as well as an increase in charity care for those who cannot pay. A Minnesota Hospitals Association survey found hospitals’ operating margins dropped to 1.2 percent in 2020 and 33 hospitals and health systems surveyed are losing money.

Nurses have responded to those claims by criticizing the million-dollar salaries of many health system leaders.

HOW WILL HOSPITALS RESPOND?

Hospital leaders insist the strike will not impact patient care. To continue to provide services hospitals will almost certainly need to call in temporary or replacement workers.

Fill-in workers can be expensive.

Travel nurses who’ve been relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic to fill staffing shortages can earn $50 per hour or more. The average hourly pay for a Minnesota nurse is about $37 per hour, although pay is higher in the Twin Cities metro, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Studies have shown that nursing strikes can have an impact on patient care. A 2010 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research found deaths increased by 19.4 percent and readmission by 6.5 percent for patients admitted during a strike.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Nurses at most of the affected facilities have been negotiating for new labor agreements since March.

Hospital leaders are pushing nurses to meet with a mediator to settle their differences and work out a labor deal. So far, nurses have rejected that idea, saying the two sides are still too far apart.

Negotiators were expected to meet over the weekend, right before the strike begins. It’s unclear if they will meet during the walk out, but future negotiations are expected after the strike ends and nurses are back at work.

WHICH HOSPITALS ARE AFFECTED?

The 15,000 nurses at those facilities represent roughly two-thirds of the Minnesota Nurses Association’s membership. The union represents nurses in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

In the metro, hospitals affected by the pending nurses strike are: Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, United, Unity, Children’s Minneapolis, Children’s St. Paul, Methodist, Riverside, Southdale, St. Joe’s, St. John’s and North Memorial. Those hospitals are part of the Allina, Children’s Minnesota, HealthPartners, M Health Fairview and North Memorial systems.

In the Twin Ports region, Essentia hospitals in Duluth, Superior, Wis., and Moose Lake are affected as well as St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth.

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