15K Nurses in Minnesota Have Had It

They hope 3-day strike will give them the upper hand in contract negotiations
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2022 8:23 AM CDT
15K Nurses in Minnesota Say Enough
Nurses picket outside North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, Minn. on Monday.   (Ben Hovland/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

Some 15,000 nurses in Minnesota have walked off the job in what the Washington Post calls "the largest strike of private-sector nurses in US history," with some of 15 affected hospitals preparing for delays despite efforts to recruit traveling nurses. The three-day strike, which began Monday, comes in response to what nurses say are issues of understaffing, overwork, burnout, and inadequate pay. "I can't give my patients the care they deserve," Chris Rubesch, vice president of the Minnesota Nurses Association and a nurse at Essentia Health in Duluth, tells the Post, noting patients can wait "10 minutes or more" in cases where "they've soiled themselves or their oxygen came unplugged or they need to go to the bathroom."

"It eats away at you," says Kelley Anaas, an ICU nurse at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis. "If that was my family member in that bed, I wouldn't want to leave their side." She notes nurses struggle under more patients than they can handle and under lead nurses who have less than a year of experience. Other nurses say units go without any lead nurse. The Minnesota Nurses Association has logged a 300% increase in nurse reports of unsafe staffing levels since 2014, with 7,857 reports in 2021, per the Post. The nurses union is demanding that nurses have more say in staffing, including through a committee that would set appropriate levels. It's also proposed a 30% pay increase over the next three years.

That's "unrealistic and unaffordable," says Paul Omodt, a rep for the Twin Cities Hospital Group, adding that nurses in the state earn $80,960 a year on average. Health-care groups have proposed a pay increase of 10% or 12%. While Omodt complains that nurses "refused to go to mediation" so "this strike is on [them]," the union counters that hospital administrations have refused solutions in contract negotiations ongoing since March. "People just don't know how not okay things are," Brandy Navarro, a nurse at United Hospital in St. Paul, tells CNN. "We are standing up for our patients and standing up for each other." The strike will end Thursday morning, with or without a deal, per MPR News. Nurses in Michigan and Oregon have also authorized work stoppages. (Read more nurses stories.)

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