Nurses reach deals with Twin Cities and Duluth-area hospitals, call off strike

By: - December 6, 2022 9:03 am

Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner speaks at a news conference in November 2022. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Union nurses called off strikes at seven of the state’s largest health systems in the Twin Cities and Duluth area after reaching tentative agreements that include the largest pay raises for nurses in two decades.

St. Luke’s in Duluth announced a tentative agreement on Monday night, which was followed on Tuesday morning by announcements from Allina Health, Children’s Minnesota, North Memorial Health, HealthPartners, M Health Fairview and Essentia Health. St. Luke’s Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors, which employs 18 nurses, has not yet reached a deal with the union and nurses could still strike there.

The deals were reached less than a week before 15,000 nurses planned to walk off the job at 15 hospitals for the second time in recent months, threatening to upend hospital operations already strained by a wave of RSV, flu and COVID-19 infections.

The tentative agreements, which nurses must still vote on, likely resolves nine months of fierce negotiations over wages, benefits and staffing levels.

Nurses will receive 18% wage increases over the next three years at Allina Health, Children’s Minnesota, North Memorial, HealthPartners and M Health Fairview. Nurses at St. Luke’s in Duluth will receive a 17% increase over the next three years. The pay raises are the largest the nurses have won since seeing 19% raises in 2001.

“This tentative agreement is a historic win for nurses and patients at the bedside,” Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner said in a statement. “This tentative agreement will help to keep nurses at the bedside, where we will keep fighting to oppose the corporate healthcare policies which threaten our hospital systems and the care our patients deserve.”

A spokeswoman for Allina Health shared a statement celebrating the agreement: “Allina Health is pleased with the settlement, which reflects the priorities of both parties and is fair and equitable to our employees, patients and communities. We are thankful to be able to return our full attention to caring for the community at this time of increased illness and demand.”

The agreements also include language on staffing levels, a key sticking point for nurses who say chronic understaffing is hurting patient outcomes and driving nurses out of the profession.

According to the union, the tentative agreements vary across hospitals in regards to staffing. They include agreements to prevent reductions in staffing levels without “consensus between nurses and management,” protection for nurses from discipline when they raise concerns about assignments they think are unsafe and requirements to review staffing levels if negative outcomes for patients and nurses rise by 50%.

A spokesman for the nurses’ union says they will continue pushing for state legislators to require hospitals across the state to form staffing committees made up of nurses and hospital managers through “The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act.”

A strike could have lasted through the Christmas holiday with nurses at most hospitals threatening to strike from Dec. 11 until Dec. 31. Nurses at St. Luke’s in Duluth said they would strike until a deal was reached.

The strike would have matched the three-day September strike as the largest private sector nurses strike in U.S. history.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.