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Equity, retention and safe staffing among topics nurses seek in new contract

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Nurses and hospital systems return to the bargaining table this week, following last week’s historic private-sector strike where 15,000 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) picketed in front of hospitals across the Twin Cities and Duluth area known as Twin Ports.

“Nurses stand ready to return to the bargaining table to settle fair contracts to improve care and working conditions at the bedside,” said Mary C. Turner, RN at North Memorial Hospital and MNA President. “When our executives refuse to fully staff our hospitals and continue to push nurses out of the profession, that is a public health crisis.”

Nurses have been bargaining since March, seeking contractual changes that address a growing crisis of understaffing and retention in hospitals. A recent analysis from McKinsey & Company shows at the current rate of nurses leaving the field, the U.S. will likely face a severe labor gap of up to 450,000 nurses by 2025.

Fighting to win a “fair contract”

MNA is seeking a 27% to 30% pay increase over the next three years, a greater role in scheduling and a clear commitment from hospitals to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Our union collectively has a strong stance on anti-racism and anti-discrimination, and we want our employer to have an actual statement on the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Mable Fale, MNA Racial Diversity Committee (RDC) and labor nurse. “We need individuals to come to the table to bargain with us, to talk about nurses’ lived experiences and have dialogue about the proposals that RDC has actively worked on.”

Proposals include mandatory and ongoing implicit bias training, blind hiring processes and a paid diversity and equity specialist at each bargaining unit. Fale said the response from the hospital systems has consistently been, “It’s already the law. Why do we need this in our contracts?” To which Fale responds, “Because we do. When it’s included in contracts, it lets nurses of color know their employers actually care about them, diversifying their workforce and combating structural, systemic racism.”

Georgia, why do you always talk about race?

For something to improve, you have to first acknowledge it exists. In the United States, Black patients have among the worst health outcomes, Black men have the lowest life expectancy of any demographic group and Black women are three-times more likely to die from pregnancy than white women.

“The reality is, we live in a society stratified by race and class. Race is a continuous component of our lives, and we can’t be passive about it,” said Fale. “I believe in language leveling. When I talk about anti-racism, when I'm saying white supremacy, I need you to understand what I'm actually saying. I can't have you using the term racism and prejudice interchangeably. As far as women of color, we experience worse outcomes in almost every component even for earnings. One of the only reasons nurses of color earn equal wages within our union is because we demanded it.”

Hospital groups will seek mediation, maintain previous position

The Twin Cities Hospital Group represents four health systems: Children’s Minnesota, North Memorial Health, Fairview Health and Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital. Their public response to the strike is that the nurses’ salary demands are unreasonable and unaffordable. There has not been any statement around what’s being offered to improve workplace safety or to address racial equity.

However, a spokesman for the group said Tuesday, “We will continue to ask the union to agree to mediation, and we will work to continue to negotiate in good faith.” Allina, St. Luke’s and Essentia are the other health care systems set to resume negotiations this week.

Contracts for nurses in the Twin Cities expired on May 31, and contracts for nurses in the Twin Ports expired on June 30, 2022.

Negotiation meeting schedule

  • Tuesday - North Memorial and Essentia

  • Wednesday - Allina Health, M Health Fairview, and Children’s Hospitals

  • Thursday - HealthPartners’ Methodist and M Health Fairview’s HealthEast

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