The Minnesota Nurses Association has scheduled a strike vote for Monday as a contract dispute continues between hospitals and some 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities area and Duluth.
The vote would authorize nurse negotiation leaders to call a strike following a 10-day notice to hospital employers, the union says.
"Nurses do not take this decision lightly, but we are determined to take a stand at the bargaining table, and on the sidewalk if necessary, to put patients before profits in our hospitals," said Mary Turner, a nurse at North Memorial Health Hospital and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, in a statement.
Minneapolis-based Allina Health said in a statement that Thursday will mark the 12th time its negotiators have met with the union to reach an agreement, and that it has offered a wage increase of 10.25% over three years, among other benefits.
"While we are disappointed the union is choosing to move to authorize a strike, our priority is providing high quality care to the community," the statement said.
Twin Cities Hospital Group, which represents other medical centers negotiating with the union, said in a statement that it was "disappointed that the nurses' union leadership has rushed into their strike authorization vote and continues to reject our offer of an outside mediator."
"It is important for the public to note: Our hospitals are open and will remain open to serve the community," the group added. "Today's announcement ... does not mean a strike is inevitable. We will continue our efforts at the negotiating table to reach reasonable agreements and avoid any actions that would interrupt patient care."
The group represents management at the M Health Fairview, Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale-based North Memorial.
Inpatient nurses also are negotiating contracts at two health systems based in Duluth — Essentia Health and St. Luke's. At Essentia, officials Thursday said they've held 14 bargaining sessions since mid-April and noted in a statement that the health system "has a long history of reaching mutually acceptable agreements while avoiding work stoppages."
Even so, the current dispute continues. The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) says a strike of 15,000 nurses would be one of the largest such strikes in U.S. history and would be the first to span both the Twin Cities and Duluth.
"Corporate health care policies in our hospitals have left nurses understaffed and overworked, while patients are overcharged, local hospitals and services are closed and executives take home million-dollar paychecks," Chris Rubesch, an Essentia Health nurse and first vice president of the MNA, said in a statement. "We are determined to fight for fair contracts so nurses can stay at the bedside to provide the quality care our patients deserve."
In talks thus far, hospitals have sought to focus on wages while nurses have pushed to discuss other concerns, such as staffing levels.
Contracts are negotiated separately at different medical centers, but hospitals earlier this month said they've generally offered a 10% increase in total compensation over the next three years. Nurses have sought an increase of about 30% to make the profession more attractive while calling for better sick leave, night shift and education reimbursement benefits.