The Minnesota Nurse Association Contract Settlement is the First Step for Better Staffing

Nurses Getting The Recognition They Deserve

Minnesota nurses secured an 18% pay raise and better staffing guarantees by threatening to strike. The power of organized labor is the only way for nurses to get the recognition they deserve.

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Nurses Getting The Recognition They Deserve

The recent contract settlement between the Minnesota Nurse Association (MNA) and Twin Cities and Twin Ports hospitals was a crucial first step towards better staffing in hospitals. The agreement, which followed a three-day strike by nurses, includes provisions that will improve working conditions and staffing levels for some 15,000 Minnesota nurses.

The strike was sparked by nurses' concerns about staffing levels and working conditions since the start of the pandemic. Nurses argued that these issues were putting patients at risk and demanded that the hospital systems address them.

But the time to make those concerns known did not come until this year. The MNA contracts expired on June 1st, 2022, and after months of negotiations, the hospitals would not budge.

Even though the hospitals say they are not colluding on wage proposals (in fact, this is illegal), all hospitals were standing firm on nearly-identical proposals, refusing reasonable pay hikes, refusing to keep stockpiles of PPE for another pandemic, and refusing to address staffing issues.

In response, the MNA called for a three-day strike in September. During this time, hospitals flew in agency nurses from around the country, putting them up in hotels, buying them meals, and giving patient ratios far below what staff nurses usually see.

The striking nurses were joined by supporters from other unions and community organizations, who rallied together to show their solidarity and support. The picketers received an outpouring of support from patients and their families, who honked their car horns and brought them water and snacks.

After three days of picketing, hospitals brought staff nurses back in, but made few, if any, changes to their proposals. The nurses went back to the polls and voted to strike a second time, this time for three weeks, and this time during the holidays.

Within days of this strike vote, hospitals knew they could not afford to pay agency nurses for such a long period of time. Those with ears to the ground also say that other departments in these hospitals, such as pharmacy, were concerned that strike nurses were of poor quality. Or, at least, they were unfamiliar with the workflows of the local hospitals. This would only increase bottlenecking issues the packed health systems already faced.

Of course, this goes to show how important retaining a core staff of nurses is. Any hospital worker knows that nurses are the switchboard that make patients’ care possible. They provide order in a sea of bureaucratic red tape and varying departments, all struggling with their own internal issues.

So the hospitals settled, offering better staffing language. This is a critical step towards improving patient care, as nurses who are overworked and understaffed are more likely to make mistakes and provide suboptimal care.

Though hospitals accused the nurses of being selfish in asking for pay increases, they were the ones who offered a more than doubling of initial pay offers. Nurses will receive a 17%-18% pay increase over three years. This concession appears to be a way to placate nurses who would still have struck for better staffing.

The settlement is a major victory for the striking nurses and the MNA. It's also a win for patients, who will benefit from improved staffing levels and working conditions for nurses. And it's a testament to the power of organized labor and collective action.

Overall, the Minnesota Nurse Association contract settlement is a major step forward for nurses and patients alike. It shows that when nurses stand together and advocate for their rights and the rights of their patients, they can achieve real and meaningful change. And it sets a powerful precedent for other nurses and their unions to follow as they continue to fight for better staffing and working conditions in hospitals across the country.

Organizing and solidarity can make a difference. The nurses are the ones who hold the hospital together, and they are the ones who have the power. They have the power everywhere, but in Minnesota, they demanded recognition for it, and got it. Others must learn that they will only get that recognition when they demand it.

A staff nurse working in a Minnesota hospital.

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angeloublue22, BSN, RN

1 Article; 250 Posts

Specializes in Addictions, psych, and corrections. Has 13 years experience.

I'm loving that nurses are finally getting together and telling admin that we aren't standing for their crap anymore. We have power together folks!

N7NP

14 Posts

Specializes in ICU, ED. Has 17 years experience.

Pro-union nurse here.

That said.

MNA secured 18% over 3 years. That's 6% each year. Inflation this past year was at almost 10% and is now "down" to 7.1%.  First year of raises is now erased and in negative territory. If inflation isn't tamed to historic 2% YOY....those raises aren't even keeping up with inflation.

Second. That other huge system in the state? Already gave their nurses across the board....6% raises this year. Not union and did this at least a month ago to start Jan1.  NO collusion? Uh huh.

The announced "we will strike for 3 days and then come back, promise " really? That isn't how striking power is used to actually enact meaningful change. Striking is to make the employer aware keenly that workers have value, and therefore will effect the employers' bottome line severely because of the skills needed to do the job and the expense of temps covering the holes.

We chuckled at how the MNA is quick to reassure everyone "there is absolutely no wage collusion" and a yearlong forwarning that a whole 3 days will be sacrificed if the employers don't listen.

We likened it to a kid warning he was gonna hold his breath until mom and dad gave him what he wants. 

Look. Unions are effective when employers have respect for them and fear what kind of disruption will happen if true negotiating doesnt occur. 

I worked for the CNA and they mean business. They walk out and it all stops dead and they don't return until they get a good contract. MNA gave unions a real black eye, especially to the nurses that work under them and to the rest of the nurses in MN.

I am glad I don't work in MN anymore and am NP. This nonsense needs to stop with employers playing shell games with what they "give" to nurses. They GAVE NOTHING to these nurses, in fact, insultingly kept those raises to BELOW INFLATION. 

 

N7NP

14 Posts

Specializes in ICU, ED. Has 17 years experience.

If anybody actually believes (nobody in  MN does) that "wage collusion " didn't and doesnt happen between the MNA and the hospital association in MN?  Please. That other big world renowned system gave EXACTLY 6% after giving their normal 3% last January. Out of the blue. Just from the goodness of their hearts.  NO collusion here. Nope. Uh uh  no way would a world renowned hospital system sink to controlling wages while they reap record profits. NOPE.