Minnesota hospitals reach tentative deals with nurses, averting strike

Health systems announced the agreements, which still need ratification from union membership. About 15,000 nurses were poised to go on strike beginning Sunday.

Days before 15,000 nurses were slated to go on strike for the second time this year, Minnesota hospitals have announced they have reached tentative deals to avert a walkout.

Allina Health, The Twin Cities Hospital Group, Essentia Health and St. Luke’s have all announced Tuesday that they have reached agreements with the Minnesota Nurses Association, the union representing the nurses. Twin Cities includes Children’s Minnesota, Fairview Health, North Memorial Health and Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.

In response, the nurses have agreed to rescind their strike notice, the systems said. Nurses had planned to strike at 16 hospitals across Minnesota.

The Minnesota Nurses Association said in a statement Tuesday that it is recommending that union members vote to ratify the contracts.

“This tentative agreement is a historic win for nurses and patients at the bedside,” Mary C. Turner, a registered nurse at North Memorial Hospital and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said in a statement.

Nurses were slated to begin a strike on Sunday and were planning to be out for at least 20 days at most hospitals. Nurses, who went on a three-day strike in September, said they were ready to strike again to get better pay and improved working conditions, including better staffing and safety measures.

In a statement, Allina Health said, "We are pleased to announce that Allina Health and Minnesota Nurses Association reached a tentative agreement early this morning. The settlement, which the union is recommending, is now subject to ratification by union membership. MNA has rescinded all strike notices at Abbott Northwestern, United (St. Paul campus) and Mercy (both campuses) hospitals."

"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."

Essentia Health said in a statement Tuesday that it was pleased to reach a tentative deal with the Minnesota Nurses Association.

"This positive outcome is the result of hard work at the bargaining table," Essentia said. "As a part of the tentative agreement, the MNA agreed to withdraw its strike notice.

"The MNA will share details of the tentative agreement with its membership and conduct a ratification vote on the agreement no later than Dec. 12. The MNA bargaining committee unanimously agreed to recommend ratification. We will share the results of that vote when we learn them."

Negotiations between the MNA and St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors are still ongoing, the Duluth News-Tribune reported.

St. Luke's issued a statement Tuesday morning, saying, "We are pleased to announce that St. Luke’s and MNA reached a tentative contract agreement. MNA has withdrawn its strike notice and will bring the contract to nurses for ratification in the near future. We want to thank all who have worked so diligently at the table to reach a fair and equitable contract."

As for Lake View, the system said, "We have multiple bargaining sessions scheduled in December, with the next session set for Friday, December 9."

"Lake View will continue our strong tradition of working collaboratively with the MNA to reach an agreement that is fair to all of our stakeholders, including our patients, community, and our entire Lake View team."

Before reaching agreements, the nurses had said they needed better compensation and that nurses were routinely asked to work double shifts due to insufficient staffing. They also said nurses were increasingly dealing with violent incidents in hospitals, which were exacerbated by staffing shortages.

While the deals still need final approval, hospital officials are undoubtedly glad to avoid the prospects of another walkout at a time when health systems are packed with patients with RSV and other respiratory viruses. Hospitals had warned that some services would have to be curtailed and some patients would need to be transferred to other states.