5,000 Twin Cities nurses reject contract, authorize strike

- Nearly 5,000 nurses at four Twin Cities hospitals voted Monday night to reject the latest contract offer from Allina Health and authorize a strike.

"We deserve better. We work hard for our patients and we deserve to be compensated. Not just go with that they think we should do," longtime Abbott Northwestern RN Helen Miltich said.

The main sticking point is Allina's demand that nurses move from their union health insurance plan to its corporate plan which covers 30,000 other employees and would result in lower monthly premiums but higher potential out-of-pocket costs.

"With [Minnesota Nurses Association] plans, I pay more than the Allina plan they want me to go on," union negotiator Angie Becchetti said. "But for my critical deliveries, when I have my kids, I would go from just having to pay a co-pay, I would have to pay 12,000 out-of-pocket. That's a concern for me."

Allina says moving nurses to its corporate plans would save $10 million a year in overall healthcare costs.

But some nurses find it ironic they're at adds with their employer over the very service they provide.

"Nurses have more work-related injuries and illnesses than other occupations, so its nice to have good healthcare lined up," RN Julia Sudrla said. <

12,000 nurses from 14 different hospitals went on strike six years ago over staff-to-patient ratios, but that walkout only lasted a day.

Miltich said this time could be different.

"I feel like we want to be heard and get what we deserve. That's the bottom line," Miltich said.

To authorize a strike, the union has to give Allina 10 days notice to hire and train temporary workers. The union needs a super majority of 66 percent or two thirds of the nurses at each hospital to give a strike a green light. That means none, all or any number of the four hospitals could choose to walkout.

Allina Health statement

"We are disappointed the union has rejected our offer, which included:

An across the board wage increase identical to the one the union accepted from other Twin Cities hospitals earlier this year.

Provisions that would significantly expand the union’s voice in workplace safety issues.

A phased, multi-year transition to the same health insurance plans that are already providing excellent coverage to over 30,000 other Allina Health employees and their families.

"At Allina Health we greatly value the work done every day by the nearly 5,000 nurses at our metro-area hospitals, just as we value the work of all members of our teams who provide compassionate care to the communities we serve. The health plan transition we are seeking supports our values of treating all our employees equitably while being good stewards of our financial resources. We remain committed to bargaining in good faith, and are ready to meet with the union whenever they are, but any meeting must include a meaningful discussion about the health plans.

"A strike benefits nobody, and we believe that through continued good faith negotiations we can avoid one. However, should the union decide to strike, the public can be assured that Allina Health’s metro-area hospitals (Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, United, Unity and the Phillips Eye Institute) will remain open, providing excellent care with highly skilled, experienced nurses partnering with our other outstanding caregivers.

"We hope the union will agree to talk soon, so we can continue to focus on what matters most to us all: caring for our patients.”


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