Minnesota nurses set to return to work after 3-day strike

The Minnesota nurses' strike is coming to an end, with some nurses headed back to work on Wednesday night. 

Fifteen thousand union nurses in Minnesota walked off the job on Monday for a three-day strike, with many picketing after failing to reach an agreement with hospital executives.

Allina Health, which runs four of the 15 hospitals where nurses are striking, says Minnesota Nurses Association nurses will return to United Hospital in St. Paul at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, while nurses who work for Abbott Northwestern, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Mercy Hospital - United Campus in Fridley will return at 7 a.m. on Thursday. 

Traveling nurses' assignments will end when striking nurses return to each hospital, Allina says, adding "Allina Health remains committed to moving forward and reaching a fair contract that recognizes the priorities of both parties."

The Minnesota Nurses Association and hospital executives have yet to come to an agreement on a new contract. 

Who is affected?

Nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association, or MNA, are striking at 15 hospitals across seven different hospital systems in the Twin Cities and Duluth, as well as Superior, Wisconsin. The strike is believed to be the largest private-sector nurses' strike in U.S. history, according to the union.

MNA voted to authorize a strike in mid-August. The union announced in early September that nurses intended to strike for three days, beginning on Sept. 12. The strike will run from 7 a.m. Monday through 7 a.m. Thursday.

The following hospitals are affected: Riverside, Southdale, St. Joseph's, and St. John’s (M Health Fairview); St. Mary's Duluth, and St. Mary's Superior (Essentia Health); Methodist (HealthPartners); Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, United and Unity (Allina Health); Children's Minneapolis and Children’s St. Paul (Children's Hospitals); North Memorial (North Memorial) and St. Luke's (St. Luke's).

Nurses at the Essentia hospital in Moose Lake were also set to go on strike on Monday as well but reversed course Sunday night and withdrew their strike notice.

Why did nurses strike?

MNA has said it is "fighting for fair contracts to improve patient care and working conditions at the bedside." When nurses announced they planned to strike, union president Mary Turner said they feel overworked and underappreciated, and they’re watching their colleagues leave the bedside in droves.

"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," Turner had said.

Negotiations have been taking place since March without reaching a resolution. The nurses’ union has been asking for a solution to short staffing and retention issues, and an annual salary increase of more than 4 percent.

Nurses and supporters gathered Sunday in Duluth to reiterate the reasons for the strike. One nurse even broke down in tears. Nurses said they don’t want to walk off the job, but they feel they have to in order to improve conditions for themselves and their patients.

"Everyone in Minnesota talks about the importance of health care. Our nurses cannot continue being understaffed," said Bernie Burnham, president of Minnesota AFL-CIO. "Patients deserve to be treated in a timely manner with dignity and respect."