Nurses to picket Brainerd hospital amid contract negotiations

SAINT PAUL, MN,- MAY 20: Chalk circles on the sidewalk indicated safe social distancing for the picketers. The Minnesota Nurses Association held an informational picket Along Smith Ave. outside United Hospital in St. Paul Wednesday evening, May 20, 2 ((Photo by Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

Nurses are planning to hold an informational picket outside of Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd, Minnesota next week amid ongoing contract negotiations, according to the Minnesota Nurses Association.

The picket, which is not a strike or work stoppage, will be held Monday, Oct. 19 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Third Street between Grove and Ivy Streets outside the hospital. Essentia nurses who take part in the picket will only participate during their off-hours.

According to the MNA, the nurses are demanding COVID-19 protections and pay that matches Essentia Health's locations in Duluth. The union states 15 percent of nurses at the Brainerd hospital quit in order to find higher paying jobs. One Essentia Brainerd nurse also claims nurses have to ask for PPE and find their own COVID-19 testing.

Essentia Health released the following statement in response to the announcement of the picket:

Essentia Health has received notice that members of the Minnesota Nurses Association plan to hold an informational picket outside St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd on Monday, Oct. 19. It’s important to note that our nurses are not on strike and our hospitals will be open as usual, providing quality care to our patients and their families. We value the contributions of our skilled and compassionate nurses and respect their right to conduct informational picking as part of the collective bargaining process. We have measures in place to ensure that our patients, their families, hospital staff and others will have access to our facilities during the informational picketing.

Negotiations have been going on for more than a year.