MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A fight over health insurance and workplace safety has thousands of Twin Cities nurses ready to go on strike beginning Monday.
Nurses at five Allina Hospitals plan to hit the picket line on Labor Day. They say they will stay there as long as it takes.
On Wednesday afternoon, a community rally in support of the nurses was held at Stewart Park in Minneapolis.
Nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association voted on Aug. 18 to authorize an open-ended, unfair labor practice strike.
There is one last hope to avert a strike — a meeting on Friday between negotiators for Allina and negotiators who represent nearly 5,000 nurses.
In June, Allina nurses staged a one-week strike to show they mean business.
But if there is still no agreement on a new contract by the end of the week, nurses at United, Mercy, Unity, Abbott Northwestern and Phillips Eye Institute could strike for much longer.
“We have been at this since February, and, unfortunately, we have not come to an agreement yet,” Angela Becchetti, of the Minnesota Nurses Association’s negotiating team, said.
She says nurses need more resources, better staffing and better security.
“I think we need our voice out there,” Becchetti said. “They need to address these. Nurses are getting hit, kicked, punched and spit on, and, unfortunately, Allina is not addressing it. It’s key issues close to our heart that we want out there.”
A major sticking point is Allina’s plan to move its nurses to a new benefits plan.
It would save Allina millions of dollars a year.
“The current nurses plans were designed over two decades ago and don’t reflect the way health insurance works these days,” David Kanihan, the director of communications for Allina Health, said. “Their costs are spirally out of control and it really is unsustainable for us as an organization to continue to fund those plans.”
He said that Allina has alternatives for nurses in the form of Allina Health core insurance plans.
“They’re providing excellent coverage for over 30,000 other Allina Health employees and their families,” Kanihan said.
The nurses’ one-week strike in June ended up costing Allina more than $20 million, as it required Allina to hire temporary nurses to maintain services at its hospitals.
A federal mediator will be at the table with negotiators on Friday.
If no deal is reached, the nurses’ strike will begin Monday at 7 a.m. with picket lines at each of the Allina hospitals.
The company says they will have replacement nurses ready to go to work.