By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of Twin Cities nurses are preparing to go on strike.

Nurses for five Allina Health hospitals rejected a contract offer from the company Monday, and authorized to strike.

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The biggest disagreement is over the nurses giving up their union-backed health insurance.

“With my premiums and the copays I had with my difficult deliveries, that was affordable to me,” said Angela Becchetti, a registered nurse at Abbott Northwestern. “and know if I had another kid, that [new insurance] would not be affordable. Twelve-thousand-dollars plus my perimums is not affordable for anyone.”

Allina is proposing to move its nurses onto the same health insurance that covers other employees. The move cuts costs by $10 million a year.

“Their net last year was over $100 million,” said Loellen Grzeskowiak, a registered nurse. “We’re like, ‘You know, you need to invest in your nurses.'”

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Health insurance was not the only topic at the table. The Minnesota Nurses Association also brought up concerns regarding inadequate staffing and workplace safety issues. They rejected proposals made by Allina on both issues.

The nonprofit health care provider released a statement following the rejection of the contract offer, which included a raise similar to the one nurses at other Twin Cities health systems accepted earlier this year.

It read in part: “A strike benefits nobody … 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.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association must give Allina a ten-day notice before going on strike.

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The contract for the 5,000 nurses affected expired on May 31.

Kate Raddatz