Minnesota nurses win major staffing and wage concessions on eve of strike

After nine long months of negotiations, Minnesota Nurses Association members made history as union leaders declared a tentative agreement with executives across 15 hospital systems. These tentative agreements were announced just before a strike that was scheduled to begin on Dec. 11. Nurses working in hospitals across the Twin Cities and Twin Ports voted in increments from Dec. 9 to 13, and overwhelmingly voted “yes” to ratifying the new three-year contract agreements.

These agreements include language to address chronic understaffing in the hospitals where nurses were planning to strike. MNA nurses have been fighting for contract language and legislation that will ensure safe staffing at the bedside and give nurses power in determining how staffing levels are set. It will also help protect nurses from discipline when they raise concerns about unsafe assignments, prevent reductions in staffing levels without consensus between nurses and management, and trigger reviews of staffing levels based on key measures of patient health outcomes and nurse wellbeing. While each agreement varies based on the hospital system, this is the first time such direct language has ever been included in nursing contracts in U.S. history.

In addition to addressing staffing shortages, these contracts introduce historic pay raises of 17% to 18% over three years, making it the biggest win for MNA nurses in over two decades. The pay is even retroactive to the previous contract’s expiration. For nurses in the Twin Cities, the wage increases are 7% in the first year, 6% in the second year and 5% in the third year. Twin Ports nurses will see a 7% raise in the first year, 6% raise in the second year and a 4% raise in the third year. Preceptors, who teach nurses-in-training and charge nurses who coordinate other nurses during their shift, would also get pay raises for their increased responsibilities.

With more power in staffing decisions and higher wages, MNA expects that hospitals will retain more nurses during a time when 67% of nurses are considering leaving the patient bedside due to chronic understaffing and poor hospital management. But the struggle doesn’t end here! Mary Turner, President of MNA, remarked during her celebratory speech on Dec. 14, “This is a historic victory for nurses and patients at the bedside, but our work is not done. Nurses will continue to oppose the corporate health care policies that threaten our hospital systems and the care our patients deserve.”

MNA nurses will continue fighting to put patients before profits by protesting corporate health care mergers and monopolies that currently threaten choice, access and affordability of health care. MNA will also be advocating for the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act at the Minnesota legislature next session. The ratification of these agreements are testament to the power of union organizing and its ability to create change across multiple hospital systems for tens of thousands of nurses! 

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