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Nurses vote in favor of new hospital contracts

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association have agreed to the contract agreements reached with Twin Ports and Twin Cities hospitals last week. The contracts will last for three years.

Nurses wave to a supporter.
Chris Rubesch and other MNA members acknowledge a supporter’s horn honk during their Duluth news conference Aug. 2.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL — Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association have voted to ratify their new contracts with hospitals, the MNA announced Wednesday afternoon. The nurses union reached tentative agreements with 15 hospitals last week.

The contracts will last for three years and cover 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports at Allina Health, Children's, Essentia Health, HealthPartners Methodist, M Health Fairview, North Memorial and St. Luke's hospitals. Each negotiating team has different contracts, but MNA President Mary Turner said most contracts have similar protections defined to varying degrees.

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, MNA representatives described the contracts as "historic" due to language addressing staffing levels and wage increases of 17% over three years in the Twin Ports and 18% over three years in the Twin Cities. Chris Rubesch, first vice president of MNA and a nurse at Essentia Health in Duluth, said the 1% difference between the two regions reflects different economic markets.

"As we've all been saying for the last nine months, and will continue to say, the focus of this was on staffing language," Rubesch said. "We're very proud that this agreement adds new language giving us a say in the creating and review of staffing grids, adds additional liability protection for nurses who are working in conditions that can be judged to be unsafe in the nurses' clinical judgment, and it adds significant benefits that will help retain senior nurses who are going to be absolutely vital as we train the next generation of caregivers in Minnesota."

The MNA and hospitals have been negotiating for the new contracts since March. Nurses previously held several pickets, a three-day strike in September for unfair labor practices, and had planned another strike this month before the tentative agreements were reached and the strike notice was withdrawn.


"At many of our bargaining tables, it wasn't until that second strike vote that (hospitals) started to discuss staffing," Turner said. "Because of our tenacity, we won unprecedented language to address staffing levels."

Andrea Rubesch, a St. Luke's nurse on the MNA negotiating team, said St. Luke's MNA members "overwhelmingly" voted in favor of ratifying the new contracts. She said they are standing in solidarity with St. Luke's Lake View Hospital nurses, who are still in the negotiation process for new contracts. Lake View nurses also planned to strike this month but rescinded those plans last week. St. Luke's has so far had three negotiation sessions with Lake View MNA nurses.

The MNA said their next priority will be to pass the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act in state legislation. The act addresses short-staffing, nurse retention and recruitment, and support for healthcare workers. The Minnesota House of Representatives passed the act as part of the Health & Human Services omnibus bill in May.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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