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Essentia Moose Lake nurses authorize strike

The vote came one day after 15,000 Minnesota Nurses Association nurses in the Twin Ports and Twin Cities voted to authorize a strike.

Nurse Tristin Eastvold speaks at a union news conference
Registered nurse Tristin Eastvold, of Moose Lake, speaks March 30 at a Duluth Labor Temple news conference calling on Essentia executives to support its nurses' right to unionize.
Laura Butterbrodt / Duluth News Tribune
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MOOSE LAKE — Moose Lake members of the Minnesota Nurses Association have voted to authorize a strike, MNA announced Wednesday. The vote was taken one day after 15,000 nurses in the Twin Ports and Twin Cities authorized a strike.

The vote authorizes nurse negotiation leaders to call a strike following a 10-day notice to hospital employers. According to the release from MNA, an "overwhelming" supermajority of nurses voted in favor of the strike.

Nurses at Essentia Health-Moose Lake have been in contract negotiations with Essentia for more than two years — ever since Essentia bought Mercy Hospital in June 2020. In a statement, Essentia representatives noted that there was no MNA contract in place when the acquisition happened. Contracts between MNA and Mercy Hospital had been established, but Essentia did not recognize the contract when they purchased the hospital.

According to MNA, negotiations are getting stuck when discussing scheduling, which has delayed officials from discussing other topics, including wages.

Registered nurse Tristin Eastvold said the vote was taken because staff feel ignored when they ask Essentia to focus on staff retention and proposing a fair contract. MNA nurses held an informational picket in June regarding the contract negotiations, low staffing levels and high turnover rates.

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"Years without a contract and the resulting wage freeze has led to such high turnover and staff dissatisfaction," said Sarah Lambert, a registered nurse at Essentia Health-Moose Lake. "It is time for this to end."

Essentia responded to the Moose Lake vote with the same statement from Monday's vote among 15,000 MNA members across Minnesota, saying:

"Patient care is our primary concern and Essentia Health is proud to have some of the best nurses in the country. We are disappointed by the vote because we believe no one wins in a strike — and we have a shared responsibility to provide quality care to the patients and communities we are privileged to serve. Should it become necessary, we have contingency plans to ensure we can continue to care for our patients in the event of an MNA strike. Please note, however, that this vote does not mean a strike is imminent; if the union decides to strike, it is required to give a 10-day notice. We are confident we can reach an agreement that continues to support quality patient care and good local jobs because of our strong track record of reaching mutually beneficial agreements."

Essentia Health has a public website with the status of contract bargaining, which can be found at  www.essentiamnabargaining.org .

This story was updated at 4:23 p.m. Aug. 17 with a statement from Essentia Health and again at 2:47 p.m. Aug. 18 to clarify language about contracts at Mercy Hospital.  It was originally posted at 2:49 p.m. Aug. 17.

Read more about health care
The vote among 15,000 Minnesota Nurses Association members was "overwhelmingly" in favor of the strike, according to MNA.

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