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Minnesota hospitals call nurse strike unlawful, file charge with National Labor Relations Board

The Minnesota Nurses Association, which announced plans for 15,000 nurses to strike for three days starting Sept. 12, said Thursday they still plan to hold their strike, despite the charges.

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ST. PAUL — Minnesota hospitals have responded to the Minnesota Nurses Association's plans to strike for three days starting Sept. 12 by filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

Hospital spokespeople for Essentia Health, St. Luke's, M Health Fairview, Children's, HealthPartners Methodist and North Memorial hospitals made their announcement Thursday afternoon.

The MNA strike, which was announced Thursday morning, involves 16 hospitals in the Twin Cities, the Twin Ports and Moose Lake. While the union gave the required 10-day notice to hospitals, they did not file a 30-day notice with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services. Hospitals state the strike is therefore illegal without this notice.

The strike, which includes 15,000 nurses across 16 hospitals in the Twin Cities, Twin Ports and Moose Lake, will begin Sept. 12.

"It is our hope that by filing this charge we can return our focus to the bargaining table; we must exhaust every option to avoid a work stoppage," Duluth-based Essentia Health said in a statement. "That is why we took this step. We respect the MNA’s right to call a legal strike. But they have not done so in this case, and we have a responsibility to provide patient care without disruption.

"The MNA would challenge any perceived failure to follow regulatory process on our part. We are holding them to the same level of accountability and urging them to continue bargaining with us."

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The Twin Cities Hospital Group, which includes M Health Fairview, Children's, HealthPartners Methodist and North Memorial, stated the action was taken with the goal of returning to the bargaining table.

However, MNA states the Bureau of Mediation Services does not have jurisdiction over private-sector employees, and the nurses intend to proceed with the strike.

"... BMS does not have jurisdiction over private-sector employees," MNA wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon. "This is why hospital management has never previously questioned MNA work stoppages using this manufactured barrier, including the three-day strike at Allina’s WestHealth facility in 2021, the 2016 strikes by MNA nurses at Allina Health facilities, or the 2010 strike by Twin Cities MNA nurses."

Hospitals are citing the National Labor Relations Act, which states employees covered by a collective-bargaining contract must notify both the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and any state or territorial mediating agency within 30 days after notice of the existence of a dispute, according to Section 8(d)(3).

In Section 8(d)(4), the National Labor Relations Act states: "Any employee who engages in a strike within any notice period specified in this subsection, or who engages in any strike within the appropriate period specified in subsection (g) of this section, shall lose his status as an employee of the employer engaged in the particular labor dispute ..."

Hospitals did not comment on what action, if any, would be taken against nurses who follow through with a strike Sept. 12, stating instead that they hope to reach contract agreements before then.

Essentia noted that additional bargaining sessions have been scheduled next week, and hospital officials hope to come to an agreement before the announced strike date. Essentia also stated that if a strike does occur, contingency staffing plans are in place, but did not respond to requests for more information about what those plans are.

Duluth-based St. Luke's stated that patient care services would continue as usual during the strike, but the hospital expects the MNA to withdraw its strike notice. St. Luke's next bargaining session is scheduled for Sept. 8.

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Both Duluth hospital systems and the Twin Cities Hospital Group, which includes M Health Fairview, Children's, HealthPartners Methodist and North Memorial, continued to call on MNA to agree to a mediator joining the bargaining sessions.

MNA nurse negotiating teams wrote the following statement in response to the charge filed by the hospitals:

“It is clear that hospital executives are feeling the power of 15,000 nurses fighting for our patients and our profession. We will not be intimidated by their attempts to silence or scare us, and we intend to proceed with a strike to win fair contracts to put patients before profits.

“Hospital executives have already driven nurses away from the bedside by their refusal to solve the crises of staffing and retention in our hospitals, and we hope they will not be so brash as to fire nurses for standing up to demand better.

“If hospital executives want to avoid a strike on Sept. 12, they should spend less time and money on lawyers and more time working with nurses to settle fair contracts to improve patient care and working conditions in our hospitals.”

Allina Health, which is also expected to be impacted by the strike, has not released a statement regarding a filing of an unfair labor practice charge.

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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