4,800 nurses strike at 5 hospitals amid union’s impasse

Published 9:26 am Tuesday, September 6, 2016

By Tory Cooney

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Nearly 5,000 nurses took to the picket lines on Monday — Labor Day — as they began an open-ended strike at five Twin Cities hospitals operated by the Allina Health system.

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The strike follows a 22-hour negotiation session that stretched from Friday into Saturday morning but failed to produce an agreement between the Minnesota Nurses Association and Minneapolis-based Allina.

“We should be at a Labor Day picnic, and here we are at a Labor Day picket instead,” MNA executive director Rose Roach said at a Monday news conference outside Abbot Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

MNA and Allina continue to disagree on nurses’ health insurance, which has been a central point of conflict since contract negotiations began in February. Allina’s latest health insurance proposal still shifts too many costs onto nurses and doesn’t recognize concessions already made by the union, Roach said.

Spokesmen for both sides said that, despite the disagreements, progress was made regarding nurses’ concerns about workplace security. The nurses’ most recent contract expired in May. No new negotiations have been scheduled.

“We want to reach an agreement and go back to work. The ball is in Allina’s court. We’re here when they’re willing to talk,” said negotiating team member Mike Ciampi.

Ciampi was one of 500 nurses who picketed outside United Hospital in St. Paul alongside family and friends and other union members Monday. At 11:30 a.m., more than 1,500 nurses were picketing at the five striking metro locations, and organizers said that they expected the day’s total to be higher.

The St. Paul picketers, dressed in red and holding signs, circulated along Smith Street in front of the hospital. Passing cars showed their support by honking their horns and cheering. Even city buses and ambulances joined in the honking, while individuals and businesses donated water, ice and food to help the nurses, MNA spokeswoman Barbara Brady said.