Minnesota Report

It is not surprising to us here at Checks & Balances to learn the 15,000 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association voted to strike.  This extends from Twin Cities Hospital up to the Twin Ports. On August 2nd, while in attendance at the rally outside of the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota, we heard the messages clearly, the nurses were fed-up and obviously at a breaking point. Contract negotiations had stalled, the two sides were far apart and little resolve was in evidence.

The unsafe working conditions, short staffing, overtime demands, poor family leave policies and inadequate pay were top of mind in all of the stories told by frontline nurses. The level of disrespect show nurses, due to a nursing being a traditional female profession, even became a talking point.

The profiteering by HMO’s during the pandemic is quite evident and the compensation for the executives is more the focal point than is the treatment of those who actually do the day-to-day work. If nurses were to be seen as the essential elements in the health care industry and not just easily moveable pieces in a complex system of care, and given their due respect, this situation would not exist. When the bottom-line is more important than the quality of care, the system is broken. It should not be about wringing out the last bit of toil from a person, it should be more about creating a more healthy and constructive working environment, where those at the apex are provided with the support they need.

We have stated previously, if the hospitals truly want to solve this problem, they should allow nurses a seat at the table and provide a profit-share of 40% on all boards and apply a stakeholder approach versus strictly a profit-centered approach.

Health care should be a right not a privilege and the quality of care should be at the forefront.

Here is the press release on the strike vote.

Nurses in Twin Cities and Twin Ports nurses are now working without contracts as hospital executives refuse solutions to short-staffing, retention and better patient care

As many hospital CEOs continue to take significant raises on multi-million-dollar salaries, executives offer nurses just 4 percent in average annual wage increases   

VIDEO [METRO, DULUTH]: Watch video from this morning of nurse leaders responding to the results of the strike vote.

(St. Paul and Duluth) – August 16, 2022 – This morning, nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports responded to the overwhelming vote of members to authorize a potential strike of 15,000 nurses, in their fight for fair contracts to hold healthcare executives accountable to put patients before profits. The strike authorization comes as nurses have negotiated for five months with hospital executives and have worked without contracts for the last several months.

“Hospital executives with million-dollar salaries have created a crisis of retention and care in our healthcare system, as more nurses are leaving the bedside, putting quality patient care at risk,” said Mary C. Turner, RN at North Memorial Hospital and President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “Nurses do not take this decision lightly, but we are determined to take a stand at the bargaining table, and on the sidewalk if necessary, to put patients before profits in our hospitals.”

Right now in Minnesota, nurses are overworked, hospitals are understaffed, and patients are overcharged. While hospital CEOs with multi-million-dollar salaries have refused to negotiate with nurses over solutions to the crises of short-staffing, retention and patient care, the problems are getting worse: recent studies show that more nurses are planning to leave the bedside while adverse events for patients are increasing.

“Corporate healthcare policies in our hospitals have left nurses understaffed and overworked, while patients are overcharged, local hospitals and services are closed, and executives take home million-dollar paychecks,” said Chris Rubesch, RN at Essentia in Duluth and First Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “Nurses have one priority in our hospitals, to take care of our patients, and we are determined to fight for fair contracts so nurses can stay at the bedside to provide the quality care our patients deserve.”

Nurses voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike, which required a supermajority of votes to pass. The vote authorizes nurse negotiation leaders to call a strike following a 10-day notice to hospital employers. Such a strike of 15,000 nurses would be one of the largest nurses strikes in U.S. history, and would be the first time Twin Cities and Twin Ports nurses took such an action together in contract negotiations.

The strike vote covers nurses working at 15 hospitals under seven hospital systems:

Hospital System + CEO CEO Compensation Pay Ratio to Avg. RN
Riverside M Health Fairview, CEO James Hereford $3.5M 40 to 1
St. Joseph’s
St. John’s
St. Mary’s Duluth Essentia Health,
CEO David Herman
$2.69M 38 to 1
St. Mary’s Superior
Methodist HealthPartners,
CEO Andrea Walsh
$2.4M 28 to 1
Abbott Northwestern Allina Health,
CEO Lisa Shannon
$1.76M 21 to 1
Children’s Minneapolis Children’s Hospitals,
CEO Mark Gorelick
$1.4M 17 to 1
Children’s St. Paul
North Memorial North Memorial,
CEO J. Kevin Croston
$1.3M 16 to 1
St. Luke’s St. Luke’s,
Co-CEOs Eric Lohn and Nicholas Van Deelen
$700K+ 10 to 1

Since negotiations began in March, nurses have pressed hospital executives both at the bargaining table and in public over the need to negotiate with nurses to solve the crises of short-staffing, retention and care in our hospitals. Nurses held informational pickets at 15 hospitals throughout the state in June, launched an advertising campaign exposing the effects of corporate healthcare policies in Minnesota hospitals and last week announced that nurses had voted “No Confidence” in hospital executives.

Minnesota hospital CEOs have refused to address these issues in negotiations with nurses, leading nurses to take Monday’s vote to authorize a strike of 15,000 Minnesota nurses. Nurses in the Twin Cities have been working without a contract since theirs expired on May 31, 2022; contracts for nurses in the Twin Ports expired on June 30, 2022.

While nurses seek solutions to short staffing and retention, hospital executives have insisted on focusing on wages. Despite the fact that hospital executives continue to earn significant raises on their million-dollar salaries – such as M Health Fairview CEO James Hereford, who took a 90 percent raise in 2019, bringing his salary to over $3.5 million – these same CEOs are offering nurses average annual increases of only around 4 percent, well below the current rate of inflation and climbing cost of living. Hospital CEOs with million-dollar salaries can afford to put Patients Before Profits in our hospital and to do right by Minnesota nurses.