Nurses at the Allina Hospital in Plymouth, Minnesota, recently held a three-day strike demanding better holiday pay and benefits. As a result, the hospital had to temporarily suspend some of its services.
All 50 nurses at the hospital’s WestHealth campus who are members of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) participated in the strike. Sonya Worner, a Registered Nurse at WestHealth and chairwoman of the union, said that nurses had worked throughout the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and yet the hospital is refusing to accept a “fair contract.”
Allina apparently admitted that the reason for not increasing the nurses’ benefits is not because they do not have funds, but because the facility believes the existing contract is “good enough.”
“MNA nurses have been negotiating a new contract for months, but Allina has refused to agree to fair pay for holiday work or adequate benefits. Compensating nurses fairly for holiday work is especially critical because understaffing by Allina and other hospital systems has required nurses to work more days and longer hours, including overtime and holidays, as they continue on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” MNA said in a statement.
MNA nurses have been negotiating with the hospital since May. On Oct. 13, nurses had met with hospital management in an attempt to reach an agreement but failed to do so. As a result, 50 nurses went on strike between Oct. 17 and Oct. 20.
According to a report by CBS Local, nurses returned back to work on Oct. 20 morning. However, a new contract had still not been finalized. Allina insisted that they have always offered a “comprehensive contract” throughout the several negotiations.
“Our current proposal, which was unanimously recommended by the union’s bargaining team, yet not ratified by its members, includes an immediate wage increase as well as other benefits. The current paid time off benefits offered would continue under a new contract,” Allina said in a statement.
During the strike, Allina suspended its emergency and urgent care services. People seeking these services were redirected to other hospitals. The City of Plymouth also released a list of alternate emergency service providers nearby. In an interview with Fox9, Worner criticized Allina’s decision to suspend emergency care.
“I’m sad for when we see a car want to turn in and we know that they’re going to be displaced in their medical care… We are baffled. It is a diabolical decision to shut down care to the residents, as well as their own revenue,” Worner said.
Nurses at several other hospitals across the country are also holding strikes. Most prominent among them is an ongoing strike at the Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts.
The strike has been going on for over seven months and is now the longest by nurses in Massachusetts’ history. Over 700 nurses walked out of their jobs on March 8. Seven months have passed, but hospital management is refusing to fulfill their demands.
Over 24,000 nurses and healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Oregon and California have authorized a strike over strained working conditions and low pay. Unions could soon authorize additional strikes in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, Washington state, and the District of Columbia. Kaiser had proposed a two-tiered wage and benefits scheme that would pay lower wages to new employees. Multiple unions representing nurses and other staff members have asked Kaiser to scrap the plan.