Nurses voted Thursday to authorize a strike against Children’s Minnesota and its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals, but no walkouts are scheduled and both sides will return to negotiations Friday.
Nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association object to cost-shifting by Children’s that is making premiums for a traditional health plan too expensive and forcing them to cheaper, lower-benefit plans.
“Nurses are prepared to do what it takes to get a fair contract,” said Elaina Hane, a pediatric intensive care nurse at Children’s St. Paul and a negotiator.
Children’s negotiators have resisted proposals from the nurses that would alter their health plans, in part because that would disrupt the plans that all of its employees receive. Hospital leaders expressed surprise at the strike vote, because they had reached agreements in other areas.
“When you consider the progress we’ve made over several bargaining sessions, and the fact that the union has declined our requests to use a mediator, it doesn’t make sense and it’s unnecessary,” said Katie Penson, Children’s senior director of clinical services, critical care.
Talks are ongoing between nurses and Allina Health, Fairview Health, HealthEast, Methodist Hospital and North Memorial Medical Center.
The vote was technically a rejection of Children’s existing contract offer. More than two-thirds of nurses voted against it, which gives the union’s negotiating committee the authority to set a strike if further talks don’t produce a deal. The standoff juxtaposes with contract talks in 2013 and 2016, when the nurses and Children’s quickly negotiated wages and left other contract terms unchanged.