Nurses in the emergency department and urgent care facilities at Allina Health's Abbott Northwestern-WestHealth campus in Plymouth are beginning a three-day strike Sunday to seek a better contract for nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 50 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association will be on the picket line starting at 7 a.m. Sunday after contract negotiations, which have been ongoing since May, broke down on the issue of fair pay for holiday work as well as adequate benefits.

"WestHealth nursing staff stayed the course during the COVID-19 pandemic," Sonya Worner, a registered nurse at WestHealth, said in a statement. "Now, in its wake, Allina is refusing to make the necessary movement toward a fair contract. Allina admitted that it is not because they don't have the money to fund the minor benefit increases we are asking for, but stated that our contract is 'good enough.' "

An overwhelming majority of member nurses at WestHealth voted in early October to authorize the strike. A final negotiation attempt last week fell short of an agreement.

According to the union, fair compensation for holiday work is important because understaffing has meant nurses must work more days and longer hours, including overtime and holidays, during the pandemic.

Allina Health argued that the health system and Abbott Northwestern WestHealth have offered generous proposals in seven separate negotiations with the union.

"We previously reached a contract settlement that was unanimously recommended by the union's bargaining team," according to an official statement provided by Allina Health. "Unfortunately, the union could not finalize that agreement. … Throughout negotiations we have consistently offered proposals that demonstrate our commitment to our employees, including an immediate wage increase to align wages with other metro hospitals."

Nurses will be on the picket line from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. for the next three days at the campus in Plymouth.

Reid Forgrave • 612-673-4647