DULUTH - Nurses at St. Luke’s, the city’s second-largest employer, voted to authorize a strike Thursday after months of contract negotiations with the health system hit a wall.

“Management has failed to provide an offer that will get St. Luke’s nurses anywhere near a deal that will bring nurses to the hospital, retain our current nurses and provide safe staffing on every shift,” the Minnesota Nurses Association wrote in a bargaining update for its 650 members at St. Luke’s this week. “The bargaining team had no choice but to declare an Unfair Labor Practice strike vote.”

Voting began Thursday morning and wrapped up at 10 p.m.

“The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of striking with an extremely strong turnout,” said Pete Boyechko, a nurse on the negotiating team at St. Luke’s.

A 10-day notice is required before any strike can begin, if one is called.

“Our goal is to get a contract, and we are more than willing to go back to the table to get a contract settled,” Boyechko said.

Negotiations started in May, and Boyechko said the team has negotiated for 41 hours in the past seven days.

St. Luke’s CEO Kevin Nokels defended the organization’s offer, which includes pay increases, extra shift bonuses and student loan reimbursement, saying that nursing unit staffing per patient has increased in the past year.

“St. Luke’s has made, by any reasonable measure, a fair contract proposal,” Nokels said in a statement. “We are committed to constructive talks, solution-seeking and transparency. We are hopeful that MNA will return to the negotiations table and that we will be able to come to a fair agreement.”

Nurses at Essentia Health in Duluth and Superior reached an agreement last month after a well-attended informational picket by nurses from both health systems, according to the union.

“Our nurses were very clear in our convictions for a contract that emphasizes patient safety,” Boyechko said.