Sandstone nurses vote for their first contract

22 Jul Sandstone Sign

Sandstone Sign

Essentia Health-Sandstone nurses have a new contract – their first.

Members approved a new four-year contract earlier this month, following two years of organizing and negotiating.

Sandstone nurses organized right after Essentia bought the hospital in 2012.

“We are very excited to have a contract with language that ensures safe staffing, addresses on-call shifts, and gives nurses a stronger voice in our workplace,” said bargaining unit MNA Co-Chair Erin Olson, RN. “The feedback from fellow nurses has been very positive.”

The four-year contract includes:

  • Wage increases of 11 percent over the four years;
  • Orientation and training language modeled on metro nurses’ contracts;
  • On-call pay raise from $4 per hour to the minimum wage;
  • Reimbursement raise from $400 to $700 for continuing education;
  • 401(k) contributions from 3 percent to 7 percent.

“We are most happy to have a voice and solidarity in our dealings with management from now on,” said Olson.


Nurses: Water Shut-off Measure in Detroit Endangers Public Health

18 Jul Mark Ruffalo NNU

National Nurses United


Mark Ruffalo NNU

Actor/activist Mark Ruffalo poses with NNU’s Jean Ross and Bonnie Castillo

Media Advisory, Photo Opportunity                                   July 18, 2014
Contact: Liz Jacobs, RN, 510-435-7674, Bill Gallagher, 818-355-8691, or Sarah Cecile, 510-541-9570

Big March and Rally Today in Detroit to Protest Water Shutoffs by City:  ‘Turn On the Water, Tax Wall Street’

Responding to the controversial decision of Detroit and Michigan officials to shut off water for tens of thousands of city residents, a broad coalition of national, international, and Detroit area organizations will hold a major protest march and rally today in Detroit.

Marchers will voice support for the many in Detroit who have been calling for a declaration of a health care emergency in the city and call for an immediate moratorium on the water shutoffs and restoration of water service to those who have had their water cut off.

Lack of access to clean water is a major health threat that can lead to the growth and spread of infectious diseases and even pandemics, says National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of nurses and the lead sponsor of the march and rally.

Activists also warn that the widespread water shutoffs are a national test case, promoted by the banks and other financial interests who have been pushing privatization of public resources in economically embattled Detroit. If successful in Detroit, the scene could be repeated in scores of other communities where residents continue to struggle financially.

The march begins at 1 p.m. at Cobo Center in Detroit. The rally, outside Hart Plaza, will be live streamed at

Support for the action has been rapidly building with major endorsements and participation from among others the International Union United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW AFL-CIO), Netroots Nation which is holding its convention in Detroit this week, Food and Water Watch, Michigan Sierra Club, Utility Workers Union of America, Friends of the Earth U.S., the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, and scores of Detroit area community, labor and faith groups.

Internationally known actor Mark Ruffalo and musician/songwriter Tom Morello also voiced support for the action, urging support, on twitter.


Listen to the NNU Radio ad here:



The event will also call for a tax on Wall Street speculation which could raise hundreds of billions of dollars for communities like Detroit which have been pummeled by recession, unemployment, and other pain directly linked to the Wall Street meltdown and plunder of major urban areas. The Robin Hood tax on Wall Street trading, is embodied in HR 1579, sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison, to rebuild Detroit and the rest of America.

Rally supporters charge that Gov. Rick Snyder and emergency manager officials are enforcing the water shutoffs to promote the privatization of the public water supply, the latest gift, they say, to Wall Street financial interests who have bankrupted the city.

Notably Snyder’s handpicked emergency manager Kevyn Orr in one of his first acts hired his former employer, the Jones Day law firm to supervise the city’s bankruptcy even though that same firm represents banks that hold the city’s debt. Further, city activists note that though commercial enterprises owe nearly half of the debt to the water department, it is low and moderate-income residents who have been the main target of water shutoffs.

‘Dangerous public health crisis’

“Cutting off water to community residents is a disgraceful attack on the basic human right of access to safe, clean water,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “Nurses know the critical link between access to water and public health. Lack of water, like unsafe sanitation, is a major health disaster that can lead to disease outbreaks and pandemics. The city must end this shutoff now.”

“The water crisis is just the tip of the spear of what is a much greater systemic problem in America,” said Monica Lewis-Patrick, citywide outreach coordinator of We the People of Detroit and member of the People’s Water Coalition. “People need housing, good jobs, equal access to quality education and affordable health care and of course what we are now dealing with here, access to clean affordable water which is a basic human right. It is my hope that everyone who is coming to Detroit to take part in the protests also takes away the story of resilience and perseverance of the people of Detroit. I’ve been going to door to door to assist people and what I’ve witnessed is that in the midst of all these trials folks are together forging the beloved community.”

“It appears the black out on this water crisis is broken and the consciousness of the world has finally been piqued. People around the world are beginning to focus on this domestic terrorism and we welcome every eye!” said Maureen Taylor, state chairperson of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

“The situation in Detroit is a major crisis, said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “When 45 percent of water customers struggle to pay their water bills, it is clear that this is not just a problem with delinquent payment–it’s indicative of broader, systemic issues resulting from decades of policies that put profits before people. These shutoffs are a thinly veiled precursor to privatizing Detroit’s water, which will only make matters worse. We urge Detroit’s leadership to turn the taps back on and keep water there in public hands so that all residents can have affordable access to this vital resource.”

“This dangerous public health crisis is further proof that we don’t have a bankrupt city – we have a bankrupt system,” said John Armelagos, RN, president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “It’s disgraceful to have children in the wealthiest nation on Earth on the edge of living in third-world conditions. When people don’t have access to water to bathe and brush their teeth with, they and their families, and the whole community, are at risk for disease. Water is a human right and (Emergency Manager) Kevyn Orr should put human needs above any agenda set by corporations that only want to further exploit Detroit.”

“We’re proud to stand in solidarity with the organizers working hard to stop these water shutoffs,” said Raven Brooks, Executive Director of Netroots Nation. “It’s vitally important for us to use our platform to amplify their message.”

Other endorsers of action include: People’s Water Board, Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, Michigan Nurses Association, We the People of Detroit, Moratorium Now!, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, United Students Against Sweatshops, AFSCME Council 25, CWA Local 400, National Action Network-Michigan, UAW Locals 600 and 4911, Detroit Eviction Defense, Detroiters Resisting Emergency, National People’s Action, Health GAP (Global Action Project), East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Color of Change, Franciscan Action Network, Detroit Water Brigade, Detroit Public Schools Education Task Force, Michigan Election Reform Alliance, Student Global AIDS Campaign, New York State Nurses Association, Coalition of Labor Union Women, and Detroit Active and Retired Employees.


HCMC contract builds on success

11 Jul hcmc photo for june 13 mlink

Nurses at one of Minnesota’s largest hospitals have a new contract that makes significant improvements in compensation and working conditions conditions that will help recruit and retain nurses at the busy urban Level 1 Trauma facility.

Hennepin County Medical Center nurses overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new three-year contract in June.

“It was time for us to enrich our contract and provide some of the benefits enjoyed by the other metro hospitals,” said HCMC Co-Chair Michele Will, RN. “I think we made steps in that direction.  We were able to secure education money for all nurses and increase the number of weekends off for nurses with ten years of seniority who work every other weekend. The nurses I have spoken to are very appreciative of these new benefits.”

Highlights include:

  • Additional health and safety language;
  • A standardized staffing process;
  • Moving toward absolute parity with other Metro hospitals, including up to 3 percent wage increases in the first year;
  • Locked-in insurance percentage for the life of the contract;
  • Short-term and long-term disability insurance paid by the hospital;
  • Education reimbursements for the first time.

“As a newer unit, we’re building on each contract,” said HCMC MNA Nurses Co-Chair Meg Ploog, RN. “We’re adding major improvements each time we bargain.”

HCMC organized with MNA in 2006.

Members say they’re happy to be part of MNA.

“I feel like we’re more protected with a contract,” said Sharon Jestus, RN. “We’re more vulnerable without a contract.”

“Get involved,” said RN Jimmy McMurray, who started filling out Concern for Safe Staffing forms when he saw that staffing levels on his floor were not allowing nurses to provide adequate care to patients. His actions showed other nurses that they could speak up and cause change. “If we don’t stand up for what’s right, no one will.”

Fairview Lakes fights ‘offensive’ proposals

10 Jul Fairview Lakes nurses and families support a fair contract

Nurses at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, MN, are fighting for contract advancements to protect patients, recruit and retain exceptional nurses, and to stop management efforts to take back hard-fought compensation and benefits.

Negotiations officially began in June, with management proposing to deny health insurance coverage and other benefits to almost a dozen nurses who work half time,  increase mandatory low-need days by 50 percent, and continue inequitable pay differentials between clinic and hospital nurses.

“These proposals are offensive and unrealistic,” said Fairview Lakes MNA Co-Chair Sandie Anderson, RN. “Management is treating nurses as second-class citizens.”

Nurses are asking management to make a commitment to patients to ensure there will be adequate staff to care for them and to personally explain to patients if staffing falls below planned-for levels. Additionally, nurses are asking for improvements to wages and benefits. Sadly, management has failed to make efforts to advance patient safety or to provide nurses with a more secure economic future.

Nurses are calling on Fairview Lakes to:

  • Protect patients;
  • Address inequities between nurses who perform the same work;
  • Retain nurses;
  • Protect the future of nursing.

“Fairview should not try to increase profits on the backs of nurses,” Fairview Lakes Co-Chair Susan Kreitz, RN, said. “We are asking Fairview Lakes to put patients and the nurses who care for them first. That means addressing inequities including an unfair pay differential between clinic and hospital nurses.”

Nurses are speaking out about the unequal compensation of clinic and hospital nurses in a new video. The video highlights the high level of care clinic nurses provide to their patients and why clinic nursing is not of lower value than hospital nursing at Fairview Lakes.


Video: Fairview Lakes Nurses Speak Out about Fairness

9 Jul FairviewLakesstill


Fairview Lakes nurses are standing up for a fair contract that ends inequities in pay between nurses in clinics and the hospital.

Ruling supports safe patient standards

8 Jul Nurse and patient


A recent arbitrator’s ruling makes the case for minimum safe patient standards in every Minnesota hospital.

Nurses at Sleepy Eye Medical Center in western Minnesota made a seemingly simple request during negotiations for their first contract: agree to a staffing plan that clearly sets out base staffing standards.

The hospital refused, so nurses took the case to arbitration – and won.

“We asked that the existing grid be put into writing in order to improve staffing,” said Sleepy Eye MNA Chair Katie Grams. “It worked well by laying out base staffing standards of four patients to one nurse, detailing how those standards worked by shift, census, patient acuity and staff skill level.”

The arbitrator not only approved putting the staffing plan into the contract, he added language that specifies staffing for OB, ER and charge nurses.

“This case shows that hospitals can – and do – have reasonable minimum standards of care,” said Grams. “If Sleepy Eye can do it, hospitals throughout Minnesota of any size should do the same.”

MNA Welcomes New Members in Baudette

3 Jul LakeWood Health Center workers in Baudette celebrate a victory
new Baudette members

New MNA members in Baudette celebrate a hard-won victory

About one-tenth of the population of a northern Minnesota town now belongs to MNA.

Nearly 100 employees at LakeWood Health Center in Baudette  (population 1,080) voted last week in favor of contract representation by the MNA.

The successful vote was the result of a determined effort by workers who wanted to advocate more strongly for patients and employees. The new bargaining unit will represent most non-management employees.

“We kept having more duties and more work to do as they outsourced and cut,” said RN Bonnie Harness. “We were really upset. LakeWood needed to work with us but they didn’t want to.”

A group of LakeWood employees contacted MNA in January and the campaign to organize began.

“Our main goal was to have a voice, stand up for what we believe in, and to help protect our employees and patients we serve,” said McCall Plourde, an X-ray technician. “We really hope management will negotiate in good faith so we can get our first contract in place.”

“It got really ugly,” said LPN Susie Larson. “The more nasty stuff that management did,  the less it helped them.”

“It was a long haul,” said Terri Poppitz, an Environmental Services employee. “We’re a group now and it feels good.”

Members all agree the campaign brought employees together.

“It’s been something to see all of us working together as a team,” said Harness. “Everyone got on board for the common good. It shows what a group of people can do when they work together.”

“LakeWood is a better place because of the union,” said Poppitz. “We’re here for the entire community – patients and residents come first. It’s about patient care and patient services.”

The next step for the new unit is to negotiate a first contract.

“We’re looking forward to working with LakeWood to negotiate a fair contract that benefits workers, patients and the entire community,” said Katie Lavasseur, a CNA.


North Memorial Nurses Send a Clear Message: Protect Patient Safety

26 Jun North Memorial Informational Picket

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The sidewalks around North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale on June 24 were filled with more than 500 nurses, nurse assistants, janitors, food service workers and supporters from as far away as Bemidji uniting in opposition to the hospital’s plan to cut nursing staff to dangerously low levels.

They spoke loudly and passionately about the hospital’s plan to increase the number of patients each nurse cares for and how it would endanger patient safety.

“They want to change the game and decrease staff to unsafe levels,” said North Memorial MNA Nurses Co-Chair Mary Turner. “North Memorial nurses want to provide the care patients need and deserve – and this plan will reduce our ability to provide safe care for every patient.”

“Patient safety has always been my number-one concern,” said North Memorial nurse Monifa Owens, who picketed with her baby son and teen-age daughter.

“We’re out to let our voices be heard for patient safety,” said Angela Oseland, another North Memorial RN. “More nurses are taking more patients, who are sicker and need more care.”

The signs picketers carried told the story: “No to North Memorial Cuts,” “Patients Before Profits,” “Protect Patient Safety,” “Safe Standards Now,” “If Nurses are Outside, Something is Wrong Inside.”

“We’re going to fight for you,” North Memorial MNA Nurses Co-Chair Trent Burns told the crowd.

“The number of people who took the time to stand with us – North Memorial staff who finished a long shift and came straight to the picket line, supporters from around the state as well as nurses from Metro hospitals – and elected officials including House Speaker Paul Thissen and Majority Leader Erin Murphy – are a testament to the importance of this issue,” said MNA President Linda Hamilton. “This was the first time that MNA and SEIU Healthcare served picket notices at the same time and partnered on informational picketing. We are all fighting together for patients.”

“Seeing everyone’s concern and dedication together throughout the day was very encouraging,” said North Memorial MNA Nurses Co-Chair Barbara Gundale. “It shows the strength we have we we stand together. Some nurses stayed the entire 10-hour day because they were so disturbed that picketing was their only way left to protect the minimum staffing we now have.”

Here’s a  new video from the picketing.

Check out this link to the significant body of research that correlates nurse staffing and patient outcomes.


Video: Minnesota Nurses Hold Informational Picket at North Memorial Hospital

25 Jun DSC_4552



Minnesota Nurses fighting for safe staffing levels for patients held an informational picket on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.  Legislative leaders from the area joined them to echo their concerns that patient safety is a concern.


North Memorial Medical Center nurses protest unsafe staffing plan

11 Jun Nurses expressed solidarity for an informational picket
Sign up  for Picket Duty

HQ, Parking, Shuttle & Other Transportation Info

Nurses at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale are on the front lines of a battle for safe staffing and safe care that could have a major impact on MNA members and patients throughout the state.

North Memorial management wants to cut nursing staff to dangerously low levels by increasing the number of patients each nurse cares for in the majority of units in the hospital. Nurses are fighting the plan at every step of the way.

“Our patients deserve the best possible care,” said North Memorial MNA Co-Chair Mary Turner. “In our professional judgment, this plan could increase the number of patients to unsafe levels.”

Initial discussions with management were challenging enough to spur North Memorial MNA nurses to the next level – informational picketing on June 24.

“It’s critical to raise the public’s awareness about threats to safe staffing and patient care at North Memorial – and at hospitals throughout Minnesota,” Turner said. “North Memorial is not alone in putting the bottom line ahead of patient care and safe staffing. It is up to nurses at the bedside to advocate for our patients by opposing this dangerous plan now and every time – and everywhere – management attempts something similar.”

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All-nurse meetings at North Memorial to discuss the situation have been packed. While clearly expressing overwhelming solidarity to oppose the proposals, members also shared disturbing experiences about current staffing and patient safety levels. Nurses are being told – or required – to care for more patients and work more hours, even before the new plan is implemented. Nurses have been routinely telling management that the staffing situation is unsafe, but managers respond by telling nurses to “flex up” or “make do.”

“In the last five weeks, there’s been intense pressure to flex up, flex up, flex up,” said RN Dee Anderson. Her geriatric patients take more time than younger people, so Anderson can’t give the kind of care she’s used to.

“It makes me feel pressured and inadequate in my nursing,” she said. “If I feel I have to do more than I know I can, patients are cheated of the care they deserve – and that really hurts me.”

Floating charge nurse Melissa Hayes filed a Concern for Safe Staffing form after a recent night where she was required to care for extra patients and getting no response to her requests for staffing from management.

“Lights are going off, phones are ringing, it’s not okay to leave patients hanging like that,” she said. “I want people to be honest about what’s expected and answer our calls. We really need the support.”

North Memorial nurses are proud of their hospital and want it to “provide the gold standard of care” it always has, but cited other recent concerns:

  • Floors that are short of nurses are required to take patients who have not been assigned.
  • Nurses are working dangerously long shifts – and then expected to stay longer. One nurse worked three 12-hour shifts with only a short break and then was asked to work even longer.
  • Nurses are so worried about their patients that they stay by the telephone when others are on break to make sure people are cared for.
  • Patients are often “stacked up in the lobby” because there are no rooms for them.
  • Nurses frequently find themselves taking care of six patients or more at one time, which doesn’t give them enough time to properly care for anyone.

“In 2010, North Memorial and other area hospitals agreed to work with nurses on staffing,” said North Memorial MNA co-chair Trent Burns. “If the hospitals don’t live up to their promises to nurses, how can the public trust hospitals to live up to their promises to deliver quality care?”

The June 24 informational picketing will show management that nurses are united against the plan – and that there is widespread public opposition.

RN Kate Drusch said hospital leadership needs to hear a message: “It’s a collaboration of compassion and care to serve our patients and communities so nurses provide safe care,” she said. “We’re all partners together in patient care.”

MNA nurses throughout the state are encouraged to join the picketing to not only halt the plan’s implementation at North Memorial, but prevent other hospitals from attempting a similar ploy.

SEIU Healthcare MN, which also represents North Memorial staff,  is partnering with MNA on this event.

Nurses and supporters will picket from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on public sidewalks surrounding the hospital.  Volunteer to join the informational picketing.


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