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Signs of Support for IFalls Nurses Line the Streets

16 Apr Paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters supports MNA nurses!

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Imagine everyone in your town wanting to let you know you are awesome. MNA nurses in International Falls don’t have to dream.

Eight months into negotiating a contract with management at Rainy Lake Medical Center (RLMC), the 27-member bargaining unit is literally seeing signs of support throughout this picturesque city that shares a border with Canada.

Over 100 signs, sporting the message “We Support Our Nurses” are being posted in shop windows; hoisted high by firefighters, paramedics and EMTs; cradled by senior apartment residents; and displayed on bulletin boards throughout the city’s commercial districts. It’s a message warmly given from the town often referred to as “America’s Icebox.”  In addition, members of several other unions in the area have signed petitions of solidarity for the nurses.

RLMC management has yet to receive the message.  Contract talks on Tuesday ended after the union and hospital could not come to agreement settling outstanding proposals in negotiations.

A key issue is hospital management’s attempt to force a “management rights” clause into the next three-year contract.  Nurses fear the provision could lead to administrative personnel perceiving they have power to make arbitrary decisions that impact nursing practice and patient safety.

A petition, signed by 100 percent of the nurses and delivered to management in February characterized, the tactic as a “serious overreach of authority.”

“When it comes to the care we are able to give and how we can advocate for our patients, this proposal ties our hands,” said MNA negotiating team member Diane Olek.  She is especially concerned about the fast-changing dynamics of health care.“  This is a contract we will have to live with and health care is changing so quickly,” said Olek.  She worries that non-providers believing they can arbitrarily make unilateral decisions about nurse staffing without negotiating them will compromise the safety of patients in the hospital. “Why lock ourselves into this?”

Lisa Hay, an active union member, considers it an unacceptable concession of rights and professional nursing judgment. At a recent all-RN meeting, Hay warned her colleagues “When I looked at the management rights clause I said ‘what you take away from us, you take away from patients’.”

Those values run through the whole nurse group.  “I feel 100 percent support at the table,” said MNA Co-Chair Wendy Sutch.  “All of our nurses feel very strongly they want to have a voice in patient care.” She describes her colleagues as a tight-knit group and especially sees a deep river of resolve in the younger nurses.  “They’re aware of what their future could be based on this contract. Everyone’s on board.”

That solidarity and community support will be on full display for RLMC management to view on Tues., May 6 when MNA nurses intend to conduct an informational picket in front of the hospital from noon – 2:00 p.m.


Video: Allina Nurses Picket United for a Hastings Contract

20 Mar Nurses from River Falls show up to picket with other Allina nurses at United Hospital.  Bridget Nelson (kneeling), Kathy Bloom, Lori Morris, Ashley Greengard, Julie Schommer, Amy Hauenstein

All Allina nurses are united in their support for fellow nurses at Regina Medical Center and want them to get a fair contract. Hastings nurses are first-rate and they deserve a contract that respects their experience and ensures patient safety and the continuity of care. Allina nurses from Buffalo and Thief River Falls joined nurses from United and RMC in an informational picket in St Paul.

Nurses from River Falls show up to picket with other Allina nurses at United Hospital.  Bridget Nelson (kneeling), Kathy Bloom, Lori Morris, Ashley Greengard, Julie Schommer, Amy Hauenstein

Nurses from River Falls show up to picket with other Allina nurses at United Hospital. Bridget Nelson (kneeling), Kathy Bloom, Lori Morris, Ashley Greengard, Julie Schommer, Amy Hauenstein

Willmar Nurses Go to City Hall

18 Mar IMG_1570

Nurses from Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar, Minnesota, showed up in full force with their families to report to the City Council the community needs first-rate nurses and first-rate patient care.

Carolyn Jorgenson, RN, MNA Board member told council members who are the trustees for the hospital that the facility’s management team has set a poor tone with nurses.  She told a sea of MNA red in the audience that the employer has delivered an underlying message of disrespect for the value of nursing for the community.

Here are excerpts of the comments offered by Jorgenson at last night’s City Council meeting:

“I absolutely LOVE and live nursing.  I believe Rice Memorial Hospital has some of the most dedicated, intelligent and professional nurses and staff that I have ever worked with and the patients get the best nursing care around. But I am here tonight because I am concerned things could quickly change.

The nurses of Rice Memorial Hospital are deeply concerned about the tone set by management’s concessionary proposals made in negotiations with those of us represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association.

The underlying message delivered indicates a disrespect for the value nurses provide in delivering quality care to our friends and family. We are dedicated to taking care of all of the Grandmas and Grandpas, Moms and Dads and children who live in our community. My coworkers and I take pride in delivering my neighbor’s babies here and comforting your ailing Aunts and Uncles when they are in need. This community based Hospital allows us to care for not just patients, but our own friends and families.

We also caution that, should those proposals take effect, the consequences to our beloved community could be dire. When seeking concessions of this magnitude, while other facilities continue to increase investments in the wages and benefits of the nurses, Rice Memorial could become a revolving workforce door. This situation only serves to compromise the continuity of care. It will likely prove to be an economic mistake due to higher retention and recruitment fees. Each time a nurse is replaced, the organization pays the equivalent of at least a year’s salary in expenses. That just doesn’t make common sense.

We ask you to invest in the people who care for those who are at their most vulnerable. Keep the highly skilled registered nurses here in their own community; don’t force nurses to leave Rice Memorial because the hospital no longer offers a competitive wage and benefit package.”

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Sandstone Nurses Stand Strong Against Management’s Rights Clause

11 Mar

Sandstone SignThey are a gritty bunch in this rural northern Minnesota hospital. The 25 nurses of Essentia Health – Sandstone ran a vigorous organizing campaign and successfully won MNA representation in Dec., 2012. Since then, first-time contract negotiations have tested endurance and patience. Now, after 11 months and 22 sessions, the new MNA unit is fortifying its resolve even more over a management proposal to include a Management Rights clause.

The insidious paragraph is so vague, it creates a management perception that wholesale changes can be made on a whim. “We can’t possibly think of everything that might come up during the term of the contract and this language would allow them to think they could arbitrarily change something, and we’d have no chance to bargain,” said MNA nurse negotiator Tara Mach. Her colleague, Erin Olson offers her perspective of why this is an issue. “Sometimes the most convenient choice for management is not always the best for the patients we care for,” said Olson.

The proposal doesn’t sit well with nurses, especially on the heels of an organizing drive. “We’ve had enough of management’s dismissive behavior,” said Mach. “That’s why we sought MNA representation in the first place.”

Sandstone nurses are determined to secure a contract that assures them a place at the table, with assurances if management wants to change anything about employment circumstances, that nurses get a say. “We need to have a voice on decisions that impact patient care,” said Olson. “A contract provides rules that are fair for both the employer and the employee.”

The group is surrounded in a sea of support. “They are not alone, and have the comfort of knowing 20,000 nurses will back them up,” said Essentia Health St. Mary’s Co-Chair Mary Kirsling. She commended her colleagues, saying “This small group of RNs bravely took this on.

Kirsling echoed the concerns of the Sandstone nurses about the management rights proposal. “It undermines the whole contract. It causes management to think you don’t have an agreement and they have no responsibility. According to Kirsling, management rights not only compromises the contract, but patient care as well. “They perceive they can cut corners and sidestep nursing judgment. That makes my skin crawl.”

Kirsling warned that the implications may go beyond Sandstone. “We can’t budge on that, because it will spread in future. This could impact every nurse in Essentia and in the state,” she said. Erin Olson welcomes the backing. “We need to stick together. We have a voice, and together we can be heard!”

Bemidji Nurses Say Sanford Sick Policy is a Bad Remedy

10 Mar Bemidji nurses

Bemidji-soupBemidji nurses served up chicken soup Sun., Mar. 9 in front of the town’s iconic Paul Bunyan statue to highlight the dangers of a sick policy imposed by Sanford Bemidji Hospital management.

Nurses face discipline if they use more than three sick days in a row or 40 hours of sick time within a year.  The “sick in” helped warn  community members that the attendance policy could force nurses to be compromised when giving care.  If nurses must work while sick, it could impact recovery if one is hospitalized.

The nurses served chicken noodle soup to all nurses and residents who come by.  They also be collected cans of soup to donate to the Bemidji Community Food Shelf.

Click here or click on the picture below for a video of the action.

Bemidji nurses

Nurses at Abbott Northwestern-Westhealth Vote for Union Representation with Minnesota Nurses Association

14 Feb Abbott Northwestern - Westhealth nurses ran a strong and responsive campaign.
Allina - Westhealth nurses ran a strong and responsive campaign.

Allina – Westhealth nurses ran a strong and responsive campaign.

(St. Paul, MN – Feb. 14, 2014)    32 registered nurses at Abbott Northwestern Westhealth Emergency Department and Urgent Care on Thursday overwhelmingly voted for a voice at work through contract representation by the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA). In a secret ballot election, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, nurses voted by 92% to join MNA.

Many of the nurses at the new stand-alone emergency/urgent care unit located in the Twin Cities suburb of Plymouth have worked at other MNA contract facilities  and were eager for the same opportunity to have a voice in their workplace to be able to advocate for themselves and their patients.  “Not only do patients deserve the same quality of nursing care and skill that Abbott Northwestern offers, it is equally important that we as nurses are treated the same,” said nurse activist Missy Lu.

The facility opened in December 2012 and within eleven months, its nurses contacted MNA to initiate an organizing campaign.  With strong leadership and a knowledgeable nurse group, organizing swiftly moved to filing a Petition for Representation Election with the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 24.   The successful vote culminated a determined effort by nurses, some of whom had never enjoyed the benefits of a contract.  “We are united as one with our fellow ANW nurses and will stand strong together for equality,” said Lu.

MNA President Linda Hamilton, RN, heartily welcomed the Abbott Northwestern-Westhealth nurses to MNA.  “We are all stronger and patients benefit because our voice continues to grow,” said Hamilton.

The move signals that union representation in Minnesota is evolving in pace with dynamic changes in health care delivery.  “Wherever people need nursing care, nurses need the protection of a contract so we can advocate for them to our best ability,” said Jean Ross, RN and Co-President of National Nurses United.

Nurses are planning meetings next week to talk about the next steps in securing a voice in their workplace by obtaining their first contract.

Allina Council of Chairs sent a vigorous message of support to Abbott Northwestern - Westhealth nurses as the campaign was winding down.

Allina Council of Chairs sent a vigorous message of support to Abbott Northwestern – Westhealth nurses as the campaign was winding down.

Abbott Nurses “Get the Red Out” to Support Hastings Colleagues

12 Feb 18

18MNA nurses conducted an informational picket on Tues., Feb. 11 to support colleagues from Regina Medical Center to highlight concerns the Hastings community and its nurses are being considered second-rate by corporate management.

Allina Healthcare’s proposals to Regina Medical Center and its Registered Nurses represent a second-rate commitment to the delivery of quality nursing care in the community relative to the care residents receive in every other area served by Allina full-service hospitals.

MNA nurses from Abbott Northwestern with support from other Allina facilities and MNA-represented hospitals all donned red to march in solidarity along Chicago Ave. in front of Abbott Northwestern Hospital.  Hastings Bargaining Unit Chair, Jane Traynor took the opportunity to send an invitation to Allina management.  “Where’s (CEO) Ken Paulus’s office?,” she called.  I’d like to have coffee with him, so he can put a face to the thorn in his side from Hastings, because we’re not going to give up!”  Traynor pointed out that as a new Allina employee now, living less than 40 minutes away, she could sign a posting and be a nurse at Abbott with a pension and more choices for health insurance.  “Nurses will make choices and that will not leave our community with much,” she added.

Co-Chair of the MNA Allina Council of Chairs, Mischelle Knipe, who works at Allina’s Unity Hospital in Fridley offered her support Hastings nurses as well.  ” They deserve what we have,” said Knipe.  “Their community deserves to have excellent nurses.”  She called on Allina management to provide a fair contract that encourages nurses to stay in their community to “work and support those people they know and love.”

Watch the video to see the great show of support.

Candlelight Vigil Illuminates Hastings Nurses’ Desire for A Christmas Marvel


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On Monday, Dec. 23, nearly 100 nurses and community supporters gathered in sub-zero  weather determined to send  a message of solidarity to Allina corporation.  “We give first-rate care to our patients, and we don’t deserve to be treated like second-class citizens,” said nurse Linda Held.

Allina assumed ownership of Regina Medical Center in Hastings in the Fall 2013, but current contract negotiations have come up short on proposals to provide  benefits that are equal to other Allina facilities, some just a short 20-minute drive away.

MNA has negotiated equitable insurance and pension benefits for nurses at Allina facilities in other cities beyond the metro area, such as Buffalo and Cambridge.  The nurses in Hastings consider Allina management’s refusal to budge on similar packages for Regina Medical Center sends an ominous message about it’s commitment to the community.

The candlelight vigil was held from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. and drew a  powerful combination of supporters, including a bi-partisan legislative contingent.  GOP State Representative Denny McNamara and DFL Representative Dan Schoen both urged the nurses to stand strong for their demands.  In addition, nurses from all over the metro along with representatives  from several other unions were on site to support the Regina nurses.  Bobby Kasper, from the St. Paul Labor Federation gave a rousing pep talk. expressing his admiration for the strength of the entire bargaining unit.

In conjunction with the vigil, the nurses demonstrated their own commitment to friends and neighbors by holding a food drive with contributions being directed to Hastings Family Services.  Nurses collected at least a car full of goods and a hearty amount of financial donations.

Owatonna Nurses Ratify Agreement

20 Dec

Owatonna   A management tactic to intimidate the MNA bargaining team at Owatonna Hospital backfired during recent contract negotiations. Instead of backing down after all four members simultaneously received disciplinary coaching on the solicitation policy for distributing materials, the bargaining team grew more determined to win a fair contract.
Their attitude was fortified by enthusiastic support from their 150 colleagues. A crowd of nurses turned out at a Nov. 18 action prior to a bargaining session to demonstrate the confidence in their team. The group also conveyed its resolve to hold hospital management accountable for a promise it made seven years ago that wages and benefits for Owatonna nurses would match metro compensation.
On Wed., Dec. 18 that resolve produced results as nurses ratified an agreement with a 5.5 percent wage increase over three years; a significant increase in on-call pay; tuition reimbursement enhancements and implementation of preceptor pay. The nurse turnout for the vote was the largest in years.

First Light Nurses Are a Beacon of Success

10 Dec 11-04-13 Signed Message to Hospital Board

   Tough contract negotiations were no match for the 64 gutsy nurses at First Light Health Services in Mora. A 25-bed critical access facility, the hospital is owned and operated by Kanabec County, and nurses routinely care for their neighbors, friends and families. The fight to keep good nurses at the bedside was very personal for the bargaining team.
   A proposal by hospital administration to reduce health insurance benefits flew in the face of reason for the whole bargaining team, especially in regard to patient satisfaction. “If nurses aren’t happy, patients won’t be happy,” said Bargaining Unit Chair Margie Odendahl, RN.
As negotiations went on, nurses grew more determined. After learning about that and other concessionary proposals in the first session, the negotiating committee delivered a petition signed by 100 percent of the nurse group demanding administrators retract that demand. Without signs of significant movement, the nurses organized another action to send a letter to administrator bosses – the Kanabec County Board of Commissioners.

The results were almost immediate. Within days, hospital negotiators offered contract proposals that kept health benefits at status quo, and securing a wage package that matched metro wage increases along with other economic gains. Also important to the agreement, were advancement in scheduling processes. The whole bargaining unit overwhelmingly approved the contract on Nov. 5.

“We’d never done something like this in Mora,” said Odendahl. “But everyone wanted to fight and we stuck together.” Odendahl and the committee are grateful and proud of each and every member of the bargaining unit. “Without everyone on board, we couldn’t have done it,” she added. She attributes much of the success to approaching negotiations with the philosophy that “it’s not one person’s agenda, it’s everyone’s.”

11-04-13 Signed Message to Hospital Board


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