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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.


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.

Monster Week for Nurse Contracts Across Minnesota

7 Jun

Nurses flex collective muscle with three ratifications, two tentative agreements within five days

Bemidji nurses

Solidarity during Bemidji nurses’ March “sick in” demonstration helped secure contract language to address dreadful sick time policies Sanford attempted to impose.

Celebratory emails were lighting up MNA inboxes for five straight days as announcement after announcement arrived of contract victories all over the state.
146 nurses at Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Austin, MN started the buzz with a contract ratification on Wed., May 28. 114 Mayo colleagues 40 miles away approved their agreement just one day later. On Monday, it was 287 nurses at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center in northwest Minnesota who ratified their contract.
The run continued on Tuesday, with two notices of tentative agreements. Negotiators for 1202 nurses at Hennepin County Medical Center and 128 nurses at Grand Itasca Hospital and Clinic in Grand Rapids, MN reached deals they could recommend to their bargaining units.
“What an awesome week,” remarked MNA Interim Executive Director Julia Stewart. “These are strong contracts and agreements, secured by strong, determined nurses who want the best for their patients.”
All of the ratifications include improvements to wages and benefits, while rejecting management proposals that would diminish nurses’ ability to provide the quality care their patients deserve.
In Austin, nurses achieved a new level of authority in which they will have a say in scheduling and staffing. MNA Co-Chair Shelby Bell knows the nurses will seize the opportunity to reduce the existing chaos on the units. Under current terms, nurses do not have control over what hours or what shift they work. In any one week, a nurse may work a day, evening and night shift. “Sometimes you don’t know if you are coming or going,” said Bell. “What does that do to patient safety?”
Austin and Albert Lea nurses also made significant gains in parity to the insurance and retirement packages of their Mayo colleagues, including the top-scale nurses in Rochester, where Mayo hopes to establish a self-described “destination medical center.” “I’m hopeful this new contract will address the patient safety concerns we’ve had and honor the limits to what nurses can do,” said Chair Kathy Lehman. “Nurses want the community to know we have their best interests at heart and want to exceed their expectations. This contract helps us do that.”
Sanford Bemidji corporate management proposed policies that drove nurses to a “sick in” on a cold day in March. Nurses successfully fought back in contract negotiations due in large part to the solidarity members demonstrated. The group also won a 25-year step increase as well as 6% wage increases over the life of the contract.
Details for the tentative agreements will be made public after nurses vote at HCMC on June 84-strike-logo10 and at Grand Itasca on June 12.
Stewart also noted MNA’s “Spring Surge” of collective activity was a fitting tribute the courage of nurse colleagues who took historic action 30 years ago on June 1, beginning the nation’s largest nursing strike at the time. The strike lasted 37 days and resulted in an important victory for seniority rights. It also spurred new, fiery energy among bargaining unit members around the power of collective action and their contract. “Nurses today know they stand on the foundation formed by colleagues who took action for their principles,” said Stewart. “These settlements continue to honor those principles – and those remarkable nurses.

Thief River Falls “RN Run” Raises Funds and Fun

25 Apr

RN-RunThief River Falls nurses beat Boston off the starting line of the running season this year, and may have Beantown trying hard to catch up.

MNA members of the Sanford – Thief River Falls Medical Center bargaining unit are celebrating the success of their inaugural 5k RN Run on Saturday, April 19 to raise funds for the community’s D.A.R.E. program.

Nearly 60 runners participated in the event and nurses were able to deliver $836 to the organization dedicated to drug abuse resistance education.

MNA Co-Chair Tiffany Eidelbes credited nurse organizers Kayla Knutson and Karey Johnson with imagining and executing an idea that brought a sizable crowd out for the festivities. “They did an excellent job,” said Eidelbes. “We heard several runners say it was a perfect kick start for upcoming longer runs – and it was fun!” Runners grinned to see the Easter Bunny as race starter.

Community engagement in the event is especially meaningful for the nurses as they head into contract talks with hospital management. “People asked good questions about how the union contract helps us protect our patients,” said bargaining unit Vice Chair, Amber Hawkins. She believes it was an opportunity to provide good insight and background that will result in support down the road. “The event helped set a good tone,” added Hawkins.

The nurse group all agrees they definitely hope to repeat the event.

The 83 members of the MNA bargaining unit will begin talks with hospital management on May 14. The contract expires on July 31.

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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!”


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