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Video: Help Nurses Elect Candidates Who Help Nurses

16 Sep IMG_0298

 

 

Join other dedicated members of the Minnesota Nurses Association who are supporting MNA endorsed candidates.  Go to http://www.mnnurses.org/policy-and-advocacy/election-2014-volunteer-opportunities
OR call Eileen Gavin at 651-414-2871.

 

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.

MNA Legislative Wrap-up May 23, 2014

23 May Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

MNA Legislative Wrap-Up Minnesota_State_Capitol

The 2014 session of the Minnesota Legislature was a success for nurses and working families. Minnesota’s growing economy produced a $1.2 billion budget surplus in 2014, allowing Governor Dayton and the legislature to deliver middle class tax relief and new investments in our schools and our economy.

Minnesotans have seen remarkable progress over the past two years following some of the most productive, efficient legislative sessions in recent memory. Much of that progress will affect patients, working families and nurses.

Health and Human Services Policy Omnibus Bill: Signed into Law

The Governor signed the package of health policy bills (HF2402) into law. Several MNA priorities were included in the bill.

 

  • Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP):

o   Requires health licensing boards to temporarily suspend a health professional license for 30 days and complete a disciplinary investigation during that time, if they receive a report from HPSP that the regulated person has engaged in conduct that might cause risk to the public and the board has probable cause to believe their continued practice presents an imminent risk of harm to the public.

o   Allows the 30 day temporary suspension to be lifted if the board does not complete their investigation by then, unless the regulated person requests a delay.

o   Requires all health licensing boards to stay in HPSPS until July 1, 2015.

o   Requires employers to report any knowledge of drug diversion by a regulated health professional to that persons licensing board unless the knowledge was obtained in the course of a professional-patient relationship or because of the person’s participation in HPSP.

o   MNA supported this legislation to protect patient safety and to protect the privacy and health of nurses with substance use disorder who are working to preserve their licenses and careers.

  • E-cigarettes:

o   Bans the sale of e-cigarettes from kiosks and vending machines.

o   Requires child-resistant packaging to prevent the dangerous ingestion of nicotine by children.

o   Bans the use of e-cigarettes in publicly-owned buildings.

o   Local communities can implement more restrictive regulations on e-cigarettes if they wish.

o   MNA supports restrictions on e-cigarettes since the long term health effects are unknown.

 

Public Employment Relations Board: Signed into Law  

On May 9th, the Governor signed into law a bill to establish a Public Employment Relations Board (HF3014). This legislation will create a board to decide Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) claims involving public employees, which includes many MNA nurses at public municipal or county hospitals (known in statute as Charitable Hospitals). Under current law, public employers and employees must litigate ULP claims in district court-a cumbersome and expensive process. MNA supported this bill because the PERB will create a process that saves employers and employees money and would mirror the ULP process in the private sector.

 

APRN Bill: Signed into Law

Governor Dayton signed into law a bill to allow Advance Practice Registered Nurses to practice to the full extent of their scope (SF511). The law gives full practice authority to Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists. Beginning January 1, 2015, APRNs will be able to practice independently. The new law limits, however, CRNA’s who will continue to require a collaborative management agreement with a physician to practice pain management.

 

This law represents years of work by advocates for APRNs, and MNA was proud to support this effort.

 

Steve’s Law: Signed into Law

Governor Dayton signed into law a bill to broaden the availability of Naloxone (Narcan) for first responders to use in cases of opiate overdose (SF1900). The bill received near unanimous support along every stage of the legislative process. Members of both parties spoke eloquently about the disease of addiction and the great promise this bill has to save lives and give individuals suffering with substance use disorders a second chance. MNA proudly supports this bill, and we applaud the chief authors, Rep. Dan Schoen and MNA member Sen. Chris Eaton, for their work on this common-sense, live-saving legislation.

 

Medical Cannabis: Awaiting Governor’s Signature

Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Carly Melin, the authors of different bills to legalize medical marijuana, announced they had come to an agreement based on the House version of the bill, but with some changes that broaden access, while tightening restrictions to prevent misuse.

 

This bill will be the strictest and most regulated medical cannabis law in the country. Only patients with qualifying conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and seizures will be eligible. It does not allow smoking of marijuana. Instead, patients can access approved forms of medical cannabis such as liquid, pill, or vapor. The bill creates a patient registry to monitor the use of prescription cannabis as well as to evaluate the health effects. Governor Dayton has said he will sign the bill next week.

 

MNA supports legislation that would provide compassionate relief to seriously ill patients.

 

Budget Issues: Signed into Law

The Governor signed the Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill into law. There are several portions of the bill that will directly affect MNA members. Highlights of Health and Human Services portion:

 

  • Fully funded 5% rate increase for Home and Community Based Services Providers of which 80% is encumbered to go to employees in the form of wages and benefits.
  • Increased funding for mental health crisis intervention services.
  • Funding of State Operated Services and Minnesota Sex Offender Program salary supplement. The Governor had requested $11 million each year for 2015, 2016, and 2017 for a total of $33 million to maintain current salary agreements with employees of SOS and MSOP. The conference committee funded everything fully, except for the $1 million for MSOP in 2016 and $1 million for MSOP in 2017.  They also fully funded the Governor’s recommendation for court ordered expert reviews at MSOP of $3 million in 2015.
  • $75,000 for a health care workforce study. MNA will work to ensure that nurses are included in this study.
  • The study on chronic pain therapy treatment included in the APRN bill was funded at $75,000 for 2015.

 

Construction Projects: Signed into Law
The Capital Investment Bonding bill to fund construction projects included several MNA priorities. Highlights include:

  • $56.3 million for design, construction and remodeling of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
  • $7.4 million for design and remodeling of the Minnesota Sex Offender facility in St. Peter.
  • $2 million in asset preservation for veterans homes and memorials.
  • $18 million for a new health services intake at St. Cloud correctional facility.

 

Minimum Wage: Signed into Law
For the first time in a decade, Minnesota’s minimum wage is set to increase. An estimated 325,000 hard-working Minnesotans will get a raise to $9.50 by 2016 (HF2091). The minimum wage will be indexed to inflation in 2018 to keep up with the cost of living. MNA supported this effort because poverty is a public health as well as an economic issue.

Synthetic Drugs: Signed into Law

The Governor signed a bill prohibiting the sale of synthetic drugsinto law. MNA members actively advocated for tougher prohibitions on synthetic drugs and were vocal supporters of the bill. We thank Representative Eric Simonson for considering MNA’s input as he worked to protect both the public and medical personnel affected by those under the influence of synthetic drugs.

Women’s Economic Security Act: Signed into Law

The Governor signed into law the Women’s Economic Security Act(WESA) on Mother’s Day. The WESA is the most significant women’s rights legislation in years.

 

The Women’s Economic Security Act:

  • Allows mothers to stay in the workforce by expanding family leave and providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees.
  • Decreases the gender pay gap through the participation of women in high-wage, high-demand occupations in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
  • Decreases the gender pay gap by reducing the “motherhood penalty” by requiring equal employment treatment regardless of “familial status.”
  • Addresses negative economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
  • Enhances retirement security by considering a state retirement savings plan for those without an employer-provided option.

 

MNA supported this legislation.

MNA Legislative Update, May 16, 2014

16 May Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

The Minnesota Legislature is constitutionally mandated to finish their work by next Monday, so there has been a lot of activity this week as lawmakers rush to finish important bills. Many MNA priorities have been signed into law or made significant progress this week. Work will continue tonight and possibly over the weekend, so watch your email for a final update from MNA next week.

Public Employee Relations Board: Signed into Law  

On May 9 the Governor signed into law a bill to establish a Public Employee Relations Board (HF3014). This legislation will create a board to decide Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) claims involving public employees, which includes many MNA nurses at public municipal or county hospitals (known in statute as Charitable Hospitals). Under current law, public employees must litigate ULP claims in district court-a cumbersome and expensive process. MNA supported this bill because the PERB will create a process that saves employers and employees money and would mirror the ULP process in the private sector.


APRN Bill: Signed into Law

Earlier this week Governor Dayton signed into law a bill to allow Advance Practice Registered Nurses to practice to the full extent of their scope (SF511). The law gives full practice authority to Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists. Beginning January 1, 2015, APRNs will be able to practice independently. The new law limits, however, CRNA’s who will continue to require a collaborative management agreement with a physician to practice pain management.

This law represents years of work by advocates for APRNs, and MNA was proud to support this effort.


Steve’s Law: Signed into Law

Last week Governor Dayton signed into law a bill to broaden the availability of Naloxone (Narcan) for first responders to use in cases of opiate overdose (SF1900). The bill received near unanimous support along every stage of the legislative process, with members of both parties speaking eloquently about the disease of addiction and the great promise this bill has to save lives and give individuals suffering with substance use disorders a second chance. MNA proudly supports this bill, and we applaud the chief authors, Rep. Dan Schoen and MNA member Sen. Chris Eaton, for their work on this common-sense, live-saving legislation.


Women’s Economic Security Act: Signed into Law

The Governor signed into law the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) on Sunday, Mother’s Day. The WESA is the most significant women’s rights legislation in years.

The Women’s Economic Security Act:

  • allows mothers to stay in the workforce by expanding family leave and providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees
  • Decreases the gender pay gap through the participation of women in high-wage, high-demand occupations in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
  • Decreases the gender pay gap by reducing the “motherhood penalty” by requiring equal employment treatment regardless of “familial status.”
  • Addresses negative economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault
  • Enhances retirement security by considering a state retirement savings plan for those without an employer-provided option

MNA supported this legislation that will help address economic inequalities faced by women in the workforce.


Health and Human Services Policy Omnibus Bills: Awaiting Governor’s signature

On Thursday night, both the House and Senate passed the final package of health policy bills (HF2402) by wide bipartisan margins. Several MNA priorities were included in the bill.

  • E-cigarettes: the final bill bans the sale of e-cigarettes from kiosks and vending machines. It includes child-resistant packaging requirements to prevent the dangerous ingestion of nicotine by children. The bill bans the use of e-cigarettes in publicly-owned buildings. Unfortunately, use of e-cigarettes was not added to the Clean Air Act and treated like the use of traditional cigarettes. MNA supports restrictions on e-cigarettes since the long term health effects are unknown. Communities can implement more restrictive regulations on e-cigarettes if they wish.
  • Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP):

o   Requires health licensing boards to temporarily suspend a health professional license for 30 days and complete a disciplinary investigation within 30 days if they receive a report from HPSP that the regulated person has engaged in conduct that might cause risk to the public and the board has probable cause to believe their continued practice presents an imminent risk of harm to the public.

  • Allows the 30 day temporary suspension to be lifted if the board does not complete their investigation by then, unless the regulated person requests a delay.
  • Requires all health licensing boards to stay in HPSPS until July 1, 2015.
  • Requires employers to report any knowledge of drug diversion by a regulated health professional to that persons licensing board unless the knowledge was obtained in the course of a professional-patient relationship or because of the person’s participation in HPSP

Construction Projects: Awaiting Governor’s signature
The Capital Investment Bonding bill, including some MNA priorities, was passed by the House on Thursday night and the Senate on Friday morning. The bill now heads to the Governor. Highlights include:

  • $56.3 million for design, construction and remodeling of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter
  • $7.4 million for design and remodeling of the Minnesota Sex Offender facility in St. Peter
  • $2 million in asset preservation for veterans homes and memorials
  • $18 million for a new health services intake at St. Cloud correctional facility

For a copy of the project spreadsheet, see the link below:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/224159831/DE-5-7-to-HF-1068-2490-bonding#fullscreen


Synthetic Drugs: Awaiting Governor’s signature

This week the House and Senate both passed the final version of the bill prohibiting the sale of synthetic drugs. It moves on to the Governor for his signature. MNA supports this bill.


Medical Marijuana

On Thursday Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Carly Melin, the authors of different bills to legalize medical marijuana, announced they had come to an agreement based on the House version of the bill, but with some changes that broaden access, while tightening restrictions to prevent misuse. Governor Dayton has said he will sign the bill into law.

This bill will be the strictest and most regulated medical cannabis law in the country. Only patients with qualifying conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and seizures will be eligible. (Intractable pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder were not included in the final agreement.) It does not allow smoking of marijuana. Instead, patients can access approved forms of medical cannabis such as liquid, pill or vapor. The bill creates a patient registry to monitor the use of prescription cannabis as well as to evaluate the health effects.

MNA supports legislation that would provide compassionate relief to seriously ill patients. While MNA had also supported the original Senate bill that would have allowed access to a broader number of patients, we believe this bill will bring relief to many Minnesotans. The agreement will need to be voted on by the full House and Senate before moving on to the Governor.

For more information: http://www.scribd.com/doc/224379865/Medical-Cannabis-Fact-Sheet


Supplemental Budget Bills

The Conference Committee charged with working out the differences between the House and Senate Supplemental Budget Omnibus bills met on Tuesday night to unveil the Health and Human Services funding portion of the bill.  There are several portions of the bill that will directly affect MNA members. Highlights of Health and Human Services portion of the Omnibus Budget Bill:

  • Fully funded 5% rate increase for Home and Community Based Services Providers, of which 80% is encumbered to go to employees in the form of wages and benefits.
  • Increased funding for mental health crisis intervention services
  • Funding of State Operated Services and Minnesota Sex Offender Program salary supplement. The Governor had requested $11 million each year for 2015, 2016 and 2017 for a total of $33 million to maintain current salary agreements with employees of SOS and MSOP. The conference committee funded everything fully, except for the $1 million for MSOP in 2016 and $1 million for MSOP in 2017.  They also fully funded the Governor’s recommendation for court ordered expert reviews at MSOP of $3 million in 2015.
  • $75,000 for a health care workforce study. MNA will work to ensure that nurses are included in this study.
  • The study on chronic pain therapy treatment included in the APRN bill was funded at $75,000 for 2015.

For a copy of the full HHS spreadsheet, click here:

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.

Nursing Students Connect Practice and Policy

3 Apr 2014 student day on the hill

2014 student day on the hillOn Thursday, April 3, for the seventh consecutive year, the Minnesota Nurses Association hosted students from nursing schools throughout the state for a lesson in advocacy that takes them beyond their bedside responsibilities.

350 students and instructors, representing 14 different schools of nursing attended the day-long event that kicked off with a morning meet & greet with MNA members leaders.  A comprehensive orientation followed, providing students insights about policy issues facing legislators in which nurses have a keen interest, including Nurse Licensing, Monitoring and Discipline; Minimum Wage; Mandatory Flu Vaccine; Department of Health Study of Staffing and Patient Outcomes; and Health Care for All.

The students were inspired by MNA’s Chairperson for its Commission on Governmental Affairs, Mary Turner, RN who encouraged them to become nurse activists. “I know I have influenced a legislator’s perspective,” said Turner.  “I can change a vote. I know I have the power to inspire and champion a law to protect my practice and make my patients safer. All because I talk to my legislator – who represents the neighborhoods and families where I live.”

A panel of former legislators and a Deputy Commissioner also provided valuable hands-on tactical advice for approaching legislators.  Especially unique was the fact this panel consisted of nurse role models – former Representative Maria Ruud, RN, CNP, along with Diane O’Conner, RN, formerly MNA’s lobbyist and Director of Nursing Practice and currently Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education.  Rounding out the panel was former Representative Jeremy Kalin who served with Ruud in the Minnesota House from 2006 – 2010.

Justin Ettl, a student at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, believes that attending the program will benefit his patients and help him to become a better nurse.  “This experience gives us the opportunity to get involved with the legislature and really get our voices heard,” said Ettl.

For Jessica Spencer who graduates from St. Cloud State University in May, speaking up to elected officials is just as important as speaking up at work.  “It’s important to have a nurse on board to help advocate for patient safety,” said Spencer.  “What we do here and now reflects on their health care for the future.”

Andrea Nyquist, also from St. Cloud State, was impressed by the power of collective action embodied in the Minnesota Nurses Association.  “I love seeing how nurses work together to get things done,” she said.

Schools represented at MNA’s 2014 Student Day on the Hill were:

  • Anoka Ramsey Community College Cambridge Campus
  • Bemidji State University
  • Bethel University – Graduate Program
  • Century Community College
  • College of St Benedict/St. John University
  • Hibbing Community College
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Minnesota State College
  • MSU – Mankato
  • Presentation College
  • Ridgewater College
  • Riverland Community College
  • St Catherine’s University
  • St Cloud State University

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MNA Legislative Update March 28, 2014

28 Mar Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota Nurse Licensing, Monitoring and Discipline
The bills proposing changes to the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) and how the Board of Nursing handles nurses with substance use disorders and drug diversion are moving through the legislative process. Our priorities remain reflected in the bills – protecting patient safety, treating substance use disorder as a disease, encouraging nurses with substance use disorders to seek rehabilitation treatment, and protecting nurses’ private medical and legal information.

Minimum Wage
The conference committee working on a bill to increase the minimum wage is still hung up on the issue of an automatic inflationary increase for low-wage workers (“indexing”). While both the House and Senate negotiators agree on raising the wage to $9.50 an hour, only the House has proposed to index the wage to inflation, meaning wages for minimum-wage workers would increase based on cost of living increases.

The Senate has repeatedly rejected the concept of indexing the wage. Its latest proposal is to have the voters decide by putting the question of indexing on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. A bill reflecting that proposal was heard in the Senate Jobs Committee this morning and passed on a voice vote. It goes next to the Rules Committee.

MNA is supportive of raising the wage and indexing it to inflation to low-wage workers can catch up and keep up while lifting their families out of poverty. Low-wage workers have waited long enough, and it’s time for legislators to govern. By raising the wage and indexing future increases to inflation, lawmakers can keep politics out of the minimum wage once and for all.

Call to Action: use the MNA Grassroots Action Center to contact your senator and ask him or her to do the job they were elected to do: govern. It’s time to raise the wage and index it to inflation.

5% Campaign
Advocates for long term care workers not working in nursing homes are seeking a 5% increase to match the rate increase nursing home workers received last session. Much like the legislation giving nursing home workers an increase, these long term care workers are also proposing that 75% of the increase be earmarked for compensation of direct care workers. In addition, the employer must come to an agreement about the distribution of funds with the union that represents the workers,if the workers have a collective bargaining agreement.

This increase for long term care workers was included in the House Health and Human Services Finance Bill, which was introduced on Wednesday. We anticipate the Senate will introduce its HHS Finance bill early next week, and we will be watching to see if the increase is included.

State Employee Salary Supplements
The Governor recommended an increase in compensation funding for the Department of Human Service’s Direct Care and Treatment State Operated Services programs and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The programs are experiencing compensation pressures due to negotiated salary increases, as well as increased costs of employer-paid benefits for current employees. This increase would allow the programs to meet these increasing personnel costs and continue to deliver care to their clients.

We were disappointed that the House Health and Human Services Finance Omnibus Bill did not include these funds. We are waiting for the Senate’s omnibus bill to be released next week to learn if the funds are included there. MNA is concerned about the situation, and expressing to key legislators how important this funding is to state nurses and other state employees. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Tax Cuts
Last Friday (after the MNA Legislative Update went out) the Governor signed the tax cut bill that was paid for by the $1.2 billion budget surplus. The bill cut $508 million in taxes, some of which will be available immediately during this filing season. The bill cut $230 million in taxes for middle class families, including the elimination of the “marriage penalty” an expansion of the Working Family Tax Credit, and an increase in child care tax credits for 25,000 families. The bill also includes a tax cut for students and parents for tuition and student loan interest. More information about these tax cuts is available on the Governor’s website.

Slayton Nurses Show Courage Beyond the Bedside

27 Mar take-back-mcmc

take-back-mcmc The employees of Murray County Medical Center (MCMC) in Slayton, MN often refer to themselves in the collective as “family.” They are neighbors and friends who care for neighbors and friends in the most of vulnerable times.    In recent years, however, circumstances for patients on some of the hospital’s shifts at the county-owned hospital became so alarming that many of those family members have left the facility. Nurses, physicians, physician assistants and others have either resigned or were forced out – some amidst the disruption of legal wrangling.

Several months ago, nurses who are also MNA Stewards surveyed their co-workers and the results pointed to the hostile environment, fears about inadequate staffing and the fact it is impossible for nurses to be two places at once due to the distance between patient care units.

Julie Lind, a member of MNA who worked at MCMC for the past six years was one of those who could no longer accept the situation. “I believe patients and co-workers were in an unsafe environment,” said Lind. “I resigned because I felt nursing ethics were being violated.”  More than once Lind worked a shift alone on her med-surg unit caring for seven patients, with only one other RN in the hospital, who was two hundred feet away in the ER unit.  In November, Lind herself was injured while on duty.  She despairs most for co-workers who remain, however.  One colleague recently hurt her back and Lind was called in to relieve her.  “She was in tears.  This is a registered nurse who is as good as it’s going to get,” said Lind.

Most of the former and current employees point to a common source of the problems facing the hospital.  CEO Mel Snow arrived at MCMC in 2006 after questionable tenures in other health care facilities. One claim alleged he had stripped a publicly-owned hospital in Nebraska to usher it at a bargain price into the hands of Sanford Healthcare.  Some speculated Snow had similar intentions for MCMC. A number of employees believe Snow surrounded himself with other managers who went along with him as he operated in an atmosphere in which bullying was not only allowed but encouraged, which fostered an environment of intimidation and fear.

It was MNA nurses who inspired a public uprising of awareness and action.  During a February meeting of the County Commissioners (who also act as the hospital Board of Directors), nurses Monica VanOtterloo, Sara Lewis and Donna Thomson all spoke their truths to the admiring applause of audience members.

“I love my job,” said Lewis.  “But we have a lot of concerns that we’ve brought to administration regarding safety related to staffing.”  Lewis urged the Commissioners to do something, saying, “I’m very afraid.” Thomson called on the Commissioners to capture reality by conducting an employee satisfaction survey and exit interviews of those who left.  She posed the concerns that reflected a majority of sentiment that night.  “What’s it going to take?  How many more nurses? What are we going to do if we don’t have nurses?”

Within days of the confrontation, a public Facebook page emerged, entitled “Taking Back MCMC.”  Community members were on fire with discussion and ideas for next steps. Participants expressed support for all MCMC workers and even shared their own stories of suffering due to poor staffing.

On the night of a planned citizen meeting, the group learned some welcome news.  Mr. Snow had delivered his own resignation to the Commissioners.

While heartened, there’s no return to complacency for MCMC providers and Murray County residents.  One of the most recent posts on the Facebook page reads “try and stay positive and dwell on remaining a community who fought for safe working conditions and a county hospital.  We have a ways to go, but working together got us this far.”

In the wake of Snow’s departure, there is a general consensus that remaining hospital management has a lot of work to do in order to earn back the trust of the entire staff by demonstrating that they are listening and will make the necessary changes.   Employees and community members have expressed concern that, while some members of management may quietly be relieved the former CEO is gone, other managers may have been “cut from the same cloth” as Snow.

Those seeking change in the hospital culture warn that if managers are not able to learn and adapt, additional problems at MCMC will need to be resolved in order for MCMC to have a healthy workplace for attracting and retaining staff.  An optimal environment for staff would be to have all of the ethical, emotional and physical support they need while they deliver outstanding patient care.

MNA nurses have made it a goal to help community members regain confidence in the hospital. They have already conducted meetings in an attempt to open the gates of communication, knowing that getting input from employees for decisions on future issues will help significantly.  “We know it will take a lot for the trust to come back, but we are hopeful,” said Thomson.

Additional links:

KWOA AM 730 Radio:  Unhappy Crowd Attends Murray County Medical Center Community Meeting

KSFY TV:  Slayton, Minn. Concerned for County Hospital

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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