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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!”

MNA Legislative Update, March 7, 2014

7 Mar Legislative hearing

Legislative hearingHealth Care Professionals and Monitoring

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services amended and passed SF 1890 Wednesday afternoon, which would give the Minnesota Board of Nursing (BoN) more information about health care professionals who are eligible for the Health Professionals Service Program. (To enhance public safety in health care, HPSP monitors health professionals with illnesses as an alternative or adjunct to discipline.) MNA has several concerns about the bill, including that it would give the BoN much greater access to very sensitive personal information about nurses, and take a punitive, rather than chronic disease management, approach to substance abuse issues.

While SF 1890 passed the Senate HHS Committee, legislators and other experts around the table agreed the issues remain and will have to be settled in the Senate Judiciary Committee or somewhere before a final bill goes to the Senate floor.   Even bill sponsors agreed more conversation of refining HPSP and the BoN are needed. To read more about Wednesday’s hearing, visit the MNA Blog.

In the House, Representative Tina Liebling is sponsoring HF1898 which MNA supports, which would stabilize HPSP and address the gap that exists between a nurse being discharged from HPSP and disciplinary action by the Board. This bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday at 2:15 pm in State Office Building Room 200. If you are planning to be at the Capitol on Tuesday for Nurses Day on the Hill, please consider staying for the hearing.

Minimum Wage

The House and Senate conference committee negotiating over raising the minimum wage hit a road block this week. After both sides agreed to raise the minimum wage to $9.50, it seemed like the committee had momentum. But the talks broke down when the Senate side refused to index the minimum wage to inflation, which would essentially give low wage workers an automatic raise of about 15 to 17 cents a year to keep up with the rising costs of food, gas, and housing. The House wants to pass a bill with indexing. MNA nurses have been flooding senators’ inboxes with messages in support of raising the wage and indexing it to inflation, but as of this writing there has been no more news. If you haven’t already, please contact your state senator and ask him or her to raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation so workers can keep up with the rising cost of living and lift their families out of poverty.

Wages are a Health Issue

On Monday, MNA President Linda Hamilton joined other health experts for an event to highlight the health impact of low wages. Families in poverty can’t afford nutritious food, safe homes, or health care. Raising the wage will help raise families into better health. Read President Hamilton’s comments here

Nurse Voices at the Capitol Help Patients

25 Feb Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

Minnesota State Capitol St Paul MinnesotaThe Minnesota legislative session starts today, Tuesday, February 25, and we have a lot of work to do to protect the practice of nursing, promote patient safety and advance the health of our community.

Minimum Wage Rally: Tuesday, February 25, 4:00 pm at the Capitol in St. Paul We will kick the session off with hundreds of allies at a rally in support of raising the Minimum Wage. Raising the wage to at least $9.50 and indexing it to inflation will raise thousands of families out of poverty and stimulate our economy. No one who works full time should live in poverty and have to choose between food for their family or gas for their car.  More information is available here. If you are unable to be at the Capitol on Tuesday, please use MNA Grassroots Action Center to send an email to your legislators to ask them to raise the minimum wage. RaiseWage_profilepic1


Nurses Day on the Hill: Monday, March 10 and Tuesday, March 11 in St. Paul

MNA’s biggest political event of the year is coming up soon too. Nurses Day on the Hill is our chance to meet our legislators, advocate for policies that affect our profession and our patients, and learn more about the issues that affect nurses at the Capitol. Monday night includes a dinner and education session, and Tuesday we will visit our legislators (MNA will make appointments for you). More information is here. Please RSVP soon!


Session Preview

This session, we will be working on a number of important issues, and we will keep you in the loop each Friday with a brief email update about the week at the Capitol. Please watch your email on Fridays – there will be times when we will alert you to action opportunities, bill progress and chances for you to reach out to your legislators. Geri Katz Political Organizer Minnesota Nurses Association 651-414-2855

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

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.


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