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On the heels of what was called the largest nursing strike ever, over 12,000 nurses at 14 Twin Cities hospitals plan to strike again beginning July 6. The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), part of the National Nurses United (NNU) union, filed the required 10-day strike notice on Friday. If no contract is reached before then, the authorized work stoppage is open-ended, meaning this walk-out could last much longer than the previous one-day strike. A federal mediator ordered the parties to continue negotiations, but a lack of progress in last Thursday's bargaining session led to the strike notice.
Sticking points in the negotiations continue to be staffing ratios. The hospitals contend that the nurse-to-patient staffing ratios on which the union is insisting are unreasonable, and the current ratios are already lower than national averages.
Despite the reported 84% authorization rate for the strike (with 8200 nurses voting), nurses opposing the strike are making their feelings known as well. According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, the small group of nurses against the work stoppage could prove pivotal if they refuse to support the called-for strike. Nurses speaking to the press – most of whom have remained anonymous for fear of retaliation – have voiced concern over the union's aggressive tactics, including "reckless accusations of unsafe staffing," and the fact that it is the patients who unfairly end up in the middle of the fight. Some of the nurses dissenting from the strike have started an opposition website, http://www.nostrikefornurses.wordpress.com/.
The Minnesota bargaining dispute is the third major labor battle waged by the NNU in 2010. An NNU affiliate struck Temple University Hospital for a month earlier this year, and the California Nurses Association has been enjoined from striking at University of California medical centers statewide. In what could signal a rocky road ahead for other health systems with NNU-represented staff, NNU co-president Jean Ross stated, "This union is prepared to do what it needs to do to get its needs met."