While Negotiations Continue, Minnesota Nurses Authorize Largest Nursing Strike in U.S. History

Nurses in Minnesota have voted to authorize what could be the largest U.S. nursing strike ever, in terms of the number of strikers.  On May 19, 2010, nurses employed at six hospital systems in Minneapolis-St. Paul voted to give strike authorization to the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), which is affiliated with National Nurses United (NNU).  The MNA reported that over 8,000 nurses voted to reject the hospital’s latest offer and provide strike authorization to the MNA.  This authorization allows the MNA to declare a strike if new agreements with the hospitals cannot be reached by June 1, 2010. 

The hospital systems that would be affected are: 

  • Allina, which includes Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Phillips Eye Institute, United Hospital, Unity Hospital, and Mercy Hospital;
  • Fairview, which includes Southdale Hospital and University of Minnesota Medical Center/Riverside Campus;
  • Children's Hospitals and Clinics located in both Minneapolis and St. Paul;
  • HealthEast Systems, which includes Bethesda Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, and St. John's Hospital;
  • Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital; and
  • North Memorial Hospital.

The MNA would still be required to provide ten days’ notice prior to striking, in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Even if the strike was only planned for a single day, the hospitals may have the right to impose a longer lock-out, depending on obligations to the temporary nurses hired to provide patient care during the strike.  These arrangements are still being negotiated, however, and the hospitals are not currently threatening a preemptive lock-out.

The issues remaining on the table include pension funding and staffing ratios for the nurses, which would mandate a fixed ratio between nurses and patients.  The hospital has responded that the ratios demanded by the union are outdated and inflexible.  According to hospital negotiators, a focus on superior patient outcomes, quality of care, and patient safety requires a more flexible system than the fixed ratio demanded by the MNA.

The collective bargaining agreements with the MNA do not expire until June 1, 2010, and a strike could occur any time after the expiration, provided the MNA has provided notice of the date of the strike.

This entry was written by H. Tor Christensen.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.