Minnesota nurses vote to accept contract

The agreement ends a labor dispute that included a one-day walkout.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted July 7, 2010

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Minnesota nurses voted July 6 to accept a three-year contract that does not include requested patient-staffing ratios but also doesn't include pension cuts sought by 14 hospitals in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

"It's been a long three-plus months, but the nurses I'm talking to ... have a healthy mixture of relief and resolve," said Cindy Olson, RN, a member of the Minnesota Nurses Assn. bargaining team.

The Minnesota union had asked for rigid staffing ratios much like those mandated in California. These vary depending on the setting but would, for example, require one registered nurse for each patient in an operating room. One registered nurse would be needed per two patients in a critical care unit.

The website for the Twin Cities Hospitals states that current staffing levels are sufficient for patient safety and that studies have yet to show that legal mandates make a difference.

The nurses have been at the negotiating table with hospitals in the Twin Cities since March. A 24-hour strike involving approximately 12,000 nurses was held June 10 when negotiations broke down. Union members voted on June 21 in favor of an open-ended work stoppage that would have started July 6. However, a tentative contract agreement was reached July 1, which was then ratified by the general union membership July 6.

Hospitals in the Twin Cities and the Minnesota Nurses Assn. issued a joint statement: "The registered nurses and the hospitals believe a settlement of the labor agreement at this time is in the best interests of patients and our community."

The contract includes:

  • No changes to the pension plan.
  • No across-the-board wage increase in 2010.
  • A 1% raise in 2011.
  • A 2% raise in 2012.

The agreement stipulates that concerns about staffing ratios will be handled by existing committees, and all unfair labor practice charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board will be withdrawn.

An attempt by the California Nurses Assn. to organize a June 10 strike at five University of California medical centers that would have affected 11,000 nurses was blocked by the courts. Nurses in the state are prohibited from striking until Sept. 30. Negotiations are ongoing.

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