About 15,000 Nurses stepped out on a historic three-day strike at 16 nurses across the Twin Cities and Twin Ports on Monday. The strike is the largest private-sector Nurses strike in U.S. history.

Essentia and St. Luke’s Nurses have been working without a contract since June 30, and Essentia never honored the contract at its Moose Lake property once it took it over. Management walked away from the negotiating table Saturday night, said Chris Rubesch, MNA first vice president and a cardiac nurse at Essentia.

Nurses say they are “heartbroken” to walk away from their posts, but that they must take a stand. “We don’t want our patients to go through this and neither do we,” said Sarah Lambert, a 14–year RN who works at Moose Lake. “But we have to. We’ve been negotiating for two years.”

While the union is also negotiating for higher pay, patient safety and safe staffing are the main push from the union and an area where employers are not budging, the union says. “Management walked away because we refused to drop our staffing priorities,” Rubesch said.

Rubesch also said employers have used legal threats to intimidate Nurses to stay on the job. “We demand no retaliation in this strike to any Nuse who participates,” he said.

On the picket lines Monday morning, the mood was high as participants picked up signs and started walking. Honking cars and trucks, cheers and cowbells filled the air as Nurses walked off the job.

This is a developing story; keep checking back and look for a full wrap up in the Sept. 20 issue of the Labor World.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) kicked off the Labor Federation’s “Labor 2022” political program by endorsing Governor Tim Walz, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon, and State Auditor Julie Blaha for reelection.
“Working Minnesotans deserve support from their elected officials, and we believe in supporting those who support us,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bernie Burnham. “Whether it’s championing policies to improve the lives of working people or holding bad employers accountable, we can count on all five of Minnesota’s constitutional officers to have our backs.”
The Minnesota AFL-CIO’s “Labor 2022” campaign is grassroots-focused program to ensure the state’s union members have the information they need before casting their votes this fall. The program’s foundation is built upon member-to-member conversations at the worksite, in neighborhoods, and on the phone with significant mail and digital outreach.
“The pandemic reminded us how important it is to have the right people serving in public office,” Burnham added. “As we work to build a state where everyone, no matter what we look like or where we live, can prosper, we must have elected leaders who stand in solidarity with working people.”
The Minnesota AFL-CIO will be endorsing candidates for Congressional and State Legislative races later this spring.

Sen. Tom Bakk, the Democratic senator turned Independent from Cook, is retiring from state politics, nearly 30 years after he was first elected to the Legislature.
One of the staunchest supporters of the Iron Range, its mining and its idiosyncratic culture, Bakk, 67, developed a reputation for being a master of the inside game, always finding a way to put himself at the center of Minnesota state politics and government.
“Representing the people of the Arrowhead region has been one of the greatest rewards of my life, made possible by the support and patience of my family,” Bakk said in a statement. “My heartfelt thanks to my constituents for entrusting me to be their voice at the Capitol for so many years. I have always tried to do my best for the people I’ve served even if it was not always easy or popular with my own political party.”
When the Senate DFL failed to reclaim a majority in the November 2020 election, Bakk, a former DFL caucus leader, jumped ship and announced he was forming his own independent caucus with fellow Iron Ranger state Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, who is also retiring after being diagnosed with ALS last summer.
The two Iron Range lawmakers’ abrupt move was billed as an effort to effectively advocate for their constituents. Bakk and Tomassoni were not padding then-GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka’s narrow 34-33 majority out of charity. In exchange for leaving the DFL caucus, they became committee chairs.
Bakk’s newly redrawn district is still expected to remain competitive. Former President Donald Trump won the district by two points in 2016, and was roughly tied with Biden in 2020. Gov. Tim Walz won the district by double digits in 2018.
Bakk is a relic of a previous legislative era: Unlike younger legislators, he is not much for the modern trappings of social media. His Twitter account, @tombakk, features zero tweets and no profile picture.
“There is still a lot more to be done but it is time for me to pass the torch,” Bakk said. “I’m certain there are new inspiring leaders waiting in the wings. For 28 years it has been my time to serve but now it is finally my time to retire.”
—Minnesota Reformer

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