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.