The largest nurses’ strike in U.S. history started yesterday in Minnesota. Those walking the picket lines said they want the public to know it is not just about higher wages, arguing hospital executives are putting profits first.
The three-day walkout includes 15,000 nurses from more than a dozen hospitals in the Twin Cities and Duluth. Union leaders say while they are seeking higher wages, they stressed structural issues related to staffing make it harder to provide adequate care for patients.
Brittany Livaccari, an emergency room nurse at United Hospital in St. Paul, amplified the argument when speaking to reporters.
“Staffing shortages and crises within the hospital absolutely did not start with this pandemic,” Livaccari asserted. “It started with lean management and staffing cuts. The pandemic just shed light on it and made it worse.”
She and other union members stressed they want to have more of a say in how hospitals are staffed. The Twin Cities Hospital Group criticized the nurses for choosing to strike before exhausting all negotiating efforts. It added several hospitals have reached tentative agreements on revised workplace safety measures. Contract talks have been dragging on for several months.
Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, chair of the House Health, Finance and Policy Committee, said the entire state needs to know each hospital needs skilled nurses to care for people’s families, friends and neighbors. But she feels the message is not getting through to administrators.
“Hospitals without nurses are just buildings,” Liebling emphasized. “We all know that.”
The Morning Consult firm recently reported 18% of American health care workers have quit their jobs during the pandemic, while another 12% have been laid off.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, contingency plans were put in place to avoid care disruptions during the strike. However, some patients might see scheduling changes for non-urgent care.
Mike Moen writes for the Minnesota News Connection.