This explains why we must stand with the MNA nurses in the strike they tried to avert and why it’s so essential that they win the majority of their contract demands, both for our sake and for theirs.
Today is Labor Day, the day we celebrate the contribution of the 99% and the times they stood up against corporate oppression for things like ending child labor, indentured servitude, enacting an 8 hour work day, safe working conditions (OSHA), etc. When you consider the historical context of what generations of working people fought for and how a more just workplace has tremendously improved our lives and help our economy grow, please consider what’s at stake if we end collective bargaining power and allow union busting.
The content below has been reposted from Rose Roach’s Facebook on Sept 5, 2016.
As I prepare to head to the various picket lines today against Allina health and march in the Labor Day parade at the MN State Fair, I ask that you take a moment to read this beautiful explanation one nurse posted for her family and friends to help them understand what this strike is all about. #happylaborday #strikelife #nursesneedcare2
Today was my last hospital shift before a second nurses strike starts tomorrow morning (Labor Day) at 7am. About 4,800 nurses (all RNs at Abbott Northwestern, United, Mercy, and Unity Hospitals and Phillips Eye Institute) in the Twin Cities will not return to work until a contract agreement is reached. I will be on strike with my fellow RNs until I transition into my new nurse practitioner role later this Fall at a different organization.
There is a a lot of misinformation out there about why this strike is happening, particularly corporate rhetoric from Allina lawyers and strike consultants, who have bombarded nurses, non-nurse staff at Allina, and the public with half truths, careful omissions, and highly colored versions of the facts for the last several months. Nurses are feeling so burned by these tactics that they no longer believe they can trust communications from Allina. Allina’s public tone portrays that they are being reasonable and making concessions, but privately nurses have been subjected to bullying, manipulation, veiled threats, and divisive pressure tactics. Allina has waged a pretty consistent propaganda war to try to turn non-nurse staff against nurses, and nurses against each other. On top of that, Allina has unbendingly offered the same contract that nurses have rejected over and over, pretending that they are making compromises but in practice not changing the substance of any of their offers. In fact, for months Allina refused to even talk about any of the issues that mattered to nurses until nurses first gave in to Allina demands to sharply cut nurses health insurance benefits.
This weekend, there was a marathon negotiation session (22 hours straight) in attempt to avert a strike. In the end, nurses finally offered to give up their valuable health care plans and make the transition to the corporate plans with very little in return, the thing that Allina said it wanted all along. Nurses did this in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a strike, and yet this was still not enough for Allina. They wanted the ability to make further cuts to nurse benefits at any time without nurses’ approval, and they wanted to give nothing substantially new for safe staffing or to curb the epidemic of violence happening to staff in hospitals.
This stopped being about health insurance and specific dollar amounts quite awhile ago, despite the glib talking points from the CEO. Allina has said that they would save $10 million per year with nurses on the cheaper insurance plans, but they have already spent at least $20 million on the last strike and are poised to spend many millions more on the upcoming strike. Allina has chanted a familiar refrain that the primary issue is nurse health care plans being too expensive, but when nurses offered to transition to the cheaper plans, Allina still didn’t accept that proposal.
Allina seems to primarily want complete control of nurse work conditions and compensation without the nuisance of a nurses’ union to answer to, a union that has historically fought against oppression and exploitation by those in power in order to give nurses a voice in the care they give. Allina should not be allowed to get away with taking more and more of nurses’ energy, compassion, and dedication to patients in order to boost the corporate bottom line without giving their staff the resources they need to give the award-winning care the hospitals claim to give. Budget cuts have become so ridiculous that, no joke, the hospital no longer provides bedspreads to its patient beds, and many of my mental health patients bring in their own blankets from home.
If Allina was seeking to intentionally provoke almost 5,000 nurses into an angry hornet’s nest, they have succeeded. What purpose does it serve to shred the morale and support of the people who spend their careers caring for the sickest patients, around the clock, at bedsides that contain tragedies that most people would prefer never to know about? Let’s talk about Allina’s self-professed values of “integrity, respect, trust, compassion, and stewardship” and hold them accountable to showing evidence of these values in practice, not just with words on PR brochures. Provide nurses with what they need to do their jobs well, and what they need to be healthy, and everybody reaps the dividends in productivity, quality, safety, and human potential. What patient or family wants to come for care when they are suffering to a hospital that doesn’t value, listen to, or protect its nurses? I certainly wouldn’t. How you treat your nurses says a lot about who you are and what you stand for as an organization.
We are very heavy-hearted to be leaving our patients. And we are nervous to be going without pay for (potentially several) weeks, but there is a limit to how much power we are willing to give away to a wealthy, acquisition-hungry corporation. Please support the nurses you know and love. And if you have any contact with Allina executives, please let them know that this behavior is unacceptable.
I will also repeat my PSA from June: For your safety, I recommend avoiding Allina hospitals (Abbott, United, Mercy, and Unity) until the strike is resolved if you need hospital care. Allina is saying that the hospitals will be running close to business-as-usual during the strike. However, most of the (about 1500) replacement nurses are coming into these hospital units from out of state, with licenses but little to no specific training to the environment & equipment. They will be working back to back 12-hour shifts for many days in a row (an evidence-based recipe for poor care and errors), and they may not even be familiar with the type of specialty care where they are placed. Allina has a detailed contingency plan created by their strike consultants, but the hospitals will be in disaster mode. I’d rather my loved ones not risk any harm during this tumultuous process. If you have to use a hospital during the strike, I recommend a non-Allina hospital as a safer bet.