Some 5,000 Minnesota RNs began a one-week strike Sunday protesting unfair labor practices by the Allina Health chain to address RN concerns over safe staffing, workplace violence prevention, and demands for cuts in RN health coverage.
It’s the first of a wave of RN strikes this coming week, involving 10,000 RNs, extending from California to Massachusetts.
The walkout affects Twin Cities RNs at Abbott Northwestern, Phillips Eye Institute, Mercy, United, and Unity.
“We’re asking Allina, come back and actually negotiate with us,” said Angie Becchetti, one of the nurses on strike. “We’re asking for health insurance to keep intact and we’re asking for better staffing and workplace violence prevention.”
Abbott nurse Judy Pontius, who participated in strikes in 1984 and 2010, is undergoing radiation for breast cancer and opposed the switch to the company plans, two of which come with low premiums but sharply higher deductibles, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
United nurse Jo Copas said she was making the financial sacrifice of striking for a week to protect other benefits. “It’s really not about just the insurance,” she said. “It’s about Allina trying to chip away at our benefits. If they can get this done, then they’ll go toward other things.”
Strikes are scheduled to begin Wednesday of 300 RNs for two days at Watsonville Community Hospital, and Thursday, 1,300 RNs for four days at Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center.
“Our hospital is the tertiary center for the region,” says LAMC RN Tinny Adogado. “We treat patients from as far as Oregon and Colorado. We are proud of that, but we need Kaiser to focus on providing us the resources we need to properly take care of our patients.”
“Short staffing is outrageous from a patient safety standpoint. But even if this corporation cares more about its business model and profits than our community, the fact remains that chronic understaffing of nurses actually drives up healthcare costs,” said Watsonville RN Sandy Flanagan. “No matter how you look at it, this corporation’s decision to cut patient care standards and work nurses dangerously short because it refuses to settle a safe contract comes at a dangerous cost to our community.”
At Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, 3,300 RNs may strike for one-day June 27 citing inadequate staffing for the hospital’s Tertiary Care center, short staffing for critically ill children in the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and lack of proper staffing to allow nurses to take rest and meal breaks.
Negotiations this week have failed to resolve the dispute, said the Massachusetts Nurses Association/NNU. “Unfortunately, the hospital and Partners HealthCare still refuses to value patients and nurses over profits. BWH/Partners refuses to provide safe nurse staffing levels for some of the hospital’s sickest patients and refuses to provide equal benefits for every nurse.”
“Many of our patients struggle to breathe,” says BWH RN Maureen Tapper said. “These patients and families need emotional as well as physical support. The reduction in nurse staffing severely impacts the care the patients so greatly need.