Duluth nurses hit the streets, requesting better staffing and pay
DULUTH, MN -- Tuesday, nurses from around the Twin Ports began their first day of an informational picket amid stagnant contract negotiations.
“We’re just escalating our public actions because so far our previous attempts to get management’s attention just haven’t been successful,” said Chris Rubesch, part of the negotiations team at Essentia St. Mary’s.
Off-duty nurses are taking part in the informational picket to try and garner public support and attention for their cause.
According to Rubesch, negotiations have recently focused on improving staffing.
Nurses hope better pay and benefits can solve recruitment and retention problems.
“We don’t have a shortage of nurses, we have a shortage of nurses willing to work in these conditions. And we want our contracts to address some of our concerns and keep nurses at the bedside,” he said.
Rubesch wants to see a willingness to negotiate from hospital management.
“Management just doesn’t want to engage in these issues. Those are tough conversations to have, and I think at times they’d rather ignore the issues than engage,” he said.
Nurses at the picket, like Angie Nolle, said the staffing shortage is taking a toll on nurses like herself.
“Nurses are fed up. We have been working short, this has been happening long before the pandemic. This is not a COVID problem. This is a poor management problem,” she said.
Nolle said she works significant overtime every single pay period.
“When you’re working and past your 8 hours or 12 hours, you’re not at your peak, you’re tired, you’re exhausted, you’re tapped out and it’s your third double that week. Do you think you’re going to be giving the best patient care that you can? Probably not,” she said.
We reached out to Essentia and St. Luke’s for comment.
Both declined a request to interview, and instead issued the following statements:
St. Luke’s is listening to the demands of the MNA that are being shared as part of today’s informational picket. We continue to work towards an agreement that aligns the best interests of our patients, our employees, and our community.
St. Luke’s has made, by any reasonable measure, a fair contract proposal that recognizes the contributions of our nurses while helping ensure that we can keep health care affordable and accessible. In fact, St. Luke’s is offering the most comprehensive staffing proposal on the negotiating table in the State of Minnesota.
St. Luke’s has created a website, YourCareDestination.com, to share information about how we’re working with our nurses toward a fair and equitable agreement. We will provide updates and progress throughout the negotiations.
We are committed to constructive talks, solution-seeking and transparency, and we look forward to another productive bargaining session with the MNA tomorrow.
We value our nurses and the role they play in helping to advance Essentia Health’s mission of making a healthy difference in people’s lives. We respect their right to conduct informational picketing if they so choose. During this time, our facilities will continue to serve the community with the commitment to excellence our patients expect from Essentia Health.
We are focusing on our discussions at the bargaining table because that is where solutions are found. Essentia will continue to negotiate in good faith, and we look forward to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.
Our top priority in everything we do is to continue providing our patients with the kind of expert care they expect and deserve.
The contract between the hospital and the union expires on June 30, 2022.
If a deal isn’t reached by then the union could authorize a strike.
The hospital would then have 10 days to respond before on-duty workers went on strike.
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