Nurses express frustration with poor conditions amid contract negotiations.

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- Twin Ports nurses gathered outside St. Luke’s Tuesday to express their anger with current working conditions.

“Like nowhere else I’ve been pushed past my breaking point. Short staffing is a constant challenge,” said Keandra Schumacher, an Essentia Nurse.

Nurses from both Duluth hospitals attended the gathering.

Those from St. Luke’s announced a supermajority of nurses signed a vote of no confidence in the hospital CEOs.

“The policies and actions are being taken by people who are not nurses or haven’t worked as a nurse in 15 years,” said Larissa Hubbertt, a nurse with St. Luke’s negotiations team.

The announcement came amid ongoing contract negotiations between nurses and the hospitals.

Negotiations team members say those conversations are stagnant.

“We have 22 proposals and we have a tentative agreement on one,” Hubbertt said.

Many of those points aim to ensure better staffing and better treatment for overworked staff.

Essentia nurses haven’t had much luck striking a deal either.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that we meet continually with people at the table representing the employer who isn’t the decision maker,” said Chris Rubesch, part of the Essentia negotiations team. “We started this process this spring. And we certainly hoped that we would have had more progress by now.”

Rubesch said the staffing issues have become a problem at both Duluth hospitals.

“From the stories that were shared, that’s just a small fraction of the stories that each and every one of the nurses who are here today and all of our co-workers who are in these buildings are experiencing,” he said.

The nurses have been working for more than a month on an expired contract, and Rubesch said a strike isn’t out of the question.

“That’s not a word that we’re afraid to say. Those are conversations that we are actively having with all of our co-workers,” he said.

After a strike is announced, hospitals would have 10 days to prefer before on-duty nurses walk off the job.

Essentia representatives issued the following statement:

“Essentia Health is proud of our nurses and all of our colleagues who have helped us navigate extraordinary challenges created by the global pandemic. Together, we have worked to ensure that our patients receive the expert and compassionate care they expect and deserve. Essentia provides pay and benefits that help us remain competitive in the communities we’re privileged to serve, and we are continuously exploring innovative ways to enhance the recruitment and professional development of our nurses. We have a long history of reaching mutually beneficial agreements with the MNA and we are confident we can do so again.”

St. Luke’s CEOs Eric Lohn and Nick Van Deelen issued the following statement:

“St. Luke’s has long served as a champion for our nurses who do important work every day as part of the amazing care team at St. Luke’s. We have offered a 10% raise for our nurses over 3 years, which is a fair and meaningful increase, while MNA is still asking for 36.5% over three years.

Raises of this magnitude would severely increase the cost of health care for our patients, decrease the number of community members who can afford health care, and decrease our ability to pay competitive wages to our other valued employees.

While MNA has repeatedly declined the use of a mediator, we will continue to advocate for one, to help us reach a responsible, fair, and equitable contract.”

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