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Home > Article Categories > Nursing Jobs > Will We See the Largest Nursing Strike in US History?

Will We See the Largest Nursing Strike in US History?

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In a groundbreaking vote, Minnesota nurses recently decided to authorize the largest nursing strike in United States history. Up to 12,000 nurses at 14 metro hospitals could walk when their current labor contract expires on June 1. 90 percent of the 9,200 Twin Cities registered nurses who participated in last Wednesday's vote decided to reject the labor contracts and pension proposals from the hospitals. The union is required to give a 10-day notice of any intent to strike, and bargaining units met yesterday to talk. If the union decides to execute the strike, it is expected to happen early this week. If a strike is announced this week, it will take place towards the end of the first week in June.

Minnesota has a history of nursing union activism. The largest previous nursing strike in U.S. history was also in Minnesota. In the summer of 1984, over 6,000 Twin Cities registered nurses went on strike for 38 days. The current strike focuses partly on safe staffing issues.

Many other states, such as California, have set state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios. Implementing these safe staffing ratios has improved patient care and eased the load on America's over-worked nurses.

"Thousands of us gathered here today for one simple reason," said the Minnesota Nurses Association President, Linda Hamilton, who is an RN in the Children's Hospital System. "And that was to cast a collective vote for our patients' safety and quality of care. This vote wasn't about us - it was about making sure everyone who walks through the doors of our hospitals has access to the safest and highest-quality nursing care possible."
Hamilton explained the strong support for the vote among union nurses in terms of patient care and safety. "As nurses, we never want to leave our patients," she said. "That's why all of us felt called to this profession to begin with. But the reason our members were so united on this vote was because it wasn't about economics - it was about the safety and well-being of our patients."

Nurses have said that they intend to stage a one-day strike, and issue a formal request to return to work the following day.
"We want to have the maximum impact on our employers in terms of letting them know Twin Cities nurses are serious about standing up for patient safety," Hamilton said. "At the same time, a one-day strike has the minimum impact on our patients and the communities served by these hospitals. Our nurses did not want to cast a strike vote, but the hospitals forced our hand. They left us no choice."

The Minnesota Nurses Association has yet to issue the formal 10-day notice, mandated by federal labor laws for healthcare-related strikes and designed to give hospitals enough time to devise backup plans for patient care, but hospitals are already in action. Since they cannot shut down temporarily for the strike, hospitals are anxiously preparing plans on how to staff their facilities and reassure the public. They also point out that a one-day strike is impossible because replacement nurses they find will have contracts for work longer than just a single day.

It is speculated that many nurses could find themselves out of work, if the hospitals refuse to let on-strike nurses return to work after one day. Hospitals can not shut down operations for the strike, so they're rushing to settle logistics about how they will find replacement nurses and nursing supervisors, and how they will explain the situation to the public.

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