The Minnesota Nurses Association, a union which represents 4,800 nurses at the five Allina Hospitals in the Twin Cities, is asking its members to authorize an indefinite strike, according to KARE-11.
The union made the request the day after contract talks with Allina failed to produce an agreement. The vote is scheduled for August 18th.
In June, Allina nurses went on strike for a week. Union spokesman Rick Fuentes told MPR News that the decision to seek an open-ended strike is intended to put more pressure on Allina.
Fuentes told MPR that meetings to prepare the nurses for an extended walkout have already begun.
KARE-TV reports that Allina said that the company is “disappointed that the union’s focusing on strikes rather than on solutions.”
The hospitals are preparing for another possible walk out, but there remains time to negotiate an agreement, Allina spokesperson David Kanihan told MPR.
The major stumbling block in the contract talks is the cost of nurses’ health insurance.
MPR reports that the nurses are insisting on keeping their insurance plan they have through the union, but in order to cut expenses, Allina wants them to switch to a corporate plan that 30,000 other employees use called “Allina First”. Nurses fear that out-of-pocket expenses will skyrocket under Allina First.
“The Minnesota Nurses Association publicly supports a single-payer health care system and Medicare-for-All, but Obamacare shows us how expensive those systems are,” said Twila Brase, R.N., president and co-founder of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom (CCHF). “The MNA objects to its nurses being forced to pay higher premiums for the low-deductible plans that most of their patients no longer have because of Obamacare. It wants Allina to absorb the cost of the coming 40% Obamacare “Cadillac” tax on these expensive policies. This would mean higher medical bills and insurance premiums for everyone. Perhaps the MNA will reconsider their support for government-run health care once they actually start paying for it.”
In order to authorize a strike, a super-majority of nurses is needed. The union has to give Allina a 10 day advance notice before striking. The strike’s legal basis is the union’s contention that Allina has engaged in an unfair labor practice, but that is just an allegation, so far.
Allina Hospitals could permanently replace all the nurses if the National Labor Relations Board rejects the claim at the time they are striking.
At this time, no new talks are scheduled, but both sides say there is plenty of time to resume talks before a strike. A national mediator is involved in resolving the dispute.
Allina Hospitals include Abbott Northwestern and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Unity Hospital in Fridley and Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids.