Union nurses are keeping the pressure on Allina Health to do right by their colleagues at Regina Medical Center in Hastings, where nurses voted yesterday to authorize their leadership to call a strike if contract talks break down.
Meanwhile, about 100 nurses and supporters from the labor community staged informational picketing outside Allina-owned United Hospital downtown St. Paul today in a show of solidarity with the Hastings nurses.
Regina nurses, members of the Minnesota Nurses Association, have refused to accept disparities between the contract Allina is offering them and contracts covering MNA members at other Allina facilities in the Twin Cities area.
This is the first contract the two sides have attempted to bargain since Allina purchased Regina last year, and the strike-authorization vote – approved by an overwhelming margin – shows Regina’s 90-plus nurses aren’t backing down.
“We hope we can return to the table and Allina realizes how serious we are about not being considered a second-rate community hospital,” said Regina nurse Jane Traynor, a member of the union’s bargaining team.
In negotiations that began in the fall, Allina has insisted on excluding Regina nurses from pension and health benefits extended to MNA members at Allina facilities within 20 minutes of Hastings. That double standard, nurses say, could have a negative impact on the quality of nursing care in the Hastings facility.
“What incentive do our nurses have to stay at Regina Medical Center if they can get better choices in health insurance and a pension plan in River Falls or St. Paul?” Traynor asked.
Bargaining team member Nikole Nickle said a second-rate contract would “drain” experienced nurses from Regina to work in other hospitals.
“About 80 percent of Regina nurses live in the Hastings area,” Nickle said. “We’re taking care of our friends, our family members, our neighbors. This is about them, about their quality of care.”
United Hospital nurses like Bernadine Engeldorf joined the solidarity picket today to show Regina nurses – and to show management at Allina – their support extends across the Metro Area.
“When you’re negotiating a contract with an employer who is telling you, ‘No, we can’t do that,’ it’s important to hear from other employees who say, ‘Yes, they can,’” Engeldorf said. “That’s why the 6,000 nurses of United Hospital are standing in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Hastings, who don’t deserve to be treated second rate.
“We’re all telling Allina Health to do the right thing.”