Allina nurses’ strike lines swelling with solidarity

Striking nurses on the picket line outside United Hospital paused for a photo with members of the St. Paul City Council.

Striking nurses on the picket line outside United Hospital paused for a photo with members of the St. Paul City Council.


Allina nurses are walking the picket lines outside five Twin Cities health care facilities this week, but they aren’t walking alone.

Patients, doctors and other health care workers have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with members of the Minnesota Nurses Association over the last four days. So have members of other unions – teachers, musicians, construction workers and others – and elected officials, including members of the St. Paul City Council who walked the picket line with United Hospital nurses today.

“We know that you don’t do this lightly,” Ward 3’s Chris Tolbert told nurses. “There’s something seriously wrong with the negotiations if you guys are willing to go on strike and walk out of that hospital.”

Tolbert marched to the picket line from City Hall after today’s council meeting with Council President Russ Stark (W-4) and council members Dai Thao (W-1), Amy Brendmoen (W-5), Dan Bostrom (W-6) and Jane Prince (W-7). Thao, whose daughter has been convalescing for over a month at nearby Children’s Hospital, said nurses deserve better treatment than they are getting from Allina, which wants to take away their quality, affordable health insurance options.

St. Paul City Council member Dai Thao talked to nurses on the United picket line.

St. Paul City Council member Dai Thao talked to nurses on the United picket line.

“As a person of color and as a parent, it’s already difficult to navigate the system,” Thao said. “But when we got (to Children’s), the nurses – your colleagues – treated our daughter like their own. That means a lot, and I just want folks to know that nurses need to be taken care of too.”

Nurses’ co-workers at Allina facilities feel the same way. Outside Unity Hospital in Fridley, members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota – in their own fight for a first contract with Allina – rallied with MNA nurses. And at United Hospital in St. Paul, licensed practical nurse Vivian Straumann walked off the job after an eight-hour shift and onto the picket line.

Members of MNA supported Straumann’s union during its contract talks last year, she said, and members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota are more than happy to return the favor now.

“I want to see them keep their health care insurance and get back to work,” Straumann said, adding that it’s been difficult working alongside replacement nurses “who you don’t know and who are taking your friends’ jobs.”

Hundreds of unions members like Straumann have volunteered to walk a shift in solidarity with Allina nurses over the last four days. Local unions also have shown solidarity by donating food, cold drinks and other supplies to MNA strikers.

“It might be cliche, but for me it goes back to the old adage, ‘An injury to one is an injury to all,'” said Minneapolis teacher Brionna Harder, a member Education Minnesota who lives in St. Paul. “Nobody wants to go on strike, but when it’s necessary to draw a line,  we have to stand arm in arm with our brothers and sisters.”

Earlier in the day, Allina’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to Education Minnesota demanding members like Harder stop picketing outside its facilities. In a written response, Education Minnesota President Denise Specht dismissed the attorney’s threats, adding that they will likely make educators even more eager to support striking nurses.

“Education Minnesota cares deeply about this issue,” Specht wrote in a response to Allina’s letter. “This is more than just solidarity with our colleagues in organized labor. Our 86,000 members work with students during the flu season. They get sick. When they do, we want them treated by healthy nurses with easy access to quality health care themselves. The outcome of this dispute affects us all.

“You can follow the participation of educators of Minnesota on our social media sites. We are sure you know where to find us.”

MNA is updating its Facebook page regularly with videos of elected officials and other supporters visiting the Allina picket lines. Sign up for a shift on the strike line at

Nurses are also asking supporters to sign onto a petition asking to Allina to drop its efforts to shift $10 million in health care costs onto nurses and their families. The petition is online at

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