Nurses’ picket lines swell with community, labor support

“The people of Minnesota stand with you,” Gov. Tim Walz tells striking United and Children’s hospital nurses.

The Minnesota Nurses Association’s trademark red radiated from picket lines outside Twin Cities hospitals during the union’s three-day strike Sept. 12-14, but nurses were far from alone.

Elected officials, union leaders and supporters from the community bolstered nurses’ ranks, honking horns, joining picket lines and dropping off coffee and treats for the health care heroes standing up to millionaire hospital CEOs to demand safer staffing and better patient care.

“The people of Minnesota stand with you,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz told union nurses outside United Hospital on Day 2 of the strike. Walz thanked them for their compassion and service to the state during the pandemic, and he applauded them for using their collective bargaining rights to advocate for their patients and their profession.

“Your message has never been lost,” Walz said. “You walk here to protect patients and Minnesotans. You walk here today to make sure health care is delivered in the safest, most efficient manner. And you walk here today to make sure young people see this profession for what it is – caring, valuable and important to Minnesota.”

State Sen. Erin Murphy of St. Paul, herself a registered nurse, praised MNA members for following their “professional obligation to raise their voices” when they see something wrong, and she called on hospital executives to listen to those voices at the bargaining table.

“We need to heed (nurses’) warning that the understaffing that continues inside our hospitals is undermining their ability to do their jobs with care,” Murphy said.

Executive officers of Education Minnesota stand in solidarity with striking nurses in St. Paul.

Members of local unions brought their colors – and solidarity – to the strike line too.

SEIU members who work alongside nurses as technicians and support staff held rallies at Abbott Northwestern and M-Health Fairview hospitals in Minneapolis. The Teamsters Local 120 semi blared its horn while cruising past several picket lines. And dozens of St. Paul educators, whose union made history with a “strike for the schools St. Paul students deserve” in 2020, joined nurses at United and Children’s.

Denise Specht, president of the statewide educators’ union, said solidarity with nurses comes easily for Education Minnesota members, who take similar issues into their contract negotiations, like workplace safety and adequate staffing to meet students’ needs.

“These nurses are talking about many of the same things we’re hearing in our schools,” Specht said. “They are seeing people walking away from the profession. They are feeling stretched thin. They don’t have professional respect in the workplace. We see that all over in teaching, too.”

Executive officers of the state’s largest labor federation, the Minnesota AFL-CIO, said its affiliate unions, representing over 300,000 working people, stand in “full solidarity” with MNA nurses – during the strike and as long as it takes to get the contracts they deserve.

“Millionaire hospital executives … need to listen to nurses when they tell them patients need hospitals that are fully staffed with nurses who aren’t overworked,” Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bernie Burnham and Secretary-Treasurer Brad Lehto said in a statement. “They should follow the nurses’ lead and put patients before profits.”

Trackbacks

  1. […] had community members, family and friends, elected officials and our labor allies on the line with us,” Turner said. “To see all the other unions there, this was a part of being a union a lot […]

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