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Minnesota nurses prepare to strike

By Deb Konechne

12,000 prepared to walk out in largest nursing strike in US history

St. Paul, MN – On June 10, nurses from around the Twin Cities are ready to walk off their jobs in a one-day strike after nearly three months of contract negotiations. On May 19, over 90% of 9200 nurses voted overwhelmingly to reject the hospitals’ offer. While the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) continued to try to bargain in good faith, the hospitals refused to respond to even one proposal put forward by the nurses’ union.

The MNA cites one of the main issues for the strike as a need for adequate staffing to ensure patient safety. Minneapolis-Saint Paul nurses will be releasing compiled information in a press conference on June 8 to detail the level of understaffing taking place in Twin Cities hospitals and the danger it poses for patients.

The other main sticking point for the nurses is the proposal by the hospitals to cut the nurses’ pensions by one third. According to the MNA, the hospitals make more than $7 billion a year in revenue and the nurses’ pension costs are barely over 1% of the hospitals’ yearly revenue.

At the same time that Twin Cities hospitals are crying wolf over labor costs, they are preparing to ship in thousands of scab nurses, who will be paid from $1600 to $2200 a day. Twin Cities hospitals made nearly $700 million in profits during 2009. While tens of thousands of working people in Minnesota are suffering loss of jobs, loss of income and loss of their homes and life savings, the hospital corporations are clearly making huge profits. But like so many other greedy corporations, the hospitals are taking advantage of the economic crisis to shrink the pool of workers and increase the patient to staff ratio, therefore reducing labor costs and inflating their profit.

As one member of the MNA stated, “The Twin Cities hospitals have sent their message to our nurses loud and clear – they want to put profits ahead of patients. As nurses, we’re not okay with that. We want working conditions that ensure our patients receive the safest, highest-quality nursing care possible.”

Meanwhile, in California, 13,000 nurses are also planning to go out on strike on the same day as the Minnesota nurses. The MNA invites others to join in support of the nurses on the picket lines between 7:00 a.m. June 10 and 7:00 a.m. June 11. A support rally will be held on the eve of the strike – June 9 at 5:45pm at Saint Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 701 Lexington Pkwy, in Saint Paul.

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