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Minnesota nurses rally on eve of historic strike

By Deb Konechne

St. Paul, MN – A packed house listened to labor leaders, religious leaders, politicians and nurses on the night before the largest nursing strike in U.S. history is set to take place on June 10, when 12,000 Twin Cities nurses in the Minnesota Nursing Association (MNA) are prepared to go out on strike starting at 7:00 a.m.

The pre-strike support rally was a strong show of solidarity for the nurses who are ready to walk off their jobs and join the picket lines. The overwhelming message from speakers was one of support and solidarity for the courageous Minnesota nurses who are standing up to corporate greed. The pastor of Saint Matthews Church opened the rally with a call for support of the strike: “In a river that’s going in the opposite direction toward greed and profit, the nurses are willing to stand up on behalf of all of us and say ‘it’s not about profit.’”

Naomi English, a nurse of 13 years at United Hospital, spoke to the standing-room- only crowd. “Now 12,000 nurses are trying to bargain equitable contracts with Twin Cities hospitals. Despite millions and millions in profits, these hospitals have decided our contracts are too rich; our pensions are too large…We will emerge from this fight in victory!”

Shar Knutson, President of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, spoke to the crowd, “You’re standing up for all workers tomorrow. When economic times get tough, it’s the workers who are continually asked to sacrifice. A bad economy should not be used to take advantage of workers. It definitely should not be an excuse to lower patient standards.”

Speakers were repeatedly interrupted by applause and cheers and many standing ovations. Representatives from the National Nurses Union brought a message of greetings and solidarity from nurses all across the country, “When you take on one of us, you take on all of us.”

The MNA handed out fliers calling on supporters to “Call the hospital CEOs and let them know how you feel.” The fliers detailed the 2009 salaries of CEOs from the Twin Cities hospitals. Annual salaries for the top four CEOs (Allina, Children’s, Healtheast and Fairview) ranged from $1 million to $1.74 million. Nurses also encouraged supporters to join them on the picket lines at area hospitals from 7:00 a.m. Thursday until 7:00 a.m. Friday.

The rally came to a close with a spirited rendition of Solidarity Forever, slightly revised for the nursing strike: “When the union’s inspiration through the nurses’ blood shall run, there can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun… Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.”

#StPaulMN #MinnesotaNursingAssociationMNA