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  • Thousands of Minnesota Nurses On Strike Over Health Care, Staffing At Allina
    Posted On: Jun 20, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, June 21, 2016

    Almost five thousand nurses launched a seven-day strike Sunday morning against five Minnesota hospitals operated by Allina Health.  Bernadine Engeldorf is Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association and a registered nurse at United Hospital in St. Paul. 

    [Bernadine Engeldorf]: “The strike’s going well.  We have many of our members on the picket lines at all of our five facilities, and a huge turnout here in St. Paul at United Hospital.  People are very strong and standing in solidarity to bring voice to our workplace.”

    Among the issues the nurses are protesting are changes their employer wants to make to their health coverage.  Angela Bicchetti (bi-ket-tee), a registered nurse at Abbot Northwestern Hospital is part of the union’s negotiation team:

    [Angela Bicchetti]: “What we currently have is a union-backed Minnesota Nurses Association plan that we’ve given up wages in the past for.  [It’s part of our benefit package] and what Allina’s asking us to do is go to higher deductible, higher out-of-pocket plans.  And we’re asking for data to properly assess this, and they’re not willing to give us the data on it.”

    Bichetti’s two difficult deliveries highlighted the importance of maintaining her high-quality health care:

    [Angela Bicchetti]: “With my two difficult deliveries that I had, my kids were in the neonatal intensive care unit for quite some time, and my union plan helped me with that.  And if I would have been on the Allina plan that they’re asking me to transition to with the high out-of-pocket maximum, I would be 12,000 dollars in debt, just like that.”

    Engeldorf says the employer only wants to focus on the health insurance issue, but the nurses have other priorities:

    [Bernadine Engeldorf]: “We didn’t really want to talk about that.  We came to the table to talk about our staffing crisis in our hospital, issues around workplace violence and assuring that we really have a voice for the nurses and for the patients in our facilities…but the corporation has chosen to make this negotiation about our health insurance.  They have not really negotiated.  Overall, the strike is about them not willing to sit down and fairly negotiate anything, let alone the fact that they do want to transition us off our health care.”

    Safe staffing is an issue facing nurses across the nation, as well as those at Allina:

    [Bernadine Engeldorf]: “We want to make sure that we have the right number of nurses to care for the right number of patients, and assure that we have that staffing all the time.  And that’s concerning to us, because that directly affects our patients, and we believe that It’s our obligation to bring voice to the patients.”

    Another issue facing the nurses is workplace violence, which Bicchetti says is a daily occurrence for nurses at Allina Health.  The union is asking for more training to help ensure worker safety.  Unfortunately, Allina has failed to heed the union’s members’ concerns:

    [Angela Bicchetti]: “They wouldn’t even accept any of our proposals that we tried to alter and tried to come to an agreement with them.  They wouldn’t even take them out of our hands.  All they are concerned, and they keep stating at the table and the newsletters to the nurses that they’re not willing to negotiate unless we do a transition…basically elimination of our MNA plan.  We want them to come and sit down and bargain at the table in good faith with us, and they’re just not willing to do that at this time.  The nurses are upset that we have to come to this point, but ultimately we want to try to protect our patients and advance our practice.”

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