US nurses strike over low pay, workers shortage – Nexus News

About 15,000 private sector nurses in the US state of Minnesota have embarked on a three-day strike as they solicit for higher pay and better staffing in a healthcare system that has been stretched to its limits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nurses walked off the job on Monday in seven healthcare systems in Minneapolis and Duluth, carrying picket lines, chanting slogans and holding signs bearing messages such as “Patients Before Profits”.

The strike was set to last until Thursday morning, according to a spokesperson for the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), which was coordinating the action, and will affect 16 hospitals.

“Hospital executives have already driven nurses away from the bedside by their refusal to solve the crises of staffing and retention in our hospitals,” the union’s negotiating team disclosed in a statement, adding that nurses are “understaffed and overworked”.

The stoppage, which the MNA disclosed is believed to be the largest of its kind in United States history, listed the persistent crisis that US healthcare workers face, such as low pay and staffing shortages.

The pandemic has worsen many of those problems, and the sector has lost about 37,000 workers since February 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The hospitals and the embattled nurses have disclosed that staff shortages are an area of mutual concern, but the union has blamed the management of dragging its feet during negotiations.

The union states that it has spent over five months trying to negotiate a new contract, and that nurses have been working without a contract for weeks.

The strike has caught the attention of pro-labour US lawmakers, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, who on Monday called nurses the “backbone of our healthcare system” and requested for better wages and fairer scheduling.

The management has stated that the approximately 30 percent raise that nurses are soliciting for is too high, and the hospitals have offered a 10-12 percent wage increase. In a press release, several hospitals affected by the stoppage called the demands “unrealistic, unreasonable and unaffordable”.

MNA president Mary Turned has stated that the raises are a vital component of resolving what she called a “crisis of retention” that could leave hospitals with severe staffing shortages.

Madi Gay, a second-year nurse who joined the picket line on Monday after completing an overnight shift, informed the Star Tribune newspaper that she had already limit her hours at M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital because of the duress brought about by the job.

“How long can you keep this up?” Gay queried.

Sam Fettig, a spokesperson for the union, stated that nurses decided on a three-day strike instead of a more open-ended one to reduce the effect of the dispute on patient care.

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“As the nurses always say, this isn’t something they want to be doing, they want to be at the bedside providing care,” Fettig said.

The concerned hospitals have said temporary nurses will help maintain most services, albeit with possible disruptions.

North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, Minnesota stated that it “may be making some adjustments to non-emergency care and services to ensure adequate and safe staffing during the strike period”.

But it emphasized that it will continue to offer its “full range of services” including inpatient, outpatient and emergency care, and that it would serve customers for any previously slated appointments.

Allina Health, which owns four hospitals with striking nurses, said on its website that it was making every effort to reduce the disruptions.

Union activity has experienced an uptick across the US, as workers demand for better wages in a number of industries.

Some companies such as Starbucks have tried to sabotage unionization efforts, but over 230 stores of the chain across the US have voted to unionize since late last year.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has implored railroads and unions to come to an agreement to avoid a railroad work strike later this week.

The railroads have until a minute after midnight on Friday to reach tentative deals with hold-out unions representing about 60,000 workers, which are pushing back on work rules that would require employees to be on-call and available to work most days.

“The parties continue to negotiate, and last night [Labor] Secretary [Marty] Walsh again engaged to push the parties to reach a resolution that averts any shutdown of our rail system,” a Labor Department spokesperson said. “All parties need to stay at the table, bargain in good faith to resolve outstanding issues, and come to an agreement.”

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