Northland nurses rally ahead of strike – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH – Northland nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association on Sunday met with community supporters ahead of a possible historic strike scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Monday. More than 200 nurses and community members met on the steps of Duluth City Council wearing red and holding signs of support

“Last night at negotiating tables across the state, including St. Luke’s and Essentia Health, the administration walked away from the negotiations,” said Chris Rubish, senior vice president of MNA, who serves as a cardiac nurse at Essentia Health. “They walked away because we refused to give up our hiring priorities.”

Nurses across the state have been in contract negotiations since March, and have been working without contracts since July 1. MNA members raised their frustration with management including insecure staffing levels and low retention rates. The nurses are also asking for a 30% raise over three years, which Duluth hospital executives have faced with offers of about 10% over three years.

“Tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., 15,000 nurses from the Twin Harbors to Moose Lake to the Twin Cities will leave for work on the largest nursing strike in American history,” said Rupish. “We are taking this extraordinary step because we want the care we provide every day to be as high as possible.”

Nurses and supporters hold a rally.

Lance, left, and Von White marks the wood chips before the MNA rally on Sunday. Their mother is a nurse of Saint Luke.

Steve Kuchera / The Duluth News Tribune

Speakers at the rally, such as Andrea Rupich, a St Luke’s nurse, emphasized that they did not want to strike but would do so if the agreement could not be honored. Andrea works on the negotiating team and said both sides had been negotiating for the better part of the past four days before the administration moved off the table without opposing the latest nurses package proposal.

Nurses and supporters hold a rally.

Andrea Rupich, St Luke’s nurse, speaks during Sunday.

Steve Kuchera / The Duluth News Tribune

“We remain ready to negotiate until the last hours in the hope of avoiding a strike,” Andrea said. “We will do whatever it takes to come to an agreement on a contract that not only protects our nurses, but ultimately all of our families and friends in this community that we love so much.”

A group of medical students from the University of Minnesota Duluth showed up in solidarity with the nurses.

Nurses and supporters hold a rally.

Dakota McCall, a medical student on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, raises her arm while speaking.

Steve Kuchera / The Duluth News Tribune

“I’m here today with my colleagues to tell you we’re listening,” said Dakota McCall, a first-year medical student. “You work tirelessly, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and what do you have to show for it? Terrible nurse-patient ratios, exhaustion, extra shifts to make ends meet, emotional meltdowns in the bathrooms. Some here say this strike is a selfish act and that it’s all It’s about money. Anyone who thinks it’s about money hasn’t seen what we see.”

The rally ended with chants such as “MNA, every day” and “This is what a community looks like.” Attendees took their banners home to get ready for the next day.

Nurses and supporters hold a rally.

Nurses and their supporters listen to a speaker during an MNA rally.

Steve Kuchera / The Duluth News Tribune

Nurses and supporters hold a rally.

Nurse Sarah Lambert becomes emotional as she talks about how Essentia Health has dealt with nurses in Moss Lake since she bought the community hospital.

Steve Kuchera / The Duluth News Tribune

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