On Monday, 15,000 private sector nurses from 16 hospitals in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the surrounding communities walked off the job as they sought increased pay and improved staffing conditions in a healthcare system that is severely under pressure.
“The strike is believed to be the largest private-sector nurses’ strike in U.S. history, and it comes as nurses have negotiated with hospital executives for more than five months and have worked without contracts for the last several months,” Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) wrote in a press release.
MNA nurses have been working on expired three-year contracts since May. The work stoppage on Monday followed a series of unsuccessful bargaining sessions between MNA officials and hospital executives.
Central to those talks, which began earlier this year, have been negotiations regarding retention, understaffing, and overwork among nurses. Also, there’s been a call for higher pay because the average annual pay increase is well below the current inflation rate.
“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 said in a statement, adding that nurses are “understaffed and overworked.”
The union said the strike will last until Thursday morning and shows worker power continues to be strong as negative real wage growth for more than a year crushes the finances of nurses.
Bernie Sanders has been an avid supporter of unions and strikes. He tweeted Monday, “I stand in solidarity with the 15,000 MNA nurses.”
I stand in solidarity with the 15,000 @mnnurses on strike this week fighting for safer care, fair scheduling, and higher wages. Nurses are the backbone of our health care system. They understand what’s best for their patients. https://t.co/XHo3aqyiQy
Twin Cities Hospitals, which represents the 16 hospitals affected by strikes, said all of this could’ve been avoided:
“The Twin Cities Hospitals Group is deeply disappointed that the nurses’ union has chosen to strike before exhausting all efforts to reach an agreement,” Paul Omodt, a spokesperson for the group, told Fortune in a statement. “To be clear: The union’s choice to strike is theirs and theirs alone.”
The affected hospitals said temporary nurses had been called in to maintain services though possible disruptions could still occur.