Nearly 5,000 registered nurses in Minnesota have been on a labor strike over health insurance, safety and staffing for nearly a month.
Both the nurses and Allina Health were brought back to the bargaining table Tuesday for the first time since the walkout began Labor Day. A federal mediator sat down with both parties who adjourned late Tuesday and re-opened talks Wednesday.
The ongoing labor battle between the nurses and Allina Health reached a fever pitch Tuesday when hundreds of nurses protested outside of a downtown Minneapolis Hotel where General Mills was hosting its annual shareholders meeting.
The Minnesota Nurses Association chose to protest outside of the shareholders meeting because the executive vice-president of General Mills supply chain is also chairman of the board at Allina Health, according to the Minneapolis/St Paul Business Journal.
The nurses’ union called for the strike after its employer, Allina Health, announced plans to switch nurses from a union-only health care plan to the program that currently covers all other Allina employees.
The switch would “save” $10 million a year, according to Allina. Under the new plan, nurses would pay lower premiums but have higher deductibles and potentially higher out-of-pocket costs.
The union contends that Allina wants to shift too many new costs onto nurses, without adequate compensation. Allina said that they would transition the nurses to the new plans by 2020, a timetable that the union is not ready to accept.
This is not the first time the nurses have hit the picket line in Minnesota. The current contract with the nurses expired June 1, and the union went on a strike earlier this summer for one week, to protest their opposition to Allina’s decision to switch out health care plans.
The two sides have been contentious with one another. Rose Roach, a representative with the Minnesota Nurses Association told a group of reporters that, “They [Allina Health] clearly want to break the back of the nurse’s union.”
Allina Health hired 1,500 replacement nurses to ensure that medical services are not interrupted during the strike.
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