Minnesota nurses still on express train to July 6 strike and other labor news

At roughly 1 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30, the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) rejected the latest contract offer from a consortium of 14 hospitals in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, bringing some 12,000 nurses ever closer to launching an open-ended strike at 7 a.m. on July 6, reports the Star Tribune. Hospital compromises on two key issues--pensions and staffing ratios--weren't strong enough to induce the nurses to sign on the dotted line. The 14 hospitals agreed to limit pension benefit reductions, as well as offering a letter of understanding to collaborate with the union to address nurse workloads.

The MNA, citing concerns about patient safety, previously has proposed putting specific nurse/patient ratios in their contract, but the hospitals have rejected that option, saying they would need evidence that increased staffing would improve the quality of patient care before they agree to spend an additional $250 million a year. And the latest research appears to support the hospitals' contention. California has mandated nurse staffing levels due to the passage of California Assembly Bill 394 (AB394). "AB394 did have the intended effect of decreasing patient/nurse ratios in hospitals that previously did not meet mandated standards," noted the authors of a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). "However, our analysis suggests that patient outcomes did not disproportionately improve in these same hospitals. That is, we find no evidence of a causal impact of the law on patient safety."

In Washington, D.C., Nurses United of the National Capital Region has rejected a new contract offer for 1,600 registered nurses working at Washington Hospital Center, reports the Washington Post. As in Minnesota and elsewhere, staffing levels are a central sticking point. The nurses' current contract expired June 19. The union has said its nurses will prepare for a strike vote if the hospital administration won't work with the union. Washington Hospital Center officials expressed willingness, saying "We hope to resume negotiations with Nurses United to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that accomplishes our common goal of providing the highest level of patient care."

In Massachusetts, North Adams Regional Hospital has filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the local chapter of the Massachusetts Nurses Association won't "bargain in good faith," reports the Bennington Banner. The union's contract expired March 31.

In Texas, 1,900 nurses working at five south and west Texas hospitals have voted to unionize over the past two months, and now the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas is setting its sights on the Dallas market, reports the Dallas Morning News. "Now that they are getting traction in some places, we can expect them to want to grow their market share in this area," said Dan Rodriguez, vice president of labor relations for Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare. "I think it's only a matter of time before we see nursing unions in Dallas."

In California, just days after members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) ratified a new three-year contract with Kaiser Permanente, some Kaiser workers have petitioned to hold union elections to allow SEIU-UHW members to defect to the rival upstart union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, reports the Sacramento Business Journal.

To learn more:
- read this Star Tribune article
- access the NBER working paper here
- read this Pioneer Press article
- read this Washington Post article
- read this Bennington Banner article
- read this Dallas Morning News article
- read this Sacramento Business Journal article
- read this Sacramento Bee article