It's Official: Twin Cities Nurses Vote to Authorize Largest Strike in U.S. History

ST. PAUL (May 19, 2010) - Twin Cities nurses made history Wednesday by voting to authorize the largest nursing strike in U.S. history, with more than 12,000 RNs ready to walk off the job if a new contract agreement with six Twin Cities hospital systems can't be reached before June 1, when the current labor deal expires.

Of the 9,000-plus Twin Cities RNs who voted Wednesday, more than 90 percent voted to reject the labor contracts and pension proposals from the hospitals.

"Thousands of us gathered here today for one simple reason," said Minnesota Nurses Association President Linda Hamilton, an RN in the Children's Hospital System. "And that was to cast a collective vote for our patients' safety and quality of care. This vote wasn't about us - it was about making sure everyone who walks through the doors of our hospitals has access to the safest and highest-quality nursing care possible."

Since mid-March, more than 12,000 Twin Cities RNs have been negotiating with six different Twin Cities hospital systems for a new labor contract. The largest previous nursing strike in U.S. history also occurred in Minnesota, when more than 6,000 Twin Cities RNs walked off the job for 38 days during the summer of 1984.

In the next few days, the Minnesota Nurses Association will formally submit a 10-day strike notice to the Twin Cities hospitals, according to Hamilton. She said Twin Cities nurses plan on staging a one-day strike with a formal request to return to work the following day.

"We want to have the maximum impact on our employers in terms of letting them know Twin Cities nurses are serious about standing up for patient safety," Hamilton said. "At the same time, a one-day strike has the minimum impact on our patients and the communities served by these hospitals. Our nurses did not want to cast a strike vote, but the hospitals forced our hand. They left us no choice."

Federal labor laws mandate that healthcare-related strikes include a formal 10-day notice so that hospitals can have ample time to make contingency plans for patient care, along with the hope that both sides can return to the bargaining table and work out a deal before the strike takes place.

"As nurses, we never want to leave our patients," Hamilton said. "That's why all of us felt called to this profession to begin with. But the reason our members were so united on this vote was because it wasn't about economics - it was about the safety and well-being of our patients."