St. Luke's, Essentia reach tentative agreements with nurses

The strike planned to begin Dec. 11 has been called off, the Minnesota Nurses Association said, as all hospitals except St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors have reached tentative agreements.

Nurses walking on the picket line.
A Minnesota Nurses Association member gives two thumbs up to others walking the picket line outside St. Mary’s Medical Center shortly after a three-day strike that began on Sept. 12. Approximately 15,000 nurses in the Twin Ports and the Twin Cities participated and had threatened to engage in a longer strike unless a mutually agreeable contract could be negotiated.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune
We are part of The Trust Project.

DULUTH — Minnesota hospitals, including St. Luke's and Essentia Health, have reached tentative agreements with the Minnesota Nurses Association regarding contract negotiations. Because all hospitals except St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors reached tentative agreements early this week, MNA has called off the strike that was set to begin Dec. 11.

At 11:30 p.m. Monday, St. Luke's issued a statement indicating that the Duluth-based health care provider reached a breakthrough in contract negotiations with MNA. Essentia updated its bargaining website Tuesday morning, also stating a tentative agreement had been reached and MNA nurses agreed to withdraw their strike notice. According to Essentia, the MNA bargaining committee unanimously agreed to recommend ratification.

“For nine long months in these negotiations, nurses have insisted that workers and patients deserve better in our hospitals,” said Chris Rubesch, a registered nurse at Essentia in Duluth and First Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “This tentative agreement is a critical step to address the chronic short-staffing and other corporate healthcare policies hurting patients and nurses at the bedside. With new staffing language and fair wage increases, nurses are empowered to continue the fight to protect care in our communities.”

The MNA will share the tentative agreement's details with its Essentia nurses and will vote on ratification no later than Dec. 12, Essentia said. A ratification date was not shared for St. Luke's. Twin Ports nursing contracts expired June 30, and they have been negotiating for new three-year contracts since March.

On Dec. 1, MNA announced plans for more than 15,000 members to strike against 16 hospitals in Minnesota and Wisconsin, unless they could negotiate a contract addressing their pay and staffing concerns. Children's Minnesota, Allina, North Memorial, M Health Fairview and Healthpartners also reached tentative agreements late Monday or early Tuesday.


According to MNA, the contracts would include language addressing understaffing and giving nurses a say in how staffing levels are set, for which the labor union said they have fought for decades. The contracts vary by hospital system, but include language that requires management and nurses to agree on staff reductions and protect nurses' licenses when they raise concerns about unsafe assignments.

Nurses in the Twin Ports would receive a 17% pay raise over three years, which MNA says is the largest wage increase MNA nurses have won in more than 20 years. Twin Cities nurses would receive an 18% pay increase over three years. Preceptor and charge nurse pay also would increase.

The MNA said the nurses will review the tentative contracts, and nurse negotiation leaders are recommending members to vote in agreement with the terms.

"At Essentia, we are privileged to have skilled, compassionate nurses, and we value their contributions to make a healthy difference in people’s lives," Essentia said on its bargaining website. "Thanks go to all our colleagues for the teamwork demonstrated as we have been preparing for a potential work stoppage. We appreciate the efforts of the negotiating teams to reach a resolution, allowing us all to continue focusing on providing high-quality patient care to the communities we are privileged to serve."

"We are pleased to announce that St. Luke’s and MNA reached a tentative contract agreement," St. Luke's said in a statement. "MNA has withdrawn its strike notice and will bring the contract to nurses for ratification in the near future. We want to thank all who have worked so diligently at the table to reach a fair and equitable contract."

Negotiations between the MNA and St. Luke's Lake View Hospital in Two Harbors continue. An MNA spokesperson did not confirm that the nurses at Lake View do not plan to strike, saying only "negotiations are ongoing there." MNA contracts at Lake View expired Sept. 30.

"Lake View is looking forward to resuming negotiations, as the strike notice was issued to us after only two sessions," St. Luke's said in an email statement. "We remain hopeful a strike will be avoided but are nonetheless ready to provide excellent care to our community."

This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. Dec. 6 to add comments from the Minnesota Nurses Association and contract details. It was originally posted at 12:11 a.m. the same day.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
What To Read Next
Loretta Hall, 85, has sewn roughly 20,000 pairs of fleece mittens over the years as part of a local missions group.
Founder Summer Nitsch brings 25 years of marketing experience and the perspective of a new business owner to the agency.
“We want somebody that can represent us in the largest art project we ever had in the city,” Mayor Jim Paine said.
As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.