The largest private sector nurses’ strike in US history kicked off Monday, organisers said, with some 15,000 workers in hospitals across Minnesota and Wisconsin demanding better working conditions and higher wages.
Strikes in the United States have occurred regularly over the past year, with employees reporting to be exhausted by working during the COVID-19 pandemic and struggling with price rises.
The three-day nurses’ stoppage was set to last until Thursday morning, according to a spokesperson for the Minnesota Nurses Association which was coordinating the action.
Holding signs bearing messages such as “Patients Before Profits,” employees gathered in groups in the early morning hours to protest outside some of the 16 affected hospitals, according to photographs the union posted online.
Hospitals have planned to continue providing care, albeit with possible disruptions.
North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, Minnesota said it “may be making some adjustments to non-emergency care and services to ensure adequate and safe staffing during the strike period.”
But it stressed it will continue to offer its “full range of services” including inpatient, outpatient and emergency care, and that it would serve customers for any previously scheduled appointments.
The two sides have been negotiating for more than five months, without reaching an agreement.
“Right now in Minnesota, nurses are overworked, hospitals are understaffed, and patients are overcharged,” MNA said in a statement.
The union said it was seeking solutions to staffing shortages and work safety issues, while hospitals want to focus solely on salaries.
A group representing the hospitals says it has proposed wage increases of 10-12 per cent over three years.
The nurses are seeking raises in the range of 27-30 per cent.
The hospitals argue that “with the constant change in healthcare, all those who work in healthcare need to adapt to how we serve people.”