Truth Behind the Allina Nursing Strike

Blakely in her Nurse Bib

For once I am taking a moment to talk about something other than my dad’s cancer (he’s doing great by the way). I believe it is crucial that people understand what I’m about to share.

The topic is the Allina Nurses’ Strike, affecting Allina’s 5 metro hospitals (Abbott Northwestern, United, Mercy, Unity, and the Phillips Eye Institute) which began Labor Day, September 5th.

As a husband of an Allina nurse, I want to share with you a more accurate and non-Allina version of the truth as to why this strike is occurring. There is so much mis-information out there, most of it carefully crafted by highly paid Allina lawyers comprised of half-truths and strategic omissions.

They have bombarded the public, nurses, and non-nurse staff at Allina with this rosy version of the truth trying to ultimately pit the public, their employees, and other nurses against each other.

My wife and I are both so exhausted from their constant bullying tactics that we can no longer trust anything Allina says.

Publically, Allina paints a facade that they are meeting well over half way, and working on a “fair compromise.” But in reality there has been no change in their proposals over the past few months other than slight wording changes or minute adjustments making them appear new and different.

The big issue lies in the fact that Allina outright refused to even discuss two very important issues to nurses (staffing and workplace violence/safety), UNTIL the nurses first agree to get rid of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union health plans.

This is not fair bargaining.

As far as the nurses see it, they could agree to transition to Allina’s corporate health plans, and then suddenly Allina could change tune and refuse to discuss the other issues.

You all can read the articles out there and make all sorts of accusations on the nurses being greedy. But let’s be honest… how many people would willingly sign the dotted line for a job contract that gave them a decrease in overall compensation? I think it is safe to say that most people would at least stand up for themselves rather than passively walk away with a demotion.

This week the MNA and Allina met for 22 hours straight for a marathon negotiation session in an attempt to reach a settlement and thus prevent an open-ended strike.

In the MNA’s final proposal to Allina, the nurses offered to give up their highly valued MNA health plans and transition fully to the Allina Corporate plans by 2020, getting very little in return for this concession.

Allina never offered anything to the nurses in regards to their concerns about safe staffing and workplace violence. However, the MNA did this final proposal in a last-ditch effort to prevent the strike, as this is what Allina has said they wanted all along.

But of course, for Allina this was not enough.

Allina left the room without a word, not even offering a counter proposal in return.

When the MNA offered to meet again over the weekend or any day thereafter, they heard nothing back.  Within two hours from the end of negotiations, Allina had already sent out an email to all Allina employees stating that the MNA walked away from a “good offer”, when in reality it was Allina who left the table.

As far as I am concerned, Allina put on this little charade to appear to the public that they wanted to settle, but in reality, this was not their intentions.

All everyone continues to hear in the media is that this dispute is over health insurance. In reality, this was no longer about health insurance a long while ago, despite the fact that Allina continued to make candid remarks to make it appear as such.

Their initial argument was that removing the MNA plans would save $10 million per year ($30 million for the entire 3-year contract), yet ironically after the one-week strike in June, Allina claims to have already spent $20 million for replacement workers alone, and are projected to spend millions more on this current strike.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math on that one.

Allina continued to say the primary issue in this contract negotiation was that the MNA health plans were too expensive. Then to no surprise, when the union finally offered to give them up Allina did not accept that either.

This is not about money… this is about control.

Allina wants nothing more than to break the nurses’ union and gain complete control over everything the MNA has fought for.

Healthcare is just a start.

Allina sees the union as a nuisance, but in reality, the union helps to protect the patient by fighting for adequate staffing levels and many more factors that keep each patient safe while in the hospital. It is not a coincidence that Minnesota not only has some of the best medical care nationwide but also has the strongest nurses’ union representation.

Allina’s charade could only go for so long without a slip-up.

Just today, Allina spokesperson David Kalihan said, and I quote, “The union wants control of their plans, and that puts us right back to the problem of where we were.” But wait… I thought the problem was COST and not control.

The worst part in this whole ordeal is our loss of pride for Allina.

My wife has worked at Abbott for 5 years—her whole nursing career upon graduating college. She loves her colleagues and until this recent contract dispute, always felt valued and respected by Allina.

Allina prides themselves on their values of integrity, respect, trust, compassion, and stewardship. It is safe to say that every single one of these values has been broken during this process. It has been broken not only to their nurses, but all their employees and to the public as well.

During this strike, they claim to be thinking of patient care first and running business as usual. In reality, they hired 1,500 nurses, having them work back to back 12 hour shifts for 2 weeks straight.

This is a proven recipe for disaster, and significantly increases the likeliness of errors, which directly decreases the quality and safety of patient care.

Why would such a high level organization do this?  Would they really do this solely over a $30 million dollar dispute? I think not.

Why should this matter to me?

Here is why you should care…

General Public: You deserve to receive quality and safe care from a facility that values you as a patient. Nurses are at the forefront of your care. How an organization treats their nurses says a lot about who they are and what they stand for.

Union Nurses outside of Allina: This is not just a fight today for Allina nurses. If we fail and Allina wins at breaking our nurses’ union, then you had better believe your facility will be next. The other hospitals are watching very intently as to what will happen. When it is your turn in 3 years, who do you think will be walking along side you?

Non-Union Nurses: Healthcare facilities without a union need to stay competitive to attract nursing talent. Without union healthcare facilities to set the bar, non-union facilities have free reign to do as they choose. Union facilities actually help make non-union facilities safer.

Allina employees: The Allina Corporate health plans were established to be competitive with the union health plans. Without the union health plans, or without the MNA having input into the details of these health plans, Allina will have free reign to significantly reduce this benefit over time as they no longer will have anything internally to compare to.

How can I help?

Share this non-Allina version of what is going on with your families and friends. People deserve to hear the truth.

Donate to the strike fund: There are many single income nurses who do not have a spouse’s income to live on during this time. The strike fund is used solely to assist those nurses in need. Donate Now!

Come picket with us at any of the 5 locations.

Show your support on Facebook!

Keep the nurses and their families in your thoughts and prayers. We are giving up a lot to be out there on the picket line fighting for what we believe in!

In closing, please remember…

When you need quality care, these same nurses will be by your bedside (whether working for Allina or at another hospital), wiping your butt and keeping you alive, regardless of your race, religion, beliefs, opinions, mental state, intelligence, or age.


Some components from this article were adapted from a Facebook post by Emunah Rankin, child and adolescent psychiatric nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.