Ilhan Omar Leads Giant Nurses Strike, Crippling Hospitals

Last week, thousands of Minnesota nurses launched a 3-day strike to demand salary increases they claim will improve patient care.

About 15,000 nurses from seven healthcare systems in the Minneapolis and Duluth areas walked out on Monday in what the union claims is the largest strike ever by private-sector nurses.

The strike was supported by Minneapolis Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who appeared for a photo-op with the striking nurses on Monday, as well as Minnesota’s Democrat Governor Tim Walz.

By Wednesday night, some nurses had returned to work while others returned on Thursday morning despite the nurses’ union and hospital management not agreeing on pay raises or staffing. Both sides will need to return to the bargaining table.

Union leaders said they were hopeful negotiations would resume once the nurses returned on Thursday but it is not certain what will happen if their demands are not met.

The Minnesota Nurses Association said the primary concerns remain staffing, safety, and pay.

The nurses are requesting a 30 percent wage increase over three years while the hospitals are only willing to offer just less than half of that.

And despite agreeing to return to work last Thursday, Minnesota Nurses Association president Mary Turner told the striking nurses that if their demands aren’t met, the union will have no alternative “but to go into round two of this war.”

Jean Ross, the co-president of National Nurses United said the COVID pandemic exposed what nurses are up against, which is doing “a lot with very little.”

The Minneapolis-area hospitals impacted by last week’s 3-day strike are operated by Allina Health, M Health Fairview, Children’s Hospital, HealthPartners, and North Memorial. In Duluth, Essentia and St Luke’s were affected.

A similar 3-day strike by nurses in Wisconsin’s UW Health was averted last week when the nurses and the UW Hospital board reached an agreement.