Why are Allina nurses striking for 7 days?

Nurses strike outside of United Hospital.
Nurses on strike march outside of United Hospital on Monday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The weeklong nurses strike at Allina Health facilities in the Twin Cities may represent a new phase of experimentation in the labor movement.

The limited strike is a strategy by the Minnesota Nurses Association to put pressure on the company without exposing workers to income loss and uncertainty of a traditional strike, said professor John Budd, who teaches industrial relations at the University of Minnesota.

"If we go back a few decades, we would only see, for the most part, indefinite strikes," Budd said. "Labor has tried to rethink its strategy and identify other ways of putting pressure on companies without losing so much income and the risk of replacement."

Other unions in the area, including those representing janitors and fast food workers, have called daylong strikes. The drawback of the limited strike, Budd said, is that it's hard to pull off multiple times.

"If it's effective the first time, then it might be ideal, because workers are only out for a day," Budd said. "But if it doesn't put enough pressure on the employer, it's hard to keep up the messaging, it's hard to build up the enthusiasm to get workers to walk off the job second time, third time, fourth time."

Allina officials want to move nurses from the union health care plan to that used by other Allina employees. Nurses say it would increase their out-of-pocket expenses and provide less comprehensive care.

Budd said what happens at Allina may have implications for other health care workers in the region.

"It will be interesting to see whether Allina is able to hold its position in the face of the rest of the hospitals that the union has already settled with agreeing to the longstanding union plan," Budd said. "If MNA makes concessions to Allina, what's that going to do for future negotiations with those other hospitals, who in subsequent negotiations will be probably looking for similar changes."

Nurses are planning to picket throughout the week at the five facilities affected by the strike. The nurses strike is set to end on Sunday at 7 a.m.

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