Allina nurses vote this week could trigger indefinite strike

Striking nurses outside Abbott Northwestern.
Thousands of nurses for Allina Health went on strike in June, and it could happen again.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

Union nurses at five Twin Cities hospitals will vote Thursday on whether to authorize another strike at five Allina hospitals.

Negotiators for the Minnesota Nurses Association are urging their members to authorize an open-ended walkout.

They hope the prospect of an indefinite strike will put more pressure on the health system to settle a contract.

In June, 4,800 nurses struck Allina for one week in a dispute that still centers on health benefits.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

The two sides remain at odds over Allina's proposal to shift nurses from their union-only health plans to less expensive corporate insurance.

The company says the move would reduce its health costs $10 million a year by encouraging more frugal use of health care.

Nurses object to the higher out-of-pocket maximums and say they need more robust first-dollar coverage because their jobs expose them to more illness and injuries.

But the tone of the strike vote is different this time. Nurses union leaders are contemplating how to respond if the vote — or low turnout — indicate ambivalence about an open-ended walk-out.

For example, it's possible that nurses at some facilities may approve Allina's latest offer, while nurses at other hospitals could opt to strike instead. That's because members of four separate bargaining groups are voting.

If the union gets a mixed response from its rank and file members, union leaders don't have to call a strike. But if they do, they have to give Allina 10 days notice.

No new talks are expected this week.