Allina, nurses resume talks as strike threat raises stakes

Striking in the heat.
Amanda Malm of Minneapolis carries her dog Sophie, tired from an hour of walking the picket line in the heat with her owner during the strike earlier this summer.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

With the threat of an open-ended strike looming, Allina Health and its union nurses plan to hold contract talks Tuesday.

Nearly 5,000 nurses walked off their jobs earlier this summer, and the nurses have authorized another strike, which this time would be open-ended. They must give Allina 10 days' notice of a strike.

Allina and the Minnesota Nurses Association have been engaged in a months-long battle, primarily over generous nurses-only health plans. The company has wants the nurses to move to its corporate plans which have higher out-of-pocket maximum costs.

Allina spokesman David Kanihan says the company has a solid compromise offer on the table.

"The union put that offer up to a vote and it was voted down by the membership last week," he said. "However, the union negotiators have never really discussed the compromise offer with us at the bargaining table."

The Minnesota Nurses Association says the membership rejected Allina's offer because it would force nurses to bear the brunt of premium increases on their union-only health insurance plans.

After voting the contract down, nurses told Allina they were still interested in talking, said union spokesman Rick Fuentes.

"There's only one meeting scheduled for right now," he said. "There could be more. We could settle this. Who knows?"