Allina says more nurses crossing picket line

Minnesota Nurses
Allina Health nurses protest outside Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis on Monday as they began an open-ended strike after a failure to reach a settlement with Allina Health.
Jim Mone | AP

Allina Health says the number of nurses crossing the picket line "continues to climb by the hour," with more than 413 now signed up to work just four days into an open-ended strike.

The company said Thursday that 20 percent of its union nurses at Unity Hospital in Fridley have agreed to work. At Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids 13 percent of nurses have signed up for shifts, according to a company spokesman.

Allina said the number of nurses willing to cross the picket line now is notably higher than the 120 who worked during a week-long strike in June.

The Minnesota Nurses Association said it hasn't been able to verify Allina's figures.

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Crystal Rehbein, a nurse in the adult psychiatric unit at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, is among those crossing the picket line.

"I am the only worker in my family with my husband and two children," said Rehbein, "and I honestly can't afford to go without work, especially with an open-ended strike."

Rehbein recently dropped her union membership, however she still pays the organization a fee called "fair share" dues. Her decision means she can't vote in contract negotiations, but she can work during the strike without being fined by the union.

"I never felt that the contract issues were bad," said Rehbein, "and I never felt that they were bad enough to strike over."

Health insurance is the only remaining sticking point in contract talks that have lasted seven months. Allina wants to transition nurses from their generous union-only health plans to less expensive corporate insurance.

Last weekend union negotiators agreed to phase out the nurse health plans. But the union wanted a say over any future changes to Allina's corporate health insurance and negotiators asked that nurses be compensated for the change.

Allina rejected the counter offer, saying nurses were asking for too much. That set in motion the strike, which began at 7 a.m. Monday. No new talks are scheduled.

Correction (Sept. 9, 2016): Crystal Rehbein's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.