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Nurses authorize strike at Twin Cities Children's hospitals

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United Hospital nurse Mary Cook
United Hospital nurse Mary Cook and other members of the Minnesota Nurses Association walk an information picket line outside Children's Minnesota in St. Paul May 23, 2019.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News file

Nurses at Children's Minnesota in St. Paul and Minneapolis have rejected a contract offer from the health system and authorized their union leaders to call a strike.    

The vote doesn't mean a strike in imminent, but the strike authorization means union leaders could call a strike any time without going back to the rank-and-file.  

However, before walking out the nurses would have to wait out a 10-day notice period.  

The 1,500 nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association say Children's is shifting too much of the cost of health insurance to them. Management says there are health plan options that have lower premiums than the most expensive and generous plan. 

"Nurses feel devalued and disrespected," said Elaina Hane, a pediatric intensive care unit nurse at Children's St. Paul campus. "Nurses are prepared to do what it takes to get a fair contract."

Despite the strike authorization vote, talks are scheduled to continue Friday. About 13,000 nurses are currently in contract negotiations with six metro-area hospitals. 

Hospital leaders expressed disappointment over the vote. 

"When you consider the progress we've made over several bargaining sessions, and the fact that the union has declined our requests to use a mediator, it doesn't make sense and it's unnecessary," said Katie Penson, Children's senior director of clinical services, critical care.