Nurses in Duluth authorize a strike at St. Luke's Hospital

Marchers walk along a picket line
Nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association march during informational pickets at St. Luke's hospital in Duluth in August.
Clint Austin | Duluth News Tribune

Updated: 3:33 p.m.

Nurses in Duluth voted Thursday to authorize a strike at St. Luke's Hospital.

The Minnesota Nurses Association said its membership voted overwhelmingly to reject St. Luke's latest contract offer and authorize a walkout.

The union issued a statement saying the vote followed a 17-hour negotiating session Wednesday that failed to produce a tentative agreement.

The vote authorizing a strike doesn't mean one is certain.

St. Luke’s president and CEO Kevin Nokels said that the decision was disappointing “as St. Luke’s has made an abundantly fair offer.”

He said that the hospital offered increases that match the recent Essentia contact and metro-area contract wage increases, in addition to increases in extra shift bonuses, student loan reimbursement and a retention payment for registered nurses with more than 20-years experience.

“Despite yesterday’s vote, St. Luke’s remains committed to constructive talks, solution-seeking and transparency,” Nokels said in a statement following the vote result. “We are hopeful that MNA will return to the negotiations table and that we will be able to come to a fair agreement and avoid a strike.

The nurses' negotiating committee would make the final decision to begin a strike, the union said, and a strike would involve about 650 nurses. The union says nurses have been working without a contract since July 1 and the union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with federal labor officials.

Nurses at Essentia Health in Duluth ratified a new three-year contract earlier this week, following months of negotiations.