Nurse power pays off in Deer River

24 Feb

By Sherri Lidholm, Jodi Isaacs, Shannon Wilberg, Ellyn Peterson: Deer River Health Care Center negotiating team

Negotiations with Essentia Health in Deer River started with a “contraband” cake and ended with our members ratifying a contract that improves compensation, stems the tide of RNs leaving for better-paying jobs in nearby hospitals, and strengthens our union solidarity.

Bargaining got off to a bumpy start last September when we served a cake decorated with the MNA logo to passers-by in an area near the hospital lobby to kick off negotiations. Administration asked us to leave and canceled the next day’s negotiating session.

The “contraband cake incident” helped unite members. We all saw that a good contract was achievable only if we stood together.

Here’s our recipe for reaching the contract we ratified in January:

  •  Communication. We kept everyone updated by phone, text, in person, and on MNA’s website. Members knew they had the latest information at all times.
  • Teamwork. Members realized we needed to fight for what we should rightly have, and worked together to win a good contract. We wore buttons and stickers to show we supported each other.
  • Many members became union stewards to show our solidarity. That gave management a scare!
  • We all became familiar with the existing contract, so we knew what to change to make our hospital a better place to work.
  • MNA support. Nurses in Duluth and Virginia stood and showed their support for us. Our labor representative, Adam Kamp, guided us and made sure we negotiated the important issues.

Beside having a good contract, we now have a better working relationship with Essentia. The hospital saw that it needed to invest in nurses in order to keep the hospital healthy and agreed to the contract.

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