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Minnesota Nurses Strike

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This is a big deal:

About 15,000 nurses in Minnesota walked off the job Monday to protest understaffing and overwork — marking the largest strike of private-sector nurses in U.S. history.

Slated to last three days, the strike spotlights nationwide nursing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that often result in patients not receiving adequate care. While tensions remain high between nurses and health-care administrators across the country, there is no indication that the work stoppages will spread to other states.

Minnesota nurses charge that some units go without a lead nurse on duty and that nurses fresh out of school are delegated assignments typically held by more experienced nurses, across some 16 hospitals where strikes are expected.

The nurses are demanding a role in staffing plans, changes to shift scheduling practices and higher wages.

“I can’t give my patients the care they deserve,” said Chris Rubesch, the vice president of the Minnesota Nurses Association and a nurse at Essentia Health in Duluth. “Call lights go unanswered. Patients should only be waiting for a few seconds or minutes if they’ve soiled themselves or their oxygen came unplugged or they need to go to the bathroom, but that can take 10 minutes or more. Those are things that can’t wait.”

A few things here.

First, 15,000 workers is a lot. That’s a big strike by modern standards.

Second, we often talk about how bad care work is, how poorly the workers are treated, and how our most vulnerable family members are subjected to this terrible system. But what is amazing is that this extends well up the line. Nurses are highly educated workers. These are professionals. And yet it doesn’t matter. They are still treated like garbage and they can’t take care of their patients properly. This is because of the idea of profit in medical care, which of course extends to technical “non-profits.” The people who run our hospitals are happy to have more deaths if it means more money.

Third, like the teachers strikes of the last several years, the nurses aren’t just striking for higher ways. This is community unionism. They are striking so they can actually take care of us and our family members. This is a big reason why these strikes have largely been successful, despite inconveniencing people.

Fourth, nurses don’t take strikes lightly. They want to keep us alive and healthy. This shows how desperate they really are. It is also why it is a short strike with a definitive end. They don’t want you to die or not get your surgery. But they also want you to have care.

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