The contract negotiations we really need to watch

Waiting for Joe Mauer’s new Twins deal turned into a mini-drama the past few weeks. But there’s another contract deadline looming that will really hit the Twin Cities hard if a deal doesn’t get done.

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Formal negotiations began last week between 12,000 area nurses and six hospital systems.

The current contract is set to expire at the end of May for nurses working at North Memorial, HealthEast, Allina, Methodist, Children’s and Fairview. The union says it will vote May 19 to either ratify the new contract or authorize a strike.

Given the recession, the hobbled economy and the problems in health care funding generally, it’s hard to imagine the nurses and hospitals not finding common ground.

We followed talks between Honeywell workers in the Twin Cities a few months ago where there was concern about a strike but workers ended up voting more than two to one for a new contract.

A nurses strike would be an earthquake in the Twin Cities. Staffing levels and pension fund contributions are likely to be the biggest issues, according to the nurses association.

So we’re going to be following this issue pretty closely.

We got a heads-up on it from a nurse in MPR’s Public Insight Network recently when we asked about her economic forecast for spring and she told us, “I am concerned I may have to go on strike in June.”

If you’re connected to nursing or hospitals — nurse, doctor, administrator, patient — tell us how you view the nursing contract talks and how a strike would affect you and the region. Post below or contact me directly.

This is the contract we all need to watch.