Bemidji nurses will take strike vote on Thursday

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More than 230 nurses at Sanford Bemidji Hospital will vote Thursday to accept or reject a contract offer from the hospital. A “no” vote would authorize a strike in Bemidji.

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association bargaining team are unanimously recommending that nurses reject what they call a “concession-laden” offer.

“Despite our best efforts over the past several months, hospital management continues to put its desire for corporate profits ahead of the safety of our patients and the integrity of our profession,” said Peter Danielson, RN, a member of the bargaining team.

Hospital officials say their contract offer is fair, based on current economic realities.

“We have negotiated in good faith, openly and honestly,” said Joy Johnson, chief operations officer at Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota. “Through mutual compromise we have already reached an agreement with our hospital nurses on staffing and scheduling to ensure ongoing patient safety.”

MNA officials say the major sticking points include staffing levels and the ability for nurses to have what they feel are adequate resources available for patient care at the bedside. Union leaders contend that management also wants nurses to make major concessions regarding their health care and pension plans.

Based in Sioux Falls, S.D., the Sanford organization has expanded its footprint in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest. Sanford acquired the Bemidji hospital — formerly known as North Country Regional Hospital — last year.

The two sides have been without a contract since February.

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