Minnesota Iron Range nurses join USW after year-long negotiations​

After voting to join the United Steelworkers (USW) in January 2019, 19 registered nurses at Essentia Health Northern Pines Hospital in Aurora, Minn., are now members of Local 9439 upon ratifying their first contract agreement on March 16.

The workers were able to maintain their current benefits with improvements in holiday pay for part-time nurses, increased continuing education funding, an increase in pay for surgery team leads, and more. They will also have multiple wage increases, including annual raises.

Along with these improvements, Kathy Johnson, a nurse who has worked at Essentia for 11 years, said one of the biggest outcomes is the voice she and her co-workers have now gained.

“We learned that you actually can speak up if something isn’t right or fair,” said Johnson, who joined two other nurses on the unit’s negotiating committee. “With a union, you’re more easily heard by management.”

Johnson believes one of the primary reasons they were able to navigate the 22 negotiating sessions over 13 months was because of their solidarity.

“The three of us on the committee worked well together and shared a lot of the same ideas,” she said. “We also had a lot of support.”

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