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12,000 Twin Cities nurses ready to strike

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by Jeff Horwich

The Twin Cities nurses are striking over an idea imported from California: They want strict nurse-to-patient ratios. Minnesota already has some of the lowest ratios and best health outcomes in the country. But John Nemo of the Minnesota Nurses Association says nurses are overworked and distracted. “Our nurses want more ability and more power to decide how to staff the floors and how to care for the patients,” he says.

Their employers, the hospitals, say the arguments over patient safety are window dressing for more mundane contract battles. And hospital spokeswoman Maureen Shriner says strict staffing ratios will do more harm than good. “Hospitals need to be able to be nimble and flexible,” she says, “and everything the union is proposing is from a bygone era.”

Schriner says relations with nurses have deteriorated since Minnesota, California and Massachussetts nurses unions merged to form a so-called “super-union” in December. The union now covers 20 states, and has made overworked nurses its signature issue.

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