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Published August 26, 2011, 08:45 PM

Bemidji Nurses Hope Picket Pressures Management in Contract Negotiation

BEMIDJI, MN (WDAZ-TV) - The chair of the Minnesota Nurses Association says pressure from an informational picket might help nurses in Bemidji and Sanford hospital management come to a contract agreement.

BEMIDJI, MN (WDAZ-TV) - The chair of the Minnesota Nurses Association says pressure from an informational picket might help nurses in Bemidji and Sanford hospital management come to a contract agreement.

But Sanford Bemidji's COO says that was always the priority.

"It was a very well-organized, structured, professional approach by MNA. They were courteous and I think it is just part of their process," COO Joy Johnson said.

The nurses weren't on strike, and never quit working. Still, they had something to say.

"We aren't looking to tarnish Sanford's name. We wanted to get the message out that nurses were concerned about patient safety. That is our number one concern and that is what we want in our contract," MNA chair Peter Danielson said.

What they want in their contract is safe staffing language and no cuts in benefits. Danielson says the previous offer didn't have that.

With 200 people and two hours of picketing, the next round of contract negotiations on September 7 might be the last round.

"We feel we showed management what they could see if they wanted a real strike. That is the only reason they are making changes," Danielson said.

"I think it's a national strategy on their part. We've seen it rolling out all over the country. It's part of what the nurses union is trying to accomplish right now," Johnson said.

Johnson says she can't speak for negotiators, but says the hospital is ready to make a contract deal.

No replacement workers have been used and everything has been civil and professional between both sides.

"We didn't see any real effect on our business, and I don't think that was their objective. Their objective was to let the community know what their concerns are," Johnson said.

"We aren't trying to fight with anybody, we are just trying to improve the quality of care here," Danielson said.

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