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Bemidji nurses approve contract offer from Sanford Bemidji Hospital

Bemidji nurses on Tuesday formally approved a contract offer from Sanford Bemidji Hospital, ending nearly six months of contract negotiations that included informational picketing and a strike vote.

"We are glad to have reached a settlement," said Peter Danielson, RN, chair of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) bargaining team. "It was a long, tough road, but we have an agreement in place that our nurses can feel good about. While to us this isn't a perfect resolution, it is a compromise that helps put our patients first."

The current contract between the hospital and 230 nurses represented by MNA expired on Feb. 28 and negotiations have been ongoing since early April. Nurses voted overwhelmingly on July 28 to reject Sanford's final contract offer, instead authorizing bargaining team leaders to call for a strike. Tuesday's ratification vote means a strike will be averted, Danielson said.

"The best part is that we found a resolution that's most important, that we reached an agreement, and did it through mutual compromise," said Joy Johnson, Sanford Bemidji chief operations officer. "I think that's very important. I think when we walked away everybody felt like they had given a little."

Sanford merged with North Country Regional Hospital in February. The acquisition, along with Sanford Bemidji Clinic (the former MeritCare Bemidji Clinic) formed Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota.

Founded in 1905, the Minnesota Nurses Association has represented Bemidji nurses for more than 30 years and represents more than 20,000 nurses in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. MNA is also an affiliate of National Nurses United, which represents more than 170,000 RNs across the United States.