Nurses march for six hours in Bismarck, demanding better working conditions

Local News

Nurses took a stand Thursday in downtown Bismarck.

About 50 nurses, some children and pets walked up and down 9th St. outside of CHI St. Alexius Medical Center for six hours.

After nurses here won their union election in 2019, a few of them have been negotiating demands with the hospital since August of last year. By now, they’ve had 20 bargaining sessions with CHI leadership.

As passersby honked, nurses from CHI St. Alexius Health picketed in a loop, up and down the sidewalk, informing the capital city that they want pay and benefits that match other hospitals.

 Live at the picket demonstration in downtown Bismarck

“The nurses deserve a fair and safe contract, and that’s why we’re out here is to have our voices heard. We’ve been begging and pleading for a long time to have our voices heard. So, this is us,” explained Rachel Heintz an Emergency RN at CHI in Bismarck.

One of the negotiators told KX News the hospital isn’t able to retain nurses.

According to the Minnesota Nurses Association, the union that put on this demonstration, 50 percent of nurses at St. Alexius in Bismarck have five years of experience or less.

“They fill in temporary positions with temporary nurses to fill the gap, but it’s not a solution that we came up with, that we proposed to them. It’s very frustrating and stressful for nurses when we proposed a staffing proposal to them and were asked to withdraw it. It felt like they don’t take us seriously,” shared Margo Maxon, and RN and negotiating member of MNA.

We asked Heintz how long short-staffing has been an issue for CHI.

She responded, “Oh, that I’m not so sure. You’d have to ask them, but I know that’s one of the rallying cries and one of the major reasons we voted to unionize back in 2019.”

MNA insists that the picket didn’t interfere with anyone’s work schedule, and St. Alexius operated as usual.

The hospital declined to go on camera, but sent us the statement below:

Full statement from CHI St. Alexius Health

We asked Heintz, what’s next? Is there another bargaining session coming up?

She shared, “In July we have several bargaining sessions set up, yeah.”

We also asked if they would be considering further action, like a strike, if the picket doesn’t have the effect they hope for. They tell us, that’s all up in the air right now.

We spoke with the president of MNA, which has 22,000 members.

Here’s an interesting fact: She tells us CHI St. Alexius in Bismarck is the only unionized hospital in the state. In Minnesota, however, she says in 85 percent of hospitals, nurses belong to a union.

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