MINNEAPOLIS — Union nurses on strike in the Minneapolis area have found some unexpected ways to pay their bills.

The Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/2dzhnqQ ) reported that as the strike enters its fourth week, some of the participants have found fill-in work as food testers, hospitality roles at the Ryder Cup golf tournament and stagehand work at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The nurses walked off Sept. 5 after a 22-hour bargaining session ended with no agreement on a new contract. Health insurance is a key issue.

The possibility of losing their health insurance on Oct. 1 pushed some striking nurses to temp jobs, while others turned to the union for support. After reviewing 200 hardship requests last week, a union committee issued $130,000 in checks. According to Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner, applicants who asked for assistance included young nurses with student loans, and a nurse who had a spouse in cancer treatment.

“It was hard,” said nurse Kim Mattson, who left the operating room at Unity Hospital in Fridley for a comparable position at Maple Grove Hospital. “I consider all the people I work with (at Unity) to be family. We were a tight-knit unit in that operating room.”

Negotiations with Allina Health are expected to resume Tuesday after a federal mediator on Friday ordered both sides back to bargain for the first time since the strike began on Labor Day.

Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com