NURSES STRIKE: Frontline workers walk out of two hospitals Monday morning after contract negotiations falter

Nurses strike begins in Manhattan
A striking nurse outside Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan on Jan. 9, 2023.
Photo by Dean Moses

Thousands of nurses officially walked off the job at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and Montefiore Bronx Monday after negotiations fell apart during the early hours of the morning.

Nurses chanted and marched outside of Mount Sinai Hospital located at 99th Street and Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side from a picket line on Jan. 9 after the New York Nurses Association (NYSNA) and the medical center failed to shake hands on a new contract in which staffing shortages are named the primary concern. This came mere hours following a statement from Governor Kathy Hochul called for binding arbitration if a mutual agreement couldn’t be made.

While the governor’s road to arbitration wasn’t exactly clear, a representative from her office told amNewYork Metro that hospitals could be bolstered by outside staffing during the strike.

“Striking nurses cannot legally be forced to work. Staffing level requirements at hospitals subject to strikes may be achieved through additional staff or service reductions, including reducing elective procedures. Neighboring hospitals are preparing to absorb patients as there is currently sufficient capacity within the hospital system to support New York City residents and ensure access to essential medical services and protect patient safety,” the Governor’s office said.

Nurses strike in Manhattan
Nurses chant outside Mount Sinai Hospital during the first day of the NYSNA strike on Jan. 9, 2023.Photo by Dean Moses
An overhead photo of hundreds of nurses picketing outside Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan during the first day of the NYSNA nurses’ strike, Jan. 9, 2023.Photo by Dean Moses

Mount Sinai slammed the union for invoking the strike, calling the organization “reckless” and citing the governor’s plea for a resolution. The hospital claimed that NYSNA walked out of negations around 1 a.m.

“NYSNA continues its reckless behavior, rejecting Governor Hochul’s proposal for binding arbitration. The Governor’s proposal would have provided a path to avoid this strike, which sadly is forcing nurses at The Mount Sinai Hospital to leave their patients’ bedsides. NYSNA leadership walked out of negotiations shortly after 1 a.m. ET Monday morning. They refused to accept the exact same 19.1 percent increased wage offer agreed to by eight other hospitals, including two other Mount Sinai Health System campuses Our first priority is the safety of our patients. We’re prepared to minimize disruption, and we encourage Mount Sinai nurses to continue providing the world-class care they’re known for, in spite of NYSNA’s strike,” the statement read.

NYSNA responded to the governor by urging her to join their cause.

“We welcome the Governor’s support in fighting for fair contracts that protect our patients, and we will not give up on our fight to ensure that our patients have enough nurses at the bedside. We call on Gov. Hochul to join us in putting patients over profits and to enforce existing nurse staffing laws. Governor Hochul should listen to frontline COVID nurse heroes and respect our federally-protected labor and collective bargaining rights. Nurses don’t want to strike. Bosses have pushed us to strike by refusing to seriously consider our proposals to address the desperate crisis of unsafe staffing that harms our patients,” NYSNA said.

The nurses strike at Mount Sinai HospitalPhoto by Dean Moses
Nurses strike
An overhead photo of hundreds of nurses picketing outside Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan during the first day of the NYSNA nurses’ strike, Jan. 9, 2023.Photo by Dean Moses

A speak out is scheduled to take place outside of Mount Sinai Hospital at noon. Four strikes are taking place on Jan. 9 at Montefiore Moses, Montefiore Weiler, Montefiore Hutch, and Mount Sinai Hospital.

As for staffing at the two impacted hospitals, Mayor Eric Adams indicated in a Sunday evening statement that the city would be working with its partners “to ensure New Yorkers continue to receive care.”

“New York City Emergency Management is preparing to activate our situation room to monitor hospital operations citywide if a strike occurs and will be joined by representatives from the New York City Department of Health, NYC Health + Hospitals, the Greater New York Hospital Association, and additional public and private agencies,” Adams said Sunday night, ahead of the strike. “The Fire Department of New York City has contingency plans in place to reroute ambulances and NYC Health + Hospitals has emergency strategies to handle a surge in patients.”

The mayor cautioned New Yorkers that local hospitals “may experience impacts to operations, including possible delayed or limited service.” New Yorkers should seek an alternate facility if their hospital is impacted by the strike, and to only call 911 in emergency cases.

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