Nurses at eight private hospitals represented by the New York State Nurses Association initiated a strike on Friday that would begin on Jan. 9.
The news emerged as union members delivered 10-day strike notices to the eight hospitals — a letter stating the intent to go on strike if the union representatives cannot reach a contract agreement with management at each hospital within that time frame.
The move means that between the eight hospitals approximately 16,000 nurses could go on strike beginning Jan. 9 if the union and administrators cannot reach consensus. The 10-day notices give hospitals time to plan care for patients while nurses are on strike.
The hospitals include NewYork-Presbyterian, Montefiore, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, Maimonides, BronxCare, Richmond University Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center.
In a statement, the union said that it will continue to “bargain non-stop” between now and the deadline in the hopes of reaching agreements.
“The best way for management to protect patients is to listen to nurses and settle fair contracts that protect patient care in the next 10 days,” NYSNA wrote in a press release.
The strike notices went out after rank and file nurses among the 12 private hospitals that the union represents in New York City overwhelmingly voted in favor authorizing a strike. The week before Christmas about 14,000 out of 17,000 nurses in the private sector hospitals completed their strike authorization votes, with about 99 percent voting in support. Since then two thousand more members have voted in favor of strike authorization.
The union has been in contract negotiations for several months, which have reportedly hit snags over demands for increased staffing levels, wages and health benefits.
Though New York’s nursing unions have called for increased staffing for decades, nursing shortages have become a more widespread problem in the COVID era as hospitals have struggled to recruit and retain a nursing workforce. Unions say that higher nurse-per-patient ratios are a key factor to improving working conditions in hospitals and retaining nursing jobs.
“We are fighting to improve patient care and we will do whatever it takes to win good contracts that would help us hire and retain enough nurses,” said NYSNA President Nancy Hagans last week when the union announced the results of its strike authorization vote.
There are signs that the nursing shortage in the state, however, is severe. A recent report by the Healthcare Association of New York State and the Greater New York Hospital Association, found that 100% of the state’s hospitals reported nursing shortages they cannot fill.
At NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center, nurses went live on Instagram as they handed management their strike notice. Dozens of nurses gathered in the hospital’s lobby cheering and chanting, “What do we want? A contract. When do we want it? Now.” Several nurses unveiled a banner hanging from the second floor announcing the strike would begin in 10 days.
New York-Presbyterian as well as several other hospitals that amNY reached out to said that they will continue to bargain in good faith and hoped to reach a mutually agreeable contract.
“We have proposed unprecedented wage increases and fully maintained our nurses’ benefits,” said a spokesperson for NewYork-Presbyterian.
Mount Sinai spokesperson, Lucia L. Lee said the hospital is pususuing a contract that is “fair to our community and responsible with respect to the long-term financial health of our organization,” but is preparing for staffing changes.
“We will do our best to ensure our patients’ care is not disrupted and will do everything possible to minimize inconvenience to patients,” she said.