Early on Monday morning, nearly 7,000 nurses at 2 hospitals in New York went on strike after contract talks broke down due to the hospitals’ reluctance to satisfy the nurses’ staffing needs. The breakdown in discussions occurred when the hospitals refused to accept the nurses’ demands.
Nurses from Montefiore Medical Clinic in the Bronx & Mount Sinai in Manhattan walked out at 6 in the morning, claiming that they are forced to work long hours with enormous workloads that leave them burned out, which may possibly put patients at risk. The nurses walked out at the same time.
Mario Cilento, president of the New York AFL-CIO, an organization that the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) is an affiliate of, said that the employees “have been placed in the regrettable situation of having no other alternative but to strike.” The workers are now on strike.
Now, according to Cilento, nurses are dealing with “short staffing that has reached critical levels and might undermine their capacity to offer the highest quality care to their patients because of the strain it places on their resources.” “[The hospitals’] treatment of these nurses is evidence that all of their words of praise for their healthcare heroes during the epidemic were empty,” the author writes. “[T]hese nurses were the ones who saved lives throughout the pandemic.”
Workers have been lobbying for increases to keep up with rising rates of inflation, and management has responded by offering raises of 19 percent spread out over the next three years.
However, according to both the employees and the union, the most important issue is staffing. According to workers, they are frequently required to work through breaks and don’t have time for meals, while according to NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, there are times when one caregiver in the emergency department could be accountable for up to 20 patients. This ratio is significantly higher than the generally accepted ratio of one nurse to 3 patients. According to Hagans, there are 760 open positions at Montefiore.
CNN quoted Judy Gonzalez, a nurse working in the emergency department at Montefiore Hospital, as saying, “I don’t feel like I’m performing a service to my patients.” “I have patients who are trying to grasp my shirt, but I am unable to assist them at this time since I have other things to accomplish.”
According to a statement released by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), “Gov. Hochul should listen to frontline COVID nursing heroes and support our federally-protected labor & collective bargaining rights.” “Nurses don’t want to strike. The refusal of our superiors to give serious consideration to the solutions we have made to solve the urgent problem of hazardous staffing that is causing damage to our patients has forced us to go on strike.
The strike by nurses marks the beginning of what is expected to be a busy year in the labor movement. This comes after the year 2022 had an increase in the amount of unionization and striking action, including a number of strikes by nurses.
One of the greatest strikes of the previous year was staged by nurses in the state of Minnesota in September. 15,000 nurses staged a walkout to protest safety, pay, and staffing shortages in the state’s hospitals. Three months later, the nurses voted once again to authorize a strike over the same reasons; however, that strike was avoided when the nurses voted to approve a new contract that the union believed would prevent decreases in staffing.
As a result of the epidemic, healthcare staff is reporting higher levels of stress, which has led to a record number of them quitting their employment. This has led to an increase in labor action, and four of the twenty strikes that were reported by the Department of Labor last year were ones that included nurses. The Department of Labor only registers strikes that involve more than one thousand employees. While this was going on, researchers from Cornell University discovered that employees in the health care & social support industries made up more than half of all workers who participated in work stoppages in the year 2021.