More than 7,000 nurses walked off the job Monday morning after contract negotiations with two of New York City's biggest hospitals failed over the weekend.
Negotiations at Mount Sinai hospital on the Upper East Side in Manhattan and the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx broke down late in the evening. Nurses at those facilities are demanding more hiring to alleviate chronic staffing shortages at city hospitals that have persisted since the early days of the pandemic.
“Since NYSNA NYC nurses started negotiating our contracts four months ago, we have said our number one issue is the crisis of chronic understaffing that harms patient care," Nancy Hagans, president of the New York City Nurses Association, said in a press briefing on Sunday. "Safe staffing is about having enough nurses to deliver safe, quality care to every patient. It is the issue that our employers have ignored, made excuses about, and fought against us on.”
Thousands more nurses almost joined the strikers, but two hospitals on Sunday night were able to reach tentative agreements. One deal at another Mount Sinai location increased staffing levels, raised salaries between 5 and 7% over the next three years, and upheld health care benefits.
Other unions in the city have expressed solidarity with the nurses.
"These nurses are dedicated professionals who provide quality patient care under unimaginable conditions including short staffing, which were only exacerbated by the pandemic," said Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, in a statement. "The hospitals' treatment of these nurses is proof that all their words of adulation for their health care heroes during the pandemic were hollow."
Montefiore said the nurse's union rejected a contract that would have raised wages and added 170 new positions.
The New York State Nurses Association issued a statement urging New Yorkers to "seek hospital care immediately if they need it. We would rather be the ones providing that care, but our bosses have pushed us to be out here instead. We appreciate solidarity from our patients — but going into the hospital to get the care you need is NOT crossing our strike line. In fact, we invite you to come join us on the strike line after you've gotten the care you need. We are out here so we can provide better patient care to you!"