More than 7,000 nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center returned to strike queues Tuesday as New York City’s largest nurses’ strike in decades continues for its second day.
In Montefiore in the Bronx, nurses and management were scheduled to return to the bargaining table for continued talks Tuesday morning. But union representatives said no new talks were scheduled at Mount Sinai’s main campus on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Hundreds of nurses, wearing bright red union hats and scarves, gathered outside hospitals Tuesday morning to call for improved wages and working conditions. Inside hospitals, a skeletal staff was concerned with reducing the patient burden. Nurses said they were concerned about the suffering of patient care, but said that one of the main reasons they went on strike was to improve patient safety.
“We are very hopeful that we will reach an agreement soon,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, a nurse on the negotiating committee in Montefiore. “I really want us to come back.”
Nursing contracts between the New York State Nursing Association and nearly a dozen private city hospitals expired on December 31. Since then, eight hospitals have made or approved temporary agreements. Negotiations continue in three hospitals, and two stand out.
Worker Organization and Trade Union Movements
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- Education:Academic staff at the University of California voted to return to work, ending a historically large strike that disrupted research and lectures for nearly six weeks.
- Britain’s ‘Winter of Discontent’:As Britain grappled with inflation and recession, labor unrest has escalated as nurses, railroad workers and others led business actions across the country.
- Electric Vehicles :In a milestone for the industry, workers at an EV battery plant in Ohio voted to join the United Auto Workers union, citing pay and safety issues as key reasons.
Nurses want higher salaries as well as assurance that management will regularly recruit more nurses to care for patients. While wage demands have been largely met, striking nurses are seeking additional assurances that they will not be regularly asked to care for more patients than they think they can safely handle.
Nurses on the picket line in Montefiore on Monday announced overcrowding and understaffed conditions they hope a new contract will address. “It’s not safe because how can a nurse in the ER safely monitor 20 patients?” said GP Johnaira Dilone-Florian. “Everything can go wrong. We are human, not machine.”
Ms Sheridan-Gonzalez said negotiations have been underway for four months, but only in the past few days has the move to union demands such as enforceable staffing rates and hiring bonuses to compete with higher pay at the nearby NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
Margit Anderegg, a maternity and obstetrics nurse at Mount Sinai, said on Monday that she sometimes strikes as a way to show solidarity with her colleagues in the emergency room, who she says have had to care for 18 patients each.
“Mount Sinai is greedy and trying to turn us around as if we are abandoning our patients but we cannot operate in these conditions and this has been going on for years,” he said.
Hospitals called on traveling nurses to deal with the strike and relied on medical assistants and other hospital staff staying on the job. Montefiore has canceled all elective surgeries and procedures and postponed all outpatient appointments, and Mount Sinai has transferred patients to other facilities, including Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai Morningside, where contractual agreements have already been reached.
Montefiore’s president and CEO, Philip Ozuah, said in a letter to staff Monday that he was deeply disappointed by the strike and accused the union of walking away from patients. “I think this action was completely unnecessary, especially given how close we were to a final agreement,” he said.
At Mount Sinai, management was also highly critical of the nurses’ decision to strike, calling it reckless. Both hospitals offer the same 19.1 percent fee increase over the three years as agreed by all the hospitals that have reached the agreement thus far, including the other two Mount Sinai Health System campuses.
At Mount Sinai, union representatives said the two sides still had not agreed on the language of practice for patient-nurse rates or the growing seniority differences to match salaries at Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West.
Nurses have reached a tentative agreement with Brooklyn Hospital Center, and new agreements have been approved at NewYork-Presbyterian, Maimonides Medical Center, University of Richmond Medical Center, Flushing Hospital Medical Center, and BronxCare. Discussions continue with Interfaith Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, all three of which are located in Brooklyn.
Sean Piccoli and Christopher Alvarez contributed to the reporting.