Approximately 7,000 nurses at two New York City hospitals began a strike on Monday morning over contract disputes.
Union officials failed to reach tentative agreements on Sunday with hospital administrators at Montefiore Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital, according to a statement from the New York State Nurses Association, which boasts more than 42,000 members. Negotiators reached tentative agreements at seven other hospitals that will grant nurses pay raises over the next three years, lower costs for healthcare coverage, and improve staffing standards.
“The entire New York City Labor Movement stands with our nurses, who are courageously taking action against dangerous understaffing that threatens the safety of their patients,” AFL-CIO New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez remarked. “The decision to go on strike is never an easy one, particularly for workers who care so deeply about the patients and communities they serve. But hospital executives created this crisis by failing to hire, train, and retain nurses while at the same time treating themselves to extravagant compensation packages. Now it’s time for them to fix what they’ve broken.”
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), as well as several members of the State Senate and State Assembly, voiced support for the strike.
“Nurses have been through hell and back for their patients,” Bowman commented. “They already fought unimaginable fights to keep us healthy and alive, and they shouldn’t have to keep fighting. Safe staffing ratios and healthy conditions common in every hospital.”
Roughly 12% of healthcare practitioners in the United States were members of unions as of 2021, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York had the second-highest overall union membership rate in the nation, with 22.2% of workers belonging to a labor union.
New York State Nurses Association officials encouraged residents to continue seeking healthcare services despite the strikes. Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) called for binding arbitration at Montefiore and Mount Sinai, affirming that the New York State Department of Health will enforce “staffing requirements under the law” at the hospitals.
“No one puts more on the line to care for New Yorkers than our nurses, which is why my team has been pushing for a fair labor agreement for these dedicated professionals and to ensure they have safe working conditions. For weeks now, we have been working tirelessly with our partners in New York City to broker negotiations between the nurses and affected hospitals and our efforts have achieved significant progress,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to work with partners and all parties so that New York City hospitals and nurses can continue to play their critical role in caring for New Yorkers.”
Some 71% of Americans currently express approval of labor unions, marking the highest degree of support for the organizations in nearly six decades, according to data from Gallup. Roughly one in six American households include a resident union member.
The negotiations in New York City occur after a nationwide rail strike nearly crippled supply chains ahead of the holiday season. Members of Congress exercised their authority over interstate commerce to intervene in the negotiations under the Railway Labor Act of 1926, preventing the strike through a resolution endorsed last month by President Joe Biden.