NEW YORK NURSE: April 2010
by Randi Hoffman
Since March 19, the HHC nurses have been calling “311” and lodging complaints against Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
When representatives of New York City’s Health and Hospital Corporation once again refused to come to the table with an economic offer the day before, the nurses took to the phones. This campaign was scheduled to continue through March 31.
A sheet with step-by-step instructions for calling “311” was distributed to the NYSNA HHC Executive Committee on March 3 to give out to all HHC nurses.
“Mayor Bloomberg is violating his legal obligation to negotiate in good faith under the New York City Collective Bargaining Law,” said labor representative Leon Bell. “So NYSNA nurses are calling the complaint line that the mayor himself put into place.”
The contract for HHC and the mayoral agency RNs expired on Jan. 20, even though NYSNA has been working to negotiate a new contract for almost a year.
Bell said, “It is our belief that the failure of the city to negotiate in good faith and reach a fair agreement is entirely attributable to Mayor Bloomberg. He is the highest local executive authority and directs the negotiating stance of the Office of Labor Relations.”
The “311” hotline was established for New Yorkers to report everything from potholes and delays in garbage collection to problems with the bus and subway system. Bell said, “Mayor Bloomberg himself has stated that the purpose of the ‘311’ service is not only improving customer service, but giving New Yorkers the information we need to hold city agencies to their responsibilities.”
An informal poll found that the procedure went smoothly for some nurses, with the operator filing the complaint and giving them a number to track its progress. Others were told to file the complaint online.
On Thursday, March 18, a delegation of HHC nurses and NYSNA staff delivered more than 2,000 signed letters to City Hall urging the mayor to sit down and settle the contract with NYSNA. A spokesperson for the mayor accepted the letters.
On Nov. 20, the nurses conducted a fax blitz to HHC president Allen Aviles, urging him to quit stalling and come to the table. And at the beginning of the campaign “Don’t Hesitate – Negotiate” buttons were distributed to and worn by the nurses. The day after the contract expired, on Jan, 21, the HHC nurses leafleted and gathered signatures outside four HHC hospitals in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.