NEW YORK NURSE: March/April 2012
by Mark Genovese
Flushing nurses tell the story of how they stood up to management givebacks — and won!
Watch them in the new video “Fighting for Fairness: Flushing Nurses Tell Their Story,” available on DVD or on the web at www.vimeo.com/nysna/flushing
The video celebrates the hard-won victory of the 420 RNs — who came within three days of a strike after management cut off their health and pension benefits in an attempt to strong-arm them into accepting givebacks. The RNs stayed united, fought back, and won a fair contract that addressed their concerns. NYSNA will offer a copy of the video to any bargaining unit upon request.
Flushing RNs weren’t about to back down when management told them in December 2011 it wouldn’t sign a standard interim agreement to continue their health and pension benefits when the contract expired at the end of that month. Health benefits were to continue for 90 days after expiration whether the interim agreement was signed or not. But their pension plan ended on Jan. 1, 2012.
On Jan. 20, 2012, the RNs responded by voting overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. Notice was served three days later that the strike would begin promptly at 7:15 a.m. on Feb. 7. The bargaining unit then engaged in an extensive community outreach campaign, while stepping up their preparations for the strike.
Over the next several days, the RNs formed committees, drew up strike line schedules, and started signing up for temporary work. Five days before the scheduled start of the strike, the RNs held a news conference for the community at their strike headquarters to discuss the issues. After a day-long negotiating session, management backed down—with just three days to go.
The new contract — which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, and runs through Dec. 31, 2014 — helps to address the nurses’ concerns about recruitment, retention, and staffing. RNs were reinstated to the NYSNA pension plan with full credit. RNs will receive 2% increases effective July 7, 2013, and July 6, 2014. Hourly rates for per-diems will also increase.
They received the best option for health insurance coverage under the NYSNA health benefits plan – a premium contribution of $25 per person per month, up to $100 maximum. “You should not give up,” said one of the RNs, “because we got exactly what we asked for, and we’re very proud.”
Flushing RNs describe how they beat concessions and won a good contract.
Spreading the word: “They’re busy taking care of patients, and they may not be able to get to a meeting. The important thing is to get the information out to the nurses.”
Floor by floor outreach: “We went floor to floor to talk to the nurses, and find out what they wanted out of this deal.”
Young nurses step up: “We might be young. But we are very tough. And we didn’t give up.”
Unity in bargaining: “We showed them that we were not going to break. We were going to stand side-by-side. We were right behind our negotiating committee. It gave a very powerful message.”
Informational picketing: “We were outside of the hospital during our break and let the public know we were negotiating for our contract.”
Reaching out to elected officials: “I went to a community meeting. We had some politicians there. I haven’t really done anything like this before, but it was a nice experience. It had an impact.”
Showing our strength: “Sometimes you need a little push. A little shove. We almost had a strike. Thankfully we didn’t have to.”
Watch the nurses tell their story at www.vimeo.com/nysna/flushing