The votes were counted and reported out at 9:30 pm — after two long days of voting and an even longer road to get to this point for the nurses at Albany Medical Center. After three years, many negotiation sessions, a pandemic, a strike, and countless regulatory agency findings against AMC for improper behavior, NYSNA nurses won a fair first contract that offers them a stronger voice in patient care, as well as union and financial security. Nurses voted to ratify the contract with a 97% Yes vote.
Lenore Granich, RN, a member of the NYSNA Negotiating Committee at Albany Med, said: “I’m feeling elated. Having a voice is the most important thing. Our union is the nurses of Albany Medical Center. It is us standing together, speaking up for each other, and speaking up for our patients and the care we provide for the community.”
Jen Bejo, RN, said: “The AMC-NYSNA union is the nurses. This is our voice, our opportunity to work for something better for ourselves and our patients. This contract taught me that when you stand up together, you show great power. You’re able to do a lot for each other, the hospital, and the patients.”
The first contract includes safe staffing grids, a greater voice in patient care and work roles, and a strong economic package. Highlights of the contract include:
- A safe staffing grid that outlines safe staffing numbers for every unit and shift in the facility and will serve as a template for all future staffing negotiations under the new hospital staffing committee law that NYSNA championed.
- Gives nurses greater voice in work roles, including regular scheduling and defined breaks, limitations on floating, and limitations on performing non-nursing functions that impede the ability to provide quality care.
- Respects nurses’ professional practice, experience and commitment by granting pay differentials for cardiac, ECLS, Float Pool, Charge Nurse/Team Leader, and weekend shifts. Also increases educational benefits. Many differentials have been increased greatly from pre-union levels.
- Financial security through an immediate across-the-board $2.30/hour wage increase, resulting in a 4-9% base pay increase for all nurses. Per Diem nurses will receive an immediate 10% increase.
- In addition to this immediate major bump in pay upon ratification, all nurses will receive 3% annual increases via guaranteed and merit raises. As a leading employer in the Capital Region and one with a history of colluding with other healthcare providers to suppress the pay of nurses, NYSNA is excited about the immediate economic impact the new contract will have for AMC members, and the potential it has to lift standards for non-union nurses across the region, who deserve a union, too.
- There will be a joint redesign and expansion of the clinical practice pay ladder, which will allow many more nurses to gain professional experience and pay.
- Establishes a Labor Management Committee that meets regularly to ensure nurses' voices are heard and provides an opportunity to get ahead of issues and attempts to resolve problems of common concern. Also establishes the employer’s first workplace violence plan.
- Both parties agree to follow all health and safety laws and promote a safe work environment. Issues related to health and safety and pandemic preparedness will be addressed at labor management as needed. AMC nurses will use this new language to ensure the safety of Captial Region patients as New York continues to confront COVID variants.
Other members of the Negotiating Committee weighed in about what the new contract will mean for nurses and patients at Albany Medical Center.
Lisa Case, RN, said: “The biggest thing we’ve always been fighting for is safe staffing. We’ve had an incredible shortage of nurses. It was great to see the staffing law pass, and great that we got our staffing grid in this contract. The nurses stuck together, and we got this contract together.”
Labor and Delivery nurse Kathryn Dupuis, RN, was especially excited to gain a bereavement nurse for the hospital through the contract. She added, “I felt great when we voted the union in, and I feel even better today. This is a huge accomplishment. We have a great contract, and I can’t wait to see it put into effect. We’ll be finally able to work together collaboratively and work to better ourselves and our patients.”
Tonia Bazel, RN, said: “It was a long haul, but we did it! The number one thing for me is that our staffing ratios are doable and safe. I want my colleagues to know that the AMC-NYSNA union has your back. This contract is for you, it’s for us, and we are here for each other.”