Nurses Bargain for Exemptions and More

Impact Bargaining Followed Vaccine Mandates

After former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Health Department commissioner, announced statewide vaccine mandates, NYSNA issued demands to bargain and requests for additional information. We also pursued a range of options to protect patients and caregivers. As we move through this next phase, we want to outline the steps we have and are taking to protect your interests and keep patients safe.

It goes without saying that nurses enter the profession because we care. We enjoy caring for our community, including being there in our community’s greatest hour of need. But nursing also allows us to care for ourselves and our friends and loved ones who rely on us. Most of our members are women, and the majority are working mothers. We know that everything we do impacts not just us but the people who love us. There is nothing about the past few years that has been easy, which is why we have pursued the vaccine mandate with urgency and concern.

As soon as the vaccine mandates were announced, NYSNA notified employers of our plan to demand impact bargaining and our need for more information. Through impact bargaining, we secured several wins, including a “consideration period” that allows nurses who did not elect to be vaccinated by the deadline to be put on unpaid administrative leave while the employer and the caregiver determine next steps. Employees would still retain health benefits during that period.


We also expanded the conditions whereby exemptions would be considered and granted. Initially employers said that there would be few exemptions and that employees who received exemptions would not be allowed on the employer’s property. At least eight of the hospitals we work with have now said they will offer exemptions and that, in some cases, health care workers who receive exemptions would be granted an accommodation to continue working.

Certainly, as health care workers, we understand the immense risk COVID-19 presents to the community, including to health care workers and patients. We bear witness to the truth that over 90% of hospital patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. We strongly believe in the science and efficacy of these vaccines. We are not opposed to the vaccine mandate if all other measures that directly address the virus’s spread are enacted.

Our Work Continues

We are concerned that hospital systems will implement vaccine mandates without addressing ventilation issues, personal protective equipment shortages and other aspects that permit the spread of the virus. A comprehensive plan is needed to eradicate the COVID-19 global pandemic, and we are urging employers and regulators to finally pay attention to our demands along with the vaccines.

We know this issue is of utmost importance to NYSNA members. We will continue to aggressively negotiate on your behalf.

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