Nurses Week – challenges and solidarity for NYSNA nurses

Ellis nurses speak out for safe staffing

May Day Celebration at Albany Med

Albany Med nurses were joined by labor and community allies to honor the hardworking people in Albany and across the world for May Day, or International Workers Day. Approximately 300 people gathered in support of AMC-NYSNA nurses, calling on the hospital administration to respect their workers and deliver a fair contract. From union leaders and activists, to community and climate justice advocates, to elected officials, the message of the day was that our struggles are connected — and only through our solidarity can we win respect, dignity and justice for ALL!

Widespread support

Nurses were buoyed by the widespread support, at a time when negotiations are intensifying with the hospital. Speakers included Congress Member Paul Tonko, State Senator Michelle Hinchey, Assembly Member Neil Breslin, Asm. Phil Steck, Albany County Legislator Sam Fein, Albany City Council Member Owusu Anane, Mario Cilento of the NYS AFL-CIO, the Albany County Labor Federation, Capital District Area Labor Federation, Capital District Building Trades, IBEW Local 236, Albany Firefighters, Capital District CBTU, Citizen Action, Progress Schenectady, All of Us, and NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN.

Hospital management tried to smear the event as radical one day after nurses spoke out for safe staffing. Lenore Granich, RN, a nurse leader at Albany Med, said: “Albany Med has fought its nurses every step of the way, and this disgusting red-baiting is just the most recent example of union-busting. This latest hysterical tactic shows how extreme and out of touch Albany Med leadership is with the people who make this hospital run.” Other speakers echoed the words of solidarity from firefighter Bob Mengel: “We’ll be out here for as long as it takes!”

Ellis nurses speak out for safe staffing

Last Friday, Ellis Hospital nurses brought their Nurses Week celebration outside (photo above) and were joined by supportive elected officials, including Assembly Member Angelo Santabarbara, Assembly Member Phil Steck, and Schenectady Mayor Gary R. McCarthy.

As Denise D’Avella, RN, said: “Forget the tchotchkes — we’ll take safe staffing any day! If anything good could come out of this pandemic, it’s that it brought attention to conditions in our hospitals and nursing homes, especially understaffing. NYSNA nurses have been on the front lines advocating for safe staffing for over a decade, so this movement—this progress—is huge!”

Recent cuts in healthcare

Improved staffing enforcement can’t come soon enough at Ellis, particularly in the ICUs and critical care units. ICU nurse Elizabeth “Libby” Hart, RN, came off night shift and with only a couple hours sleep, came back to the Nurses Week celebration to let the community know what was going on. Fred Durocher, RN, also spoke out about recent cuts to healthcare services at the hospital that have a negative impact on patient health, particularly in the low-income communities of Schenectady County. Ellis nurses plan to continue fighting for the safe staffing and essential healthcare services their community deserves.

ECMC and Terrace View nurses celebrate Nurses Week by speaking out

On Thursday May 13th, Erie County Medical Center and Terrace View Long-Term Care nurses took to the streets and held a speak out to support the hospital and nursing home staffing legislation. Nurses celebrated the bills’ passage in the legislature and are ready to organize to ensure the bills are signed into law.

As nurses at ECMC and Terrace View will tell you, staffing is the issue. Nurse leaders Rachel Larkin and Lona De Nisco both spoke out about staffing conditions that put patients at risk.

Lona De Nisco, RN, said: “Working a 65-bed ER with 12 nurses is not okay. Having one nurse to an entire long term unit is not ok. Sending me transport help is like giving a whale a tic tac. Not all people come by ambulance. We drag gunshots, stabbings and overdoses from cars. We are asking you to give us the tools we need to save your life one day,” said

Negotiations ongoing

Nurses are simultaneously pushing to gain safe staffing here and now. They won major gains in their last contract, including for the first time, staffing committees and a financial commitment from the hospital to hire more nurses where they’re needed most. After careful consideration and data collection, the nurses’ staffing committee presented their staffing minimum ratios to management on May 11.

Nurses got support at the speak out from Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who offered words of support and solidarity for the effort and honored the tremendous contributions of nurses throughout the COVID pandemic this Nurses Week.

Awards Acknowledge NYSNA Accomplishments

On May 11, the Metro NY Labor Communications Council held its annual convention at which Bill Fletcher, Jr., activist and author was awarded “Communicator of the Year.” In Fletcher’s remarks he stressed that progressives have to learn the importance of narrative — something the right wing does very well. As Fletcher said, “The facts never speak for themselves, people speak.”

In the category of unions with membership ranging 25,000 and higher, NYSNA garnered several awards. NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, received First Place for Best Op Ed. Her winning column entitled “The Cataclysm”, appeared in the March 2020 edition.

Photographer Dave Sanders won a First Place award for Excellence in Photography for the Kingsborough BLM protest cover of the June 2020 issue.

The New York Nurse, NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane, RN, editor, was awarded General Excellence.

Brooklyn nurses celebrate Nurses Week and safe staffing with AG Tish James

Nurses at NY-P Brooklyn Methodist Hospital were surprised and excited to be joined at their Nurses Week celebration by Attorney General Tish James and Assembly Member Bobby Carroll. The elected officials made a last-minute visit to wish nurses well and express support for safe staffing.

LBU President Allyson Selby, RN, said, “This Nurses Week is special is because the staffing bills that were passed give us a whole lot of power. Keep hope alive, safe staffing saves lives!”

In between picking up breakfast and giveaways, members had the opportunity to meet AG James and take pictures with her. Irving Campbell, RN, said: “The pandemic has made it a little more difficult to get together and celebrate as we do each Nurses Week. We are appreciative of AG James’s efforts. She was the architect of the nursing home investigation that essentially blew the lid off safe staffing.”

“Tish James is on the case"

Mineive Cantave, RN, took selfies with James and said: “Tish James is on the case. She’s putting pressure and fire to get things done. I’m glad to see that union nurses are getting organized and getting recognized. We’ve been through so much during the last year. People realize how important healthcare is—and everyone needs healthcare.”

The nurses who came by the celebration had encouraging words for all the NYSNA nurses around the state, including: “remember to feed your night shift nurses,” “remember to take some time to take care of yourself,” “nurses have a voice in our facilities, our communities, and around the world,” and “we’re strong and together.”

Campbell concluded, “To all the nurses throughout the state — keep doing what you’re doing. We have shown the power of nurses, we have shown through action, we have shown through our years of fighting for safe staffing and for our patients. We now have a bill that will help our patients. Just continue to do what you do for our patients every day — and every night.”

Connect With Us

Sign Up For Email Updates

Sign Up For Text Alerts