NYC nurses are fighting for fair contracts that protect patient care as hospitals fail to provide good jobs to caregivers who put their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic
Actions also took place at NY Presbyterian, Brooklyn Hospital, and Mt. Sinai throughout the week
New York, NY - Today, nurses and allies held a speak-out at Montefiore in the Bronx to sound the alarm on the staffing crisis that has left caregivers burnt out and at their breaking point. Two-thirds of RNs across the country say they are planning to leave the profession in the next two years, and hospitals are not doing enough to keep them at the bedside – from safe staffing ratios to good healthcare benefits to competitive pay.
Benny Mathew, RN at Montefiore and NYSNA Director at Large, said: “We are speaking out today because Montefiore, like so many other New York City hospitals, has created a staffing crisis by failing to hire and retain enough nurses. Nurses are suffering because we’re exhausted, and our patients are suffering because their care is delayed due to unsafe staffing. Patients in the Emergency Department where I work are waiting hours or days to receive care, and it’s not right. We’re calling on Montefiore to bargain a fair contract that protects nurses and patients.”
Karine Raymond, RN at Montefiore and member of NYSNA, said: “As nurses, we care about our Bronx community and we’re fighting for all of our patients. But Montefiore isn’t putting the resources our patients need into preventative care and safe staffing. Even before COVID, Montefiore was putting patients in beds in the hallway. And now they are doing it again. It’s extremely concerning and unethical. What if that patient comes down with COVID or influenza? All the patients in that crowded hallway will be sick, the nurses will be sick. In the richest nation in the world, there is no excuse for not having proper beds for patients with all the necessary resources and safe staffing levels that a patient requires.”
Vanessa Weldon, RN, Montefiore Home Health nurse and member of NYSNA, said: “Time and time again, I’ve seen Montefiore put profits before patient care. Now, Montefiore is shutting down another lifeline for vulnerable mothers and babies – the Montefiore Nurse-Family Partnership, a home-care program that supported high–risk mothers and babies. The loss of this preventative health program means that women of color will continue to die at alarming rates from health conditions that could have been avoided if caught early. Instead of getting preventative care, new mothers may be more likely to end up in the ER having strokes because they weren’t able to have a home care nurse check their blood pressure and address the problem in time. We are calling on Montefiore to see beyond just dollars.”
NYSNA members at twelve hospitals in New York City, including some of the biggest private hospitals such as Montefiore, Mt. Sinai, and NY-Presbyterian have contracts expiring on Dec. 31. Hospital executives paid themselves millions in sky-high salaries and bonuses during the pandemic at the same time they hiked hospital prices. Nurses are calling for their bosses to invest in hiring and retaining enough nurses to keep their patients safe.
"I’m proud to stand with NYSNA as they call on their employers to make bigger investments in their profession. Quality care is directly tied to quality jobs and wages," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Health Committee. “It is my hope that all relevant stakeholders come to the table in good faith and negotiate contracts that will protect our healthcare professionals and help provide better care for our State's patients.”
“In the days since the COVID-19 pandemic started, nurses have been our super heroes but they aren’t super human and they need working conditions and compensation that is commensurate with the essential services they provide,” Assemblywoman Latoya joyner (D-Bronx, 77th AD), chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, said. “With contracts set to expire at the end of this year, I urge New York’s largest private hospitals like Montefiore Hospital to reach a fair contract before the end of 2022.”
“Our nurses play a critical role in our hospitals, not only as caregivers but as patient advocates. I have continuously heard from nurses that there is a lack of accountability in providing safe work environments, which includes fair scheduling. In recent years, our hospitals have been overburdened and are experiencing an increase in inadequate staffing, a direct result of burnout and pay inequities. We must do better and take action to support our nurses in advocating for healthy and safe work environments, in addition to strong worker protections. Safe staffing saves lives, both the patients and hospital personnel,” said Chair of the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection, New York City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez.
“New York healthcare workers have long been heroes within our City – taking care of our families daily,” said Council Member Kevin C. Riley. “While this profession is not easy, we must do our part to ensure that nurses are protected with the rights and resources that they deserve. I commend NYSNA nurses and stand in solidarity to sound the alarm for better infrastructure within our hospitals, which ultimately affects patient care. New York nurses need pay equity, safe & supportive staffing, and fair funding that gives them the capability to continue standing on the frontlines to save our lives.”
More than 30,000 NYSNA members around New York state are currently in bargaining. NYSNA nurses and healthcare professionals at three Northwell Health facilities on Long Island also participated in the week of action for fair contracts
NYSNA nurses are part of a national movement. Members voted to affiliate with National Nurses United, uniting the voices of 42,000 NYSNA RNs with the 180,000 members of NNU across the nation. This is the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that so many nurses will be bargaining for their profession and their patients. Nurses are coming together like never before because they are exhausted and demanding change from New York’s hospitals. They are uniting with labor, community, and political allies and are ready to do whatever it takes to win fair contracts that improve patient care, strengthen the nursing workforce, and uplift communities.
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, visit nysna.org.