NYS Healthcare Workers Raise Alarms on Statewide Staffing Crisis, Demand Legislative Action to Strengthen Workforce, Patient Care in FY25 State Budget

CWA District 1/NYSNA
For Immediate Release:
 Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Media Contact: Jadel Munguia, CWANY@berlinrosen.com, 914-648-6581, Kristi Barnes, press@nysna.org, 646-853-4489 

“There is no shortage of nurses. There is a shortage of nurses that are willing to work under the conditions we are seeing in our hospitals.”

NYS Healthcare Workers Raise Alarms on Statewide Staffing Crisis, Demand Legislative Action to Strengthen Workforce, Patient Care in FY25 State Budget

In Major Show of Force, Healthcare Workers with CWA D1, NYSNA, PEF and More Call on State Lawmakers to Center  Safe Staffing and Hospital Funding In Legislative Hearing on 2024 Healthcare Priorities

Nurses and Healthcare Workers Plan to Share Powerful Testimonies, Urge NYS DOH and Policymakers to Enforce 2021 Hospital Clinical Staffing Committee law

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Healthcare workers with the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and Communications Workers of America District 1 (CWA D1), joined by other healthcare unions and labor leaders, held a rally and press conference this morning calling on lawmakers to prioritize safe staffing, ahead of a crucial state legislative hearing on healthcare priorities for the FY25 state budget. At the hearing, healthcare workers from hospitals across the state will share testimonies underscoring the impact that pervasive understaffing has had on worker safety and the quality of care their communities receive. 

Just an hour before the hearing commenced, workers from hospitals all over the state united to ensure safe staffing was top of mind for New York legislators heading into the hearing, where they’d determine the future of the state’s strained healthcare system. With patients’ lives on the line, healthcare workers urged lawmakers to prioritize proposals that support the workforce as well as hospital funding, following years of widespread recruitment and retention challenges that have left healthcare workers around the state to deal with dangerous nurse-to-patient ratios.
Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx, 77th AD), chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, joined workers at the rally and said, “New York's healthcare system has been under extraordinary stress since being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and much of the workforce remains stretched far too thin. Focusing on how to improve working conditions for those who provide care for our friends, family and neighbors, our joint public hearing will help us enhance the healthcare services provided in our state.”
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-100), chair of the Assembly Mental Health Committee also spoke at the rally, saying, “We know how important nurses are in the healthcare industry. We are demanding safe staffing because it saves lives. We have been fighting for this for years and years; we need to have this done, and we need it done now.”
Workers called for robust implementation and enforcement of the 2021 Hospital Clinical Staffing Committee law and called on lawmakers to ensure full Medicaid reimbursement is included in the FY25 State Budget in addition to proposals aimed at stabilizing the existing healthcare workforce. 
Healthcare workers with NYSNA, CWA D1 and other unions are also sharing testimonies at the hearing to highlight the human impact and severity of the staffing crisis that’s forced frontline healthcare workers to care for too many patients at once, at the expense of patient safety.
“There is no shortage of nurses. There is a shortage of nurses that are willing to work under the conditions we are seeing in our hospitals, our nursing homes, and home care,” said NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane at the rally.
Decades of underfunding and staffing shortages across New York have plunged the state’s healthcare workforce into crisis, requiring healthcare workers to push themselves past the point of exhaustion, working mandatory overtime with skeleton crews. Meanwhile, hospitals throughout the state are having to work with negative or unsustainable operating budgets, incentivizing the further reduction of healthcare workers, exacerbating short staffing, worsening quality of care and further destabilizing the workforce. In New York state, only 53% of actively licensed nurses are actively working as nurses, demonstrating that the State is facing more of a shortage of good healthcare jobs than healthcare workers themselves. 
In her testimony, Kerry Larkin, a Registered Nurse in New York City and CWA District 1 member, said, The recruitment and retention challenges facing hospitals across New York directly result from the deplorable conditions we are working in, primarily lack of staffing. This work environment has led to many healthcare workers leaving the profession altogether.  We must improve working conditions and ensure safe staffing to bring workers back to patients' bedside where it’s needed most. If we continue with the same toxic atmosphere, we will not keep our workforce or entice those who have left to return.”
"Nurses work incredibly hard to ensure we can provide safe, quality care to every patient, regardless of zip code,” said NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN. “We need New York’s hospitals and the Department of Health to work just as hard to deliver and enforce safe staffing to help us do our best. NYSNA members in every part of the state report chronic understaffing that compromises care and drives nurses away from the bedside. We need to change that immediately by ensuring safe staffing everywhere.”
Scheena Tannis, a Registered Nurse and 1199SEIU member who has worked at a safety net hospital in Brooklyn for 18 years, said, “We cannot solve the staffing issue without solving the healthcare funding crisis. My hospital is a safety-net institution with many patients relying on Medicaid, but the state only covers 70% of the cost of care for those patients. Medicaid patients do not only get 70% of an illness and we certainly don’t give them just only 70% of care. Everyone deserves 100%. Our elected officials have the power to close this funding gap to protect our most vulnerable and the workers who care for them.” 
"There is no denying that our healthcare system is experiencing severe staffing shortages that jeopardize patient care and worker safety. That is why the union movement has prioritized addressing the statewide staffing crisis,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “We already know that safe staffing benefits patients, nurses, and hospitals which is why we are united in calling for fully funding Medicaid and enforcement of the safe staffing law. The lives of patients and those who care for them, depend on it."
“Patient care in New York City and across the state is at risk because hospitals are refusing to abide by the state’s 2021 Safe Staffing for Quality Care law. The Federation of Nurses/UFT was the first union in the state to bring violations of the law to the state Health Department this summer, violations against NYU Langone Hospital - Brooklyn. The Federation of Nurses this month won a precedent-setting arbitration against NYU Langone Hospital- Brooklyn for short-staffing one of its medical-surgical units. For the first time, there is a financial liability if the hospital ignores contractual safe staffing ratios,” said Anne Goldman, head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, which represents roughly 4,000 members in New York City and 16,000 in New York State. “But we need the legislature and administration to help enforce the state’s safe-staffing law, and to continue to support union efforts to hold hospital administrations accountable for meeting safe staffing ratios."

New York State Public Employees Federation President Wayne Spence, whose union represents thousands of nurses at three SUNY hospitals and facilities across the state, said, “Severe short staffing must be prioritized as both a quality of care and worker safety issue. Nurses are routinely working beyond exhaustion, and it is unsustainable. More must be done to enforce clinical staffing plans so our nurses can properly care for patients. Addressing healthcare shortages requires some of the same solutions PEF is advocating for across State agencies. New York must do a better job of recruiting and retaining its skilled healthcare workforce by improving Tier 6 of the State pension plan so professionals are incentivized to make a career out of State service."

“Healthcare workers in New York are facing a crisis of understaffing that is actively undermining the quality of patient care and threatening public health,” said New York City Central Labor Council AFL-CIO President Vincent Alvarez. “These workers as well as the working families who rely on them for healthcare deserve better. The New York City Labor Movement stands in solidarity with the dedicated members of NYSNA and CWA, and call on all of our elected officials to make safe staffing and full Medicare reimbursement a priority in the next budget.” 

NYSUT President Melinda Person said, “Safe working conditions are not optional, nor is their enforcement. Each day that proper staffing ratios in our healthcare facilities are ignored, lives are put at risk. The state must ensure hospitals are following the protections in law, which not only show workers the respect they deserve, but are essential to growing and maintaining the hospital workforce New York desperately needs.”

The morning’s action added to the growing momentum in New York state healthcare workers’ ongoing fight to secure safe staffing across the state. Last month, workers with CWA District 1 escalated their efforts with the submission of 8,000 violations of hospitals’ clinical staffing plans to the New York Department of Health (DOH). The plans were required by the 2021 Clinical Staffing Committee law, which both CWA District 1 and NYSNA helped write and pass to ensure safe staffing levels and quality patient care across all New York hospitals. Since it went into effect in January 2023, thousands of unresolved staffing complaints have been filed on behalf of workers by CWA D1, NYSNA, and other prominent healthcare unions to ensure the law is properly implemented and enforced. 

NYSNA nurses are also using the contract enforcement process, as well as filing DOH complaints, to enforce safe staffing standards. NYSNA nurses have won several arbitration awards because of staffing violations, including a $220K award from Mount Sinai and most recently an award from Montefiore Health System, proving that staffing is still a crisis all over the state, for every healthcare union.


CWA District 1 represents 145,000 workers in 200 CWA local unions in New York, New Jersey, New England, and eastern Canada. CWA members work in telecommunications, health care, higher education, manufacturing, broadcast and cable television, commercial printing and newspapers, state, local, and country government.
The New York State Nurses Association represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. NYSNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United, AFL-CIO, the country's largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses, with more than 225,000 members nationwide.


The New York State Nurses Association is a union of 42,000 frontline nurses united together for strength at work, our practice, safe staffing, and healthcare for all. We are New York's largest union and professional association for registered nurses.