Arbitrator Finds Ellis in Violation of Safe Staffing Standards as Nurses Begin Strike Authorization Vote

For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 23, 2024
Contact: Kristi Barnes | | 646-853-4489
Eliza Bates | | 646-285-8491

Arbitrator Finds Ellis in Violation of Safe Staffing Standards as Nurses Begin Strike Authorization Vote

Over 600 NYSNA members at Ellis Hospital and Bellevue Woman’s Center are voting to authorize a 3-day unfair labor practice strike

Strike vote comes on the heels of a New York State arbitrator finding Ellis in violation of safe staffing guidelines in nurses’ union contract

Schenectady, N.Y.– On Wednesday, May 22, over 600 New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) members at Ellis Hospital and Bellevue Women’s Center began voting on whether to authorize a 3-day unfair lbor practice strike. Nurses have been fighting for a fair union contract for more than a year and say they’re most concerned about safe staffing and winning a contract that helps recruit and retain enough nurses to provide safe patient care.

Results of the strike vote will be announced next week.

Earlier this month, NYSNA filed unfair labor practice charges against Ellis for intimidating and surveilling nurses for speaking out and talking to coworkers about working conditions and union negotiations.

“Ellis management needs to stop harassing and intimidating nurses and instead come to the table and settle a fair contract with safe staffing for our patients. Striking is always a very last resort. But if Ellis management gives us no other choice, we are ready to do whatever it takes to protect our patients and our community. Ellis nurses deserve respect for the work we do, and our patients deserve the very best care.” said Monika Wezenaar-Iannotti, RN at Ellis Hospital's Post-Anesthesia Care Unit.

Separately, in a huge victory for Ellis nurses who have been sounding the alarm about unsafe staffing levels, on Tuesday, May 21, a New York State arbitrator found that Ellis has consistently and pervasively failed to follow the safe staffing standards stipulated in the NYSNA contract. The arbitrator ordered Ellis to compensate nurses working in units affected by short-staffing whose workloads significantly increased because of the hospital’s violation of the NYSNA contract. Impacted nurses include those who provide care for ICU patients, step-down patients, medical-surgical patients, emergency room patients, and psychiatric patients.

This is the first time a neutral, third-party arbitrator has awarded financial restitution for hospital understaffing to NYSNA nurses in an upstate New York hospital.

“We are elated that Ellis is finally being held accountable for failing to safely staff our hospital. As nurses, our number one priority is always safe patient care. We hope this arbitration ruling against Ellis will be a wakeup call to management and that they will join us in putting care for Schenectady patients first,” said Fred Durocher, RN at Ellis Hospital's ER Crisis Unit.

Eleven nurses, representing seven different patient care units, testified in detail during five intensive days of hearing regarding their daily short staffing and struggles to provide safe patient care.

Ellis continues to spend big on temporary nurse staffing to fill the staffing gaps caused by management’s failure to recruit and retain staff nurses.  Ellis still has a 20 percent vacancy rate and, according to 990 financial findings, spent a whopping $8.5 million on just one staffing agency in 2022. NYSNA estimates that the vast majority of that money went to hiring temporary agency nurses, who are currently paid around $64 per hour. The average starting pay for staff nurses at Ellis is $36 per hour.

Ellis Medicine nurses are concerned that the cuts made since the merger agreement with St. Peter’s Health Partners will further exacerbate the chronic understaffing. NYSNA researchers analyzed staffing data across six units of the hospital from February to November 2023. They found that overall, day and night shifts on these units were understaffed over 90 percent of the time.

Since the merger agreement, Ellis has reduced essential healthcare services like overnight emergency services in Clifton Park and inpatient adolescent mental health care at Ellis Hospital. Nurses are concerned by St. Peter’s track record on healthcare service closures. Recently, St. Peter’s tried to permanently close the Burdett Birthing Center of Samaritan Hospital in Troy.

Meanwhile, according to 990 financial filings, Ellis Medicine CEO Paul Milton’s total compensation leaped from $679,072 to $765,742 in 2020 – the worst year of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s a 12.7 percent increase. In 2021, he made a whopping $794,474 in total compensation. Three other Ellis Medicine execs made approximately half a million dollars that year.

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.