Union Power Works to Protect Members and Patients

Of all institutions, unions know the power of sticking together. When many people push for the same goal, their combined effort can make herculean tasks manageable. Having been on the front lines providing care in the direst of circumstances, healthcare professionals are clear that we rise or fall together. It was that spirit which brought New York's healthcare unions together to form the Joint Union Staffing Implementation Committee, comprised of members of DC37, 1199SEIU, Communications Workers of America, the New York State Public Employees Federation and the NYSNA. The committee is tasked with helping to guide all unions in implementing the new Clinical Staffing Committee Law.

Formation of the Joint Union Staffing Implementation Committee was a rare opportunity to unite unions representing hundreds of thousands of members across New York for the betterment of our facilities, profession, and communities. Over 500 members from five different unions participated in a kickoff meeting in January 2022.

We’re Making Progress

Employers initially tried to delay implementation of the Clinical Staffing Committee Law. NYSNA convinced the state government it was critical to move forward with the law as a means of protecting patients, workers and the broader community. Then some employers tried to undermine the law’s success. For example, we learned that in some facilities, management attempted to select which members represented the union at staffing committee meetings versus union members determining their representatives. Some employers even attempted to bar union representatives from attending the meetings with members, a gross violation of the spirit and intention of the law. Hospitals administrators have all sorts of resources at their disposal. The union is the nurses’ resource.


Management has no legal basis for dictating terms to union members’ side. Further, the law demands that the committee be governed by 50-50 representation, so the determination of agendas, issues to discuss and meeting dates must be by mutual agreement. The Joint Union Committee is united in holding the line and pushing back. We contacted several members of the New York State Assembly, who sent letters to at least one hospital. We will make legislators aware if management continues to stonewall.

Ensuring Accountability

Together with our labor partners, we will hold employers and the New York State Department of Health accountable to follow the law – in structure and operation of the committees and in ICU regulation. The five unions that comprise the committee wrote a joint complaint letter to the Department of Health documenting some of the issues they were seeing. We have subsequently made progress in some facilities and continue to pull management along in others.

We See Clearly

As organizers, we do not see the world through rose-colored glasses. We knew then and we know today that even a good thing can be derailed. Passage of the Clinical Staffing Committee Law was a watershed moment. We are not surprised by the hospital industry’s attempts to sideline our staffing committees and weaken our collective power. Committee members understand their assignment and have been strategizing since January to ensure its success. In some of our facilities we already have agreement on portions of our staffing plans.

Working together with the frontline healthcare workers has brought some challenges as well as opportunities. For many of our labor partners, devising staffing plans is uncharted territory. But we know the time we spend in helping to educate our healthcare team members is critical to achieving our goal.

We know that backlash is an indicator of progress. We will not be deterred. We will continue to fight for all our rights according to the staffing law and for management to engage with us in good faith.

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