We Are Leading From the Frontlines

Growing up with two daughters, Beyoncé’s music was inescapable in my house. I had a particular song of hers running through my head after seeing the NYC Health+Hospitals (H+H) / Mayorals Bargaining Committee and particularly the women of the Executive Council bring home a contract victory for pay parity and safe staffing. I was feeling so proud and inspired, I was singing, “Who runs the world? Girls!” I’m sure many members had their own girl power or people power anthems running through their heads when they heard the good news. 

H+H/ Mayorals leaders were fearless throughout the campaign, especially in the final weeks of expedited mediation. I immediately thought about my teenage daughters and how inspired they would be by the example our H+H/ Mayorals nurses set and by this righteous fight and long-overdue win. I felt so proud to lead this union of healthcare professionals — still mostly women — who flexed their power and won. 

It’s About Respect

To me, this contract fight was about respect and believing in ourselves. It was about demanding respect to pay nurses fairly for the important work we do. It was about believing, as mostly women of color, that we don’t need to be limited by what others say we can accomplish. 

They told us we could never win pay parity — the pay disparity between the public and private sectors had grown too large. 

They told us we couldn’t break “the pattern” of wage increases that other municipal unions accepted. 

They told us that our public hospital system couldn’t afford to do better.

They told us we couldn’t win a great contract without striking and that, because the Taylor Law legally bars public-sector workers in New York from striking, we were out of luck. 

We showed them that we don’t need luck, and we don’t need to limit ourselves. The H+H/ Mayorals nurses demanded pay parity — that was the No. 1 issue in bargaining surveys. It was what our members identified as the biggest barrier to retaining nurses and being able to deliver the safe, quality care that all patients deserve.

NYSNA nurses organized, mobilized, spoke out, took action and won. Our members put the city on notice and demanded better for ourselves and our patients. Winning pay parity, which H+H/ Mayorals nurses had not had since the 1990s, is proof of our hard work. It is proof that public-sector nurses are deserving of equitable treatment and our patients are deserving of equitable care. We forced H+H and the city to accept our shine. We believed, we persevered, we showed our leadership, and we won.

Leadership Inspires Leadership

This victory also had me thinking of our Convention theme this year, “Nurses Leading from the Frontlines.” NYSNA members are showing that when we assume our leadership role and demand a seat at the table, we advocate and win for our patients and profession. 

Nurses in New York City’s private sector showed our leadership early this year by winning great contracts in the largest contract campaign in NYSNA’s history. The striking nurses at Montefiore and Mount Sinai captured not just the bosses’ attention but the world’s, giving courage to nurses and other union members to fight back. They won groundbreaking staffing enforcement language and inspired NYSNA members closer to home to do whatever it takes to win a fair contract. 

One Union, United To Win

North Country and Long Island private-sector members and Buffalo public-sector nurses showed their strength and leadership in their contract wins. And now New York City public-sector H+H/ Mayorals nurses picked up the torch and made history with their contract victory. I am looking forward to celebrating our leadership and our victories together at this year’s Convention! 

When I became president of NYSNA in 2021, I pledged to make this one union — not public versus private, not upstate versus downstate but truly one union for all nurses. At last year’s Convention, I remember seeing public- and private-sector nurses sitting together — a first in my 30 years of being a NYSNA member. That was one small step toward becoming one union. The H+H/ Mayorals contract victory is the biggest step yet, and it demonstrates that we are one union, we are united to win, and we are leading from the frontlines!

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