On August 18, I joined hundreds of NYSNA nurses at the Sheraton Hotel in Times Square to kick off our “We Love Nurses” contract campaign. NYSNA nurses traveled from far and near to participate in the event. As we rallied, chanted, and phoned hospital executives and lobbyists, we were mindful of the many sacrifices nurses have made — not only over the past few years, but throughout our careers. It is past time for our profession to receive the respect we deserve. Respect looks like nurses receiving the pay, benefits, retirement and safety and security that we need. To be clear, we are not just fighting for these things for some parts of the state, but for all of us. For instance, upstate and public-sector nurses make $14,000 less than other colleagues. This gap must be closed.
You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again; there is so much on the line. In a few months, over 30,000 nurses will go to 32 tables across the state and bargain to improve working conditions, staffing levels, and compensation. We have been preparing for this moment since 2021. Since last fall, we have held statewide bargaining conferences and other meetings to discuss best practices, develop campaign plans and develop strategies for reaching our members. We did not want nurses from different regions and employers to go into negotiations not understanding what was at stake. Nor did we want our colleagues to underappreciate the power that comes from being united. It is this power we are harnessing now.
A Formidable Challenge
Many of you know that we are up against a well-organized machine. Hospital management has been planning just like us. They have been spending big bucks buying ads, celebrities, and of course, politicians. They are spending their money now in hopes they won’t have to surrender it later. But we will not be denied or deterred.
We are clear that hospital executives make millions, all while seeking to give healthcare workers three percent increases, which does little in this economy. Employers cannot use COVID-19 as an excuse not to hire nurses. There is no shortage, but rather a failure on the part of hospital management to attract and retain nurses. When you see nurses leaving the profession that they love, it’s because they are tired of not being acknowledged for the critical role they play. Time is up and in this moment, the hospital owes answers and respect.
To position us for long-term success, we will pursue a strategic affiliation with the National Nurses United, the largest union of nurses in the country. NNU and NYSNA have a common history of fighting for the same issues in different areas. They have supported nurses and nursing on a national level for years, just like we have done in New York. They have resources and influence that mirror ours, except nationally. This affiliation will give us an advantage in upcoming work. Hospital owners have crossed state borders, and some are even international. We must be able to fight them on the same level and that means bringing our battle nationally, with NNU as our national affiliate.
As a Board we met and debated this issue and will continue engaging you throughout the process. With this affiliation, we will be the second largest union in NNU, which means we will be in a position to influence a national agenda. Our structure and leadership will not change in New York. Our Board voted unanimously to present affiliation for a yes vote at convention and we will continue to be in touch with you leading up to and after the convention.
We will run town halls both virtually and, in your facility, to talk to everyone, but I wanted to put this on your radar.
Not Business as Usual
I will not mince words. We are facing a challenge like no other. This will not be business as usual because what we face is unusual. We must be organized. We must be committed. And we must be positioned with the resources, insights, and relationships to win. These hospitals are too rich, too greedy, and too soulless to do the right thing. But the Board and I are not willing to settle a single contract that doesn’t meet the needs of nurses. We look forward to being on this journey with you.
We have many fights ahead, and we will take them on with determination and resolve.