New York nurses end strike after three days

Nurses walked out at Montefiore Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital Monday. The nurses said they achieved their goals of securing better staffing levels and wages, and the hospitals said they are pleased with the agreements.

After three days on strike, more than 7,000 New York City nurses have ended their walkout.

The New York State Nurses Association, the union representing the nurses, reached tentative deals with Montefiore Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital. The association and the two health systems announced the agreements early Thursday morning, and the nurses returned to work. The hospitals said they were pleased with the deals.

Nancy Hagans, a registered nurse at Maimonides Medical Center and president of the New York State Nurses Association, said the nurses obtained what they were seeking. Nurses will being voting to ratify the agreements next week and union leaders are asking the nurses to approve the contract offers, she said in a news briefing Thursday.

“NYSNA nurses are exhausted, we are excited, and we are victorious.," Hagans said Thursday.

“This historic contract delivers respect for our nurses and patients," Hagans said.

Nurses at both systems would get raises of 19.2% over the three years of the agreement, Hagans said.

The contracts include provisions to improve staffing ratios at the hospitals, as well as enforcement mechanisms to ensure those levels are maintained, she said. Hagans repeatedly characterized the staffing levels as the key to the new contract.

Mount Sinai Health System said the organization welcomed the agreement ending the strike.

"We are pleased that The Mount Sinai Hospital reached a tentative agreement with NYSNA, and the strike is over," Mount Sinai said. "Our proposed agreement is similar to those between NYSNA and eight other New York City hospitals. It is fair and responsible, and it puts patients first."

Montefiore Medical Center also hailed the new agreement.

“We came to these bargaining sessions with great respect for our nurses and with proposals that reflect their priorities in terms of wages, benefits, safety, and staffing,” Philip O. Ozuah, president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine, said in a statement.

“We are pleased to offer a 19% wage increase, benefits that match or exceed those of our peer institutions, more than 170 new nursing positions and a generous plan to address recruitment and retention," he said.

Montefiore said the agreement will maintain fully funded healthcare for eligible nurses and lifetime health coverage for eligible retired nurses. The system said the agreement would add more nurses to emergency departments.

Nurses at Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospital walked out Monday morning. Thousands of nurses were on picket lines for three days. They were joined by members of other labor groups and lawmakers showing solidarity in the contract dispute. The nurses had not set an end date for the strike.

The union said the agreement meets their demands for better staffing, which they said had been the biggest hurdle in the dispute. Nurses also sought higher wages to recruit and retain nurses.

"When you become a patient in a New York hospital, you should have enough nurses to care for you," Hagans said.

The hospitals said they has offered wage increases comparable to other New York hospitals that have reached agreements with the union in recent days.

Staff members and patients said conditions at Montefiore and Mount Sinai were difficult this week, with workers and temporary staff scrambling to provide the best care possible, The New York Times reported Wednesday. One patient discharged from Montefiore said, “It’s very chaotic,” according to The Times.

Nurses went on strike at these Montefiore locations: Moses Hospital, Weiler Hospital, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Westchester Square and ambulatory care locations. Montefiore said it had rescheduled all elective surgeries and procedures, as well as some appointments at ambulatory locations.

Nurses were striking at Mount Sinai Hospital for three days, but they had reached agreements at other Mount Sinai facilities before walking out. On Tuesday, more than 70% of NYSNA nurses at Mount Sinai Morningside and West approved a new contract, the association said.

During the strike, Mount Sinai Hospital postponed elective surgeries and procedures, transferred some patients, and diverted some ambulances due to the strike. David Reich, president of Mount Sinai Hospital, said the hospital was performing emergency procedures during the strike.

This week, Mount Sinai said it had proposed a wage increase of 19.1% over a three-year pact, similar to agreements the union made with other hospitals, including Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West.

The American Nurses Association, an advocacy group representing 4.4 million registered nurses, issued a statement in support of the New York nurses speaking out to improve patient safety and working conditions.

“The situation in New York reflects experiences that predate COVID-19 and that many nurses share across the country,” Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, president of the American Nurses Association, said in the statement. “When a strike of this scale occurs, it is typically indicative of a systemic breakdown to provide safe staffing levels, protect nurses from workplace violence, support nurses’ mental health and well-being, and resolve other work environment challenges."

In late December, nearly 17,000 nurses with the New York State Nurses Association authorized a strike, but nurses reached agreements with most of the health systems before walking out.

Nurses previously reached tentative agreements or new contracts with several New York City hospitals, including BronxCare Health System, Flushing Hospital Medical Center, Maimonides Medical Center, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, NewYork-Presbyterian, Richmond University Medical Center, and The Brooklyn Hospital Center.

The New York State Nurses Association said contracts with other hospitals have included raises of around 18% or 19% over the three years of the pacts. The union has also said other hospitals have agreed to their provisions to improve staffing levels.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a statement Sunday urging binding arbitration to resolve the dispute. Mount Sinai thanked Hochul and her staff for their help with the negotiations. Hochul showed up to congratulate nurses Thursday morning.

"I’m proud this agreement delivers good wages & benefits to our frontline heroes & ensures patients will receive top-notch care," she posted on Twitter.

The New York State Nurses Association said it represents about 3,600 nurses at Mount Sinai, and about 3,500 nurses at Montefiore.