About 12,000 New York nurses are ready to go on strike

Nurses at several New York hospitals say they will walk out Jan. 9 if they can’t get a new contract.

About 12,000 nurses at several New York hospitals say they are prepared to go on strike in less than a week, unless they can get a better contract.

Nurses with the New York State Nurses Association overwhelmingly authorized a strike in late December. The nurses at seven New York hospitals delivered strike notices to their hospitals on Dec. 30 and are planning to walk out on Jan. 9. Nurses are required to give 10 days notice before going on strike in New York.

The nurses said negotiations are continuing and they are hoping to avoid a strike.

Nancy Hagans, a registered nurse at Maimonides Medical Center and president of the New York State Nurses Association, said months of negotiations have been unsuccessful.

“Our bosses have given us no other option than to exercise our right to strike," Hagans said in a news conference Wednesday morning.

Without a new agreement, nurses plan to walk out at these seven hospitals: BronxCare Health System, Flushing Hospital Medical Center, Maimonides Medical Center, Montefiore Bronx, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, and Richmond University Medical Center.

Nurses are seeking fair wages, better staffing and improved benefits, the union says. During the news conference, Hagans indicated the issue of bolstering the nurse-patient stafing ratios remains perhaps the most difficult obstacle in reaching an agreement.

Nurses have battled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including the early weeks when New York City was ground zero for the virus, and some are still struggling with Long COVID, Hagan said. Many have battled post-traumatic stress disorder, and some have lost their lives to mental health struggles, she said.

"Nurses have been through hell," Hagans said, adding, "Nurses feel abandoned and disrespected by their bosses."

Nearly 4,000 nurses with the New York State Nurses Association reached a tentative deal with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital on Dec. 31, the day their contract was set to expire. The deal is still subject to approval from the nurses.

“We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with NYSNA that reflects our commitment to our remarkable nurses,” NewYork-Presbyterian said in a statement. “With this agreement, which is still subject to ratification by the nurses, we are making a significant investment in our outstanding nursing team and ensuring that we can continue to deliver the highest level of care to our patients.”

If the nurses at the other New York hospitals follow through on their plans, it would be one of the largest nursing strikes in this country.

The Minnesota Nurses Association led the largest nursing strike in U.S. history in September, when 15,000 nurses engaged in a three-day strike.

The nurses were set to begin a second strike last month, but the union and health systems reached an agreement on a new contract and the planned walkout was averted. In the three-year deal, the Minnesota nurses received raises of 17%-18% and greater say in staffing.

More than 21,000 nurses and nurse practitioners in northern California threatened to hold a two-day strike in November, but they scrapped the planned walkout when they reached a deal with 21 Kaiser Permanente facilities. The nurses ratified a contract in December. The four-year pact included raises of 22.5%, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Nurses across the country have increasingly voiced their dissatisfaction with hospitals and health systems. Some nurses have said they don’t feel valued by their employers. Some nurses have left hospitals due to the stresses of the pandemic exacerbating their unhappiness with their employers.

While nurses are seeking better compensation, they say they are also seeking better working conditions and say they’re frustrated with staffing shortages that prevent them from caring for patients properly.

Hospitals said they are struggling to cope with the nursing shortage, and health system leaders have said the lack of staffing has led them to reduce some services.

Health system leaders have pointed to higher labor costs. Labor expenses at American hospitals and health systems rose 37% per patient between 2019 and March 2022, according to a report from Kaufman Hall, a healthcare consulting firm.

Industry analysts have said healthcare leaders should expect to plan for higher labor costs in the future.