Nurses in New York City Launch Strike at Two Major Hospitals
After nearly three years of stalled negotiations over staffing levels and salaries, thousands of nurses at two of New York City’s major hospitals went on strike on Monday. Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan saw nurses picketing outside, demanding better working conditions and wages, while singing the chorus from Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
The union that represents these nurses, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), said the strike was necessary due to chronic understaffing that leaves nurses caring for too many patients at once. Said nurse practitioner Juliet Escalon, “I sometimes skip bathroom breaks to attend to patients.” Ashleigh Woodside, an 8-year veteran of the profession, added that her 12-hour operating-room shifts often stretch to 14 due to a shortage of nurses.
In order to cope with the strike, the hospitals had to postpone nonemergency surgeries, divert ambulances to other medical centers, and assign administrators with a nursing background to work in wards. The hospitals offered pay raises totaling 19% over the next three years, which were accepted in the tentative agreements of several other facilities, and the administration of Montefiore said it agreed to add 170 more nurses.
The NYSNA, however, refused to accept either proposal, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul urged both parties to take their dispute to binding arbitration. On Monday, both hospitals said that they had readied for the strike and were working to minimize the disruption.
This strike comes as New York is still recovering from its role as a global epicenter of COVID-19 deaths in spring 2020, when the city’s nurses were considered heroes. While the union’s negotiations are a necessary step to ensure their continued strength and safety, that same heroic spirit on which they rely also pushes them forward to finally accept a fair agreement.