Members of the New York State Nurses Association have announced a 24-hour strike for Dec. 1 if the hospital does not agree to an acceptable contract by then. Nurses complain that they are not given sufficient PPE and are forced to reuse N95 masks up to 20 times, despite the hospital claiming to have more than a 90-day supply. The NY Department of Health recommends that masks not be reused unless the hospital lacks enough to last 90 days.
Nurses and their allies rallied Saturday morning in front of the hospital and held a press conference outlining the dangerous practices at Albany Med. Nurses reported patients being moved between floors without proper COVID testing, risking infection to nurses and patients alike. Other complaints include a gown shortage, under-staffing, reprimanding nurses for taking fresh masks, and the hospital administration’s unwillingness to engage with the union’s demands. With the administration calling the union’s proposed contract “dead on arrival” and now refusing to meet with the nurses to bargain, everyone present at the rally expected the strike to go ahead.
“Two and a half years ago before we had a union here, one of my managers told me to ‘be careful what you wish for’ when they saw me and a coworker wearing red,” RN Lindsay told Liberation News.
Lindsay went on to explain that N95 masks are being sterilized and then put back into circulation rather than being given to the same nurse who used it previously. “Some of the masks when they come back you can see makeup in them. I have an allergy to a lot of makeup, so if I had to use a mask like that I could have an allergic reaction.”
Lindsay also explained that her manager wouldn’t let her switch shifts so she could be with her family: “On the anti-union Facebook page nurses are switching their shifts to work Tuesday (the strike date). Managers are letting them switch their shifts as long as they’re not in the union.”
Albany Med is not a “closed shop” and many nurses there are not union, although the vote for a union passed by a two-to-one margin in 2018, according to Doug Bullock of the Albany County Central Federation of Labor. After the rally, nurses broke into teams of two to go inside the hospital and convince their coworkers to support the strike should it go forward.
Party for Socialist and Liberation Albany will continue to support the nurses at Albany Med in their struggle as well as covering it here at Liberation News. Solidarity Forever!
Photo: Liberation News