Photo: Nurses picketing outside Montefiore in the Bronx. Credit: NYSNA
New York City nurses, who spent months at the negotiating table fighting for better conditions for their patients and colleagues, finally reached tentative agreements earlier this month. After their contract expired, over 7,000 nurses at Mount Sinai and Montefiore in the Bronx went on strike for safe staffing and better patient care. Nurses demanded safe staffing ratios to ensure an adequate number of nurses were available to provide the necessary care to patients.
The nurses spent three days on the picket line, where they were shown tremendous support and demonstrations of solidarity. PSL members offered their enthusiastic support to striking nurses at both Bronx hospitals. After the third day on the picket lines, tentative agreements were reached at both hospitals.
Nurses at Mount Sinai reached an agreement that not only provides safe staffing ratios for all inpatient units, it also includes enforcement measures to ensure enough nurses will be available bedside to provide safe care to patients. This move punctuates a decades-long struggle by nurses at hospitals that have previously refused to consider staffing ratios.
Montefiore nurses returned to work with new safe staffing ratios for their Emergency Department. Their agreement secures new staffing language as well as financial penalties if safe staffing levels are not in compliance across all units. Additionally, nurses won community health improvements along with nurse-student partnerships to recruit Bronx nurses to remain as union nurses at the hospital long term.
Despite the outpouring of support from the community and even elected officials, executives from Montefiore attempted to sour public opinion on the strike by branding the action as a “sad day” for the city. Their tactics were ultimately fruitless as the energy behind the nurses from the community remained electric. The people have seen that when they fight together, they win. This sentiment was prominent in a press release by New York State Nurses Association President Nancy Hagans:
“…Through our unity and by putting it all on the line, we won enforceable safe staffing ratios at both Montefiore and Mount Sinai where nurses went on strike for patient care. Today, we can return to work with our heads held high, knowing that our victory means safer care for our patients and more sustainable jobs for our profession.”