Thousands of NYC nurses are on strike: Here’s why


By Sam Becker

Roughly 7,000 nurses in New York City have hit the picket lines, demanding better working conditions, staffing policies, and higher salaries. 

Nurses want higher pay increases to counter the past year’s inflation, and are asking hospitals to hire more nurses and healthcare workers to shore up ranks that have thinned over the past three years, largely due to the pandemic. “Nurses don’t want to strike,” the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), which represents more than 42,000 nurses in the state, said in a statement Sunday night. “Bosses have pushed us to strike by refusing to seriously consider our proposals to address the desperate crisis of unsafe staffing that harms our patients.”

The strike, which started early Monday, puts health centers and hospitals in a bind, as they’re forced to combat a lack of staff by cutting services and sending patients to other facilities. It results from a failure to reach an agreement between the NYSNA and two New York City hospitals: Mount Sinai on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. The two sides negotiated over the weekend but could not come to terms, even after reaching a tentative agreement that ultimately fell apart. New York Governor Kathy Hochul, in an effort to divert the strike, suggested that the two enter a binding arbitration deal, which the NYSNA did not agree to.

Thousands of NYC nurses are on strike: Here’s why

According to CNN, the tentative agreement, which did not last, included a 19% wage increase for nurses at Montefiore, which has 760 nursing vacancies. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, as nursing staff walked off the job Monday morning. The strike will cause disruptions and delays at the two hospitals, as designed. Some surgical procedures are being rescheduled, ambulances are being rerouted to other hospitals, and some patients may be transferred to other facilities as a result, Gothamist reports

Despite the disruptions wrought by the strike, the nurses have the backing of other unions and public officials.

“These nurses are dedicated professionals who provide quality patient care under unimaginable conditions including short staffing, which were only exacerbated by the pandemic. The hospital’s treatment of these nurses is proof that all their words of adulation for their healthcare heroes during the pandemic were hollow,” said Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, in a statement.

Likewise, Jamaal Bowman, a U.S. Congressman who represents parts of New York City, including the Bronx, said that “nurses have been through hell and back for their patients,” and that they “shouldn’t have to keep fighting. “Safe staffing ratios and healthy conditions [should be] common in every hospital. I stand with NYSNA nurses as they fight for fair workplace conditions,” he said.

Though on strike, nurses do have a message for New Yorkers in need of medical care: Come to the hospital if you’re sick or injured. “We appreciate solidarity from our patients—but going into the hospital to get the care you need is not crossing our strike line,” the NYSNA said. “Please do not delay getting medical care, regardless of whether we are on strike. Patients should seek hospital care immediately if they need it.” 

Fast Company