More than 7,000 Nurses Strike at Mount Sinai, Montefiore, in New York

Jan. 10, 2023
More than 7,000 nurses went on strike at Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City, on Monday, as talks with management stalled

Nurses went on strike at two of the major hospitals in New York City on Monday, Jan. 9, as talks with hospital management appeared to break down. The strikes were initiated at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, strikes involving several thousand nurses.

The New York Times’s Sharon Otterman wrote on Monday evening that “Hundreds of striking nurses and their supporters lined both sides of Madison Avenue in front of Mount Sinai Hospital on Monday, waving signs, blowing horns and calling for a labor contract that will require more nurses at the bedside for patients. The nurses, members of the New York State Nurses Association, went on strike at 6 a.m. Monday after talks with Mount Sinai management broke down in the early morning hours. Nurses also went out on strike at the three campuses of the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx over similar issues of pay and staffing. Nurses at eight other city hospitals were able to reach tentative contract deals and did not strike. Monday’s labor action, involving more than 7,000 nurses, represented the largest nursing strike in decades in New York City, and comes as nurses are increasingly turning toward walk outs as a labor strategy, both nationally and abroad. Nurses, who both saw how valued they were during the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and who struggled with exhaustion and burnout, said they were standing their ground to improve conditions both for themselves and their patients,” she wrote. And she quoted nurse Lorena Vivas as stating that “We are not out here for wages, we are out here because we want patient safety,” said Lorena Vivas, who has been a nurse for 19 years. And, Otterman wrote, “Ms. Vivas said she was often caring for three or four patients at a time in intensive care instead of the one or two she is supposed to. ‘This has been going on even before the pandemic,’ she added, ‘and the pandemic just blew the whole thing open.’”

And, in a staff-written article, Reuters reported that “’Enough is enough, Sinai,’ New York State Nurses Association President Nancy Hagan said outside of Mount Sinai on Monday surrounded by red-clad nurses. ‘What we are asking for is for safe staffing and quality care for patients. We don't think we are asking for too much.’”

Both hospitals made public statements on Monday.

 Mount Sinai management posted this statement to its website:

“The New York State Nurses Association, a labor union representing nurses at The Mount Sinai Hospital, has begun a strike against the hospital after walking out of negotiations overnight on Monday, January 9. The union refused to accept the exact same offer of a 19.1-percent wage increase over three years that it agreed to at eight other hospitals, including Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West, and disregarded Governor Hochul’s proposal for binding arbitation to avoid a strike. If you or a loved one is a Mount Sinai patient, we will contact you directly by text, email, and/or phone if we need to reschedule your appointment or procedure. Please know that most outpatient appointments and procedures are going forward, so assume your scheduled appointment is still on unless you hear from your provider about a change in your care. Our patients are our top priority, now and always. If you have questions on our negotiations with NYSNA, please visit SupportingOurNurses.com for more information. As we have said consistently through this process, we greatly value our nurses and hope we can soon resume moving forward together to keep providing safe, compassionate and equitable care to the communities we serve.”

And Montefiore management posted this statement to its website:

Despite Montefiore’s offer of a 19.1-percent compounded wage increase – the same offer agreed to at the wealthiest of our peer institutions - and a commitment to create over 170 new nursing positions, and despite a call from Governor Hochul for arbitration, NYSNA’s leadership has decided to walk away from the bedsides of their patients. Therefore, at 6AM, NYSNA nurses will be on strike and off the job. We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognizing that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community. This is a sad day for New York City.

The New York Times’s Otterman further wrote in her report that “At Mount Sinai, union leaders said, emergency room nurses can care for as many as 18 patients at a time. At Montefiore, patients are kept in hallways so often that management has installed televisions there, the union said. They said nurses will return only if the hospital agrees to improving working conditions. Hospital management says it is doing what it can given a national nursing shortage.” And she quoted Lucia Lee, a Mount Sinai spokesperson, as saying that “The challenges of hiring and growing a talented health care work force can’t be overstated and were exacerbated by the pandemic,” in explaining the hundreds of nursing vacancies in the organization. Lee told Otterman that the hospital had implemented “unprecedented recruitment strategies” in recent years.

And, Otterman reported, “As it became clear this week that a strike was likely, Mount Sinai and Montefiore rushed to bring in temporary staff to continue operations, even pressing doctors into service to fill nursing gaps. In a statement on Monday, Montefiore Medical Center said the union’s leadership had ‘decided to walk away from the bedsides of their patients,’ despite management’s offer of a 19.1 percent compounded wage increase and its offer to create more than 170 new nursing positions.”

Late Monday evening, CBS News New York’s Ali Bauman updated a report she had written in the afternoon, reporting that “CBS2 learned Monday night Montefiore Medical Center was back at the table, but talks stalled Mount Sinai Hospital, which means Tuesday may bring a second day on the picket line. The sounds of pots and pans clanking were once a thank you to health care workers. Two years later, it's the sound of nurses on strike. ‘This is a show of nurse power throughout the entire city,’ Mount Sinai nurse Sarah Dowd said. Both hospitals have offered a 19-percent pay raise over three years, but the New York State Nurses Association maintains its priority is staffing. ‘You have 500 vacancies. You gotta hire them. It's not like a promise you can make at the bargaining table. You just need to hire them,’” Mount Sinai nurse Matt Allen told Bauman.

This is a developing story; Healthcare Innovation will provide updates as new developments emerge.

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