Nursing Strikes On the Horizon


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs

Nursing strikes are looming on both coasts — over 6,000 registered nurses are ready to strike in New York, and 23,000 nurses are set to stage a 24-hour strike on December 22nd in California.

And that’s not all — there are potential strikes in New Jersey and Minnesota, too, according the website of a strike replacement agency called HealthSource Global Staffing.

The New York Times has a front-page article examining these various strikes — imminent and merely possible. A common theme is that nurses feel that it’s unfair that when the hospitals have cuts in Medicaid and Medicare, the sacrifices are disproportionately made by the patients and those who care for them, while executives still get the big bucks.

“Nobody wants a strike,” said Bruce McIver, president of the League of Voluntary Hospitals, who is negotiating for Mount Sinai and Montefiore, where nurses’ contracts expired last December.

Negotiations grew harder, both sides say, after management trustees of the union’s benefit fund won an arbitration decision in June requiring nurses to pay $25 to $400 a month toward premiums previously covered entirely by their employers.

Reduced coverage took effect Sept. 1 at two hospitals, and some nurses found they had to pay hundreds of dollars more for medication. For union leaders, elected this year on pledges of more forceful representation, modifying the changes in health benefits became a key goal, despite the arbitrator’s decision.

“They’re making demands at the bargaining table that are out of line with what others have been able to get,” Mr. McIver said. “Up and down the line, all health care workers have been asked to make sacrifices.”

Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, a nurse and union leader at Montefiore, said the strike vote was driven by more than new fees. “As professionals we don’t feel respected,” she said. “This corporate model is being shoved down our throat.”

She said the hospital had hired costly consultants who handed nurses scripts to recite to patients in a bid to improve customer satisfaction scores, even as the nurses were left short-handed with more acutely ill patients, straining the staffing guidelines — one nurse to seven patients — they had negotiated a decade ago.

Jesse Derris, a spokesman for Montefiore, said that the hospital routinely hired experts to help employees at every level improve patient care, that its staffing exceeded national guidelines, and that it would continue to “do the best we can for a hospital that relies on Medicaid and Medicare for 80 percent of its funding.”

At Mount Sinai, nurses’ base salaries go from $75,000 to $95,000 after 20 years, and average close to $100,000 with overtime and advanced degrees. Jacklynn Price, president of the bargaining unit, said a management negotiator was dismissive of their resistance to reduced health coverage, saying: “We have the money. We just don’t have the will to give it to you.”