Nurses at New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital rallied Nov. 23 for a wage contract nearly three years after they joined the New York State Nurses Association.
Although the nurses voted to join the union in December 2018, the hospital has failed, according to the union, to offer fair terms since then. The nurses advocated for higher wages and benefits, as well as for staffing shortages to be addressed.
'We've Had Enough'
“We’ve been going through negotiations for almost three years and we’ve had enough,” said Registered Nurse Renee Mauro, who has worked at the hospital for more than 25 years. “Short-staffing is a problem in this hospital, and we’re going to keep fighting until we have safe-staffing for our patients.”
The coalition said that nurses in intensive-care units were often given four patients, instead of the recommended standard of no more than two. The night shift is particularly understaffed, particularly in the labor and delivery unit: typically, there are two nurses working overnight instead of five, the union said.
“We’re losing too many good nurses because our wages and benefits are well below standard. This makes our staffing shortage even worse,” said Lorraine Fontana, who has been a nurse at Hudson Valley Hospital for 37 years. “We deserve a reasonable wage and benefits package to attract and retain nurses, we deserve to be treated fairly, and we deserve a contract that protects our patients and our profession.”
The nurses added that the hospital has repeatedly penalized them for unionizing—they claimed that since they joined NYSNA, they have not received annual raises while non-union staff had.
Will Seek Back Pay
“The nurses have endured insult after insult, including denied wages, raises that they earn every single year,” said NYSNA Area Director Rachel Feldman. “In the past, the National Labor Relations Board had to rule against the hospital in order to force them to pay back wages. And we are in that position yet again this year.”
Several legislators and labor leaders, including District Leader Michelle Keller and Tom Carey, president of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body, came out to support the nurses.
Nicola Demarco, a Democratic district leader in Peekskill, urged New York-Presbyterian to come to the bargaining table.
“Don’t use the word[s] ‘New York Presbyertian’ and not give the same contract as the city people have,” he said. “You can’t benefit from the name and the brand, and then I come here and I get a nurse that’s not being respected.”
The rally was the second of five events NYSNA planned to highlight staffing shortages at hospitals across the state. Mount Sinai South Nassau closed its Long Beach emergency department Nov. 22 because of a shortage of nurses after it implemented a vaccine mandate.
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