New York Nurses Strike for Better Staffing

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More than 7,000 New York City nurses went on strike Monday after their union failed to secure contracts demanding increased staffing levels with Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Health System.

The nurses, who are members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), joined the picket line at 7 a.m. Monday, following the union’s failed negotiations with hospital administrators early that morning. The nurses are bargaining their first new 3-year contracts since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NYSNA provided a 10-day strike notice to the employers at the end of last month, in which more than 16,000 nurses planned to walk out. Since then, the union has reached agreements with Richmond University Medical Center, Flushing Hospital Medical Center, BronxCare Health System, Maimonides Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian, and two other Mount Sinai locations.

Nurses plan to picket at Mount Sinai Hospital, as well as the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and the Weiler, Moses and Westchester Square campuses, until a deal is reached.

On Sunday night, New York state Governor Kathy Hochul called for binding arbitration in an attempt to avert the strike. But while both hospitals agreed to arbitration, the NYSNA did not.

The union said in a Sunday statement that Hochul “should listen to frontline COVID nurse heroes and respect our federally-protected labor and collective bargaining rights.”

“Nurses don’t want to strike,” NYSNA stated. “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.”

In preparation for the strike, Mount Sinai and Montefiore made plans to postpone elective surgeries. Additionally, a few days before the strike, Mount Sinai diverted ambulances to other locations and transferred babies in the neonatal intensive care unit to neighboring facilities.

But NYSNA urged patients not to delay seeking care because of the walk out. “We appreciate solidarity from our patients — but going into the hospital to get the care you need is NOT crossing our strike line,” the union said in a Monday morning statement.

Calling the union’s decision to reject the governor’s proposal for arbitration “reckless behavior,” Lucia Lee, a spokesperson from Mount Sinai, said that NYSNA leadership “refused to accept the exact same 19.1% increased wage offer agreed to by eight other hospitals, including two other Mount Sinai Health System campuses.”

A spokesperson from Montefiore, who offered the same salary increase as well as 170 new nursing positions, called it “a sad day for New York City.”

The nurses say they’re not striking over pay — rather, they joined the picket line to fight for increased staffing in their hospitals.

“Our primary concern is staffing,” NYSNA President Nancy Hagans said in a press conference at Mount Sinai Hospital on Monday. “There are many other agreements, but our top priority is our patients. We want them to be safe.”

“NYSNA has yet to adequately explain to us across the table why a staffing package at Mount Sinai Hospital should differ from that agreed to by their colleagues at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai Morningside,” Lee, from Mount Sinai, said in a statement.

The strike in New York City is one of many nurse labor movements that has occurred since the COVID pandemic. Last fall, 15,000 nurses in Minnesota participated in a three-day strike over staffing issues. And 21,000 nurses from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California planned a strike in November that was averted when the hospital reached a deal with union representatives that included wage increases.

  • Amanda D’Ambrosio is a reporter on MedPage Today’s enterprise & investigative team. She covers obstetrics-gynecology and other clinical news, and writes features about the U.S. healthcare system. Follow

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