Negotiations resume with New York City nurses union as thousands go on strike

Craig Ruttle/AP Photo

NEW YORK — Negotiations restarted Monday afternoon between the New York Nurses Association and Montefiore Medical Center several hours after more than 7,000 of the union’s nurses kicked off a strike at three Montefiore hospital campuses and the Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

A Mount Sinai spokesperson, meanwhile, said hospital management has not returned to the bargaining table since union negotiators walked out on them about 1 a.m. Monday. The strike left critical services in peril and led nurses to hit the streets to protest what they said have been years of low pay and neglect, which are issues that have been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The nurses are heartbroken to have to be out here today on the street," Pat Kane, the union's executive director, said during a press conference outside Mount Sinai.

How long the strike will last is uncertain. Montefiore’s most recent offer to the union included a 19.1 percent compounded raise over the contract’s three-year term and the addition of 115 emergency department nurses, 11 labor and delivery nurses and 23 nurse practitioners, who have advanced nursing degrees and a broader scope of responsibilities than registered nurses.

But Nancy Hagans, the union's president, said it continues to demand improved nurse-to-patient ratios and had not been swayed by the offer of additional nurses because Montefiore already has some 700 nursing vacancies.

In an emailed letter to Montefiore staff Monday, president and CEO Philip Ozuah said he had directed the hospital’s negotiating team to continue to engage with the union.

“Despite a very generous offer from Montefiore — an offer that exceeded the terms already agreed to at the wealthiest of our peer institutions — NYSNA’s leadership decided to walk away from the bedsides of our patients,” Ozuah wrote. “In my opinion, this action was totally unnecessary, especially given how close we already were to a final agreement.”

The strike’s start Monday morning capped off months of negotiations between nurses and 12 private hospitals across New York City to secure the union’s first new contracts since before the pandemic. The hospitals’ contracts with the union expired at the end of 2022.

The union has reached contract agreements at seven of the hospitals and is still bargaining at three others. Nurses at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, one of the three, plan to strike starting Jan. 17 if they do not agree on a contract before then.

The New York City Office of Emergency Management opened an interagency situation room Monday to monitor hospital operations and handle any hospitals' requests that ambulances be diverted away from their emergency rooms.

A spokesperson for the Fire Department said supervisory units of emergency medical workers in the Bronx and Manhattan are carrying additional supplies so they can restock ambulances in the field, increasing ambulance availability for calls.