For Immediate Release
Contact: Robin Wood, 518.782.9400, ext 223
NEW YORK CITY, May 11, 2011 – Registered Nurses from at least 15 hospitals and healthcare facilities represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) will hold rallies today to oppose cuts to the NYSNA Benefits Plan. Overall, there will be approximately 20 informational pickets today. At various rallies around the city, nurses are protesting possible cuts to their healthcare benefits, raising visibility about staffing and other nursing issues, and defending the right of public sector workers to organize and be represented for collective bargaining.
The majority of the rallies will be focused on preserving health care benefits for nurses covered under the NYSNA Benefits Fund. Despite the fact that the NYSNA Benefits Fund is not financially stressed, the plan’s employer trustees are trying to take advantage of the economic and political climate to aggressively demand reductions in nurses' health care benefits.
“With the current emphasis on cost-cutting, I’m sure the NYSNA Benefits Fund looks like a good target, but we want to remind the employer trustees that nursing is a physically demanding profession. Nurses need quality health care coverage to keep them healthy and caring for their patients,” said Nurses Association CEO Tina Gerardi, MS, RN, CAE.
The NYSNA Benefits Fund provides healthcare coverage for more than 14,000 Nurses Association members in 38 bargaining units. Hundreds of nurses will rally at their workplaces, joined by colleagues and supporters from around the city.
Health care coverage is a crucial benefit for nurses because of the many risk factors associated with the profession. Nurses regularly suffer from neck, back and knee injuries and are exposed to contagious diseases and the threat of violence.
The NYSNA Benefits Fund is governed by equal numbers of association and employer trustees, who have been negotiating over the plan’s level of benefits. After mediated negotiations failed, the matter is now in arbitration.
A number of association local bargaining units not included in the benefits fund will also rally May 11, in solidarity, and to draw attention to union, professional and contractual issues, including the need for safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and defending union rights for public sector workers.
The campaign to preserve the nurses’ health care benefits also includes radio and Internet advertising encouraging association members and the public to put pressure on the employer trustees to raise the visibility of the issue and generate support for maintaining a quality health benefits plan for the nurses.
“Quality health care should be everyone’s right,” Gerardi said. “We want people to understand that the employer trustees and the hospital management they represent are advocating for a decrease in health care benefits, which could lead to fewer nurses working at a time when we already have a nursing shortage. Healthy nurses help support healthy communities.”
The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 37,000 members, it is New York’s largest professional association and union for registered nurses. The association represents registered nurses, and some all-professional bargaining units, in New York and New Jersey. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy, and collective bargaining.