NEW YORK NURSE: May 2009
by Mark Genovese
The association gained 110 new members this spring, winning organizing elections at facilities in Kingston, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
Nistel, Inc. is a for-profit “leasing” company, employing 50 RNs who work at Benedictine and Kingston hospitals and Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center. It was created in a rush by Benedictine and Kingston administrators shortly after the Benedictine RNs filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board in June 2008.
NYSNA won the Sept. election at Benedictine, but management’s tactic became clear when all surgical services nurses’ ballots were challenged.
“Out of the blue, we’re told that we no longer work for Benedictine, but for this new company we hadn’t heard about before,” said Nistel RN Connie Griffen. “We thought this showed absolutely no respect for us. So we decided to organize again, this time as Nistel, Inc. nurses.”
Across town, surgical services nurses at Kingston were also feeling disrespected and voiceless.
“We were given the additional responsibility of learning to work in any one of the three facilities as the need arises,” said Nistel RN Diane Nuss. “This involves learning policies, procedures and different equipment at each one. Nurses are the backbone of healthcare, yet we have the smallest voices. We felt it was time for that to change.”
The Benedictine surgical nurses removed themselves from the bargaining unit and joined with the Kingston nurses in February in filing for an election.
This time, management couldn’t play the same tricks. Because it had argued during the Benedictine unit clarification that Nistel is a single employer of the surgical nurses, it was unable to make any valid arguments to stall the election. The nurses won handily.
Meanwhile, the 20 midwives and nurse practitioners employed by Long Island College Hospital (LICH) held their vote to join the association on April 7. The facility’s other 450 RNs at LICH have been represented by NYSNA since 1984. The midwife and nurse practitioner positions were not a part of the original bargaining unit because they had been added since then. But over the years, the midwives and nurse practitioners had expressed a strong desire to become members of NYSNA.
“I’m passionate about education, children, and providing affordable health care,” said Rhonda James-Rodney, a site coordinator for LICH’s school-based health clinics. “NYSNA has expertise in issues that affect our practice as registered nurses and has a better understanding of the specific problems we encounter on a daily basis in our practice.”
“Because there are only four of us in school health, we don’t have much leverage with which to negotiate our salaries,” said Abby Wolfson, a pediatric nurse practitioner who works in LICH’s school-based health program. “I believe that if all the NPs and midwives band together to negotiate through NYSNA, we could have a lot more power to negotiate for fairer salaries, and recognition of years of experience, certification, and education.”
Forty RN midwives employed by the New York Medical Alliance at Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital voted to join NYSNA on April 21. This is the first bargaining unit comprised exclusively of midwives in NYSNA’s history.
“I voted yes to preserve the future of our unique and long-standing midwifery service dedicated to caring for the women of the Bronx,” said Maria Freytsis, a midwife at North Central Bronx.
“I’m looking for job security during these difficult economic times, and that’s why I voted yes,” said Susan Tanke, a Jacobi midwife. Within NYSNA, the midwives are looking for pay parity with other New York City midwives, job security and a voice in their workplace. “We need to band together to provide a united front for our voices to be heard,” added Marylyne Charles, a midwife at Jacobi.
NYSNA already represents 838 professional registered nurses at Jacobi Medical Center, 335 at North Central Bronx Hospital, and more than 8,000 RNs in the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.