NEW YORK NURSE: September 2010
by Mark Genovese
NYSNA’s slogan: “Whatever it takes for as long as it takes,” means that members will fight for a fair contract, no matter what the obstacles. In Nyack, there were a lot of obstacles – and there is still work to be done – but NYSNA and the Nyack nurses successfully negotiated and ratified a three-year contract including a wage increase.
Nurses at Nyack Hospital spent this spring and summer ramping up the pressure on hospital management with an extensive outreach campaign to build support within the community and draw attention to management’s stall tactics.
The RNs followed up a successful informational picket in March with an announcement that they would boycott the hospital’s annual Nurses Week lunch in May. Hospital management canceled the event rather than face a boycott.
In June, a large group of RNs conducted a dramatic march on the office of Chief Executive Officer David Freed to confront him about contract talks. At the end of another enthusiastic informational picket a few days later, a large group of nurses marched back into the hospital to the hospital conference room – escorting their negotiating team to the next session of contract talks.
To reinforce their commitment to the community, the RNs then conducted free blood-pressure screenings at Nyack’s Famous Street Fair. At the fair, they offered educational materials to promote community health and safety and discussed the importance of recruiting and retaining RNs. Soon after, they conducted a third informational picket.
Meanwhile, the nurses were also pursuing charges of unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board against the hospital for not negotiating in good faith, not providing information they’d requested, and attempting to negotiate directly with individual members.
Finally, management figured out it was time to settle as the RNs continued to prove they would never give in. The nurses’ new three-year contract, approved July 29, will help address their concerns about safe staffing and the hospital’s ability to recruit and retain RNs. Retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010 and running through Dec. 31, 2012, the contract maintains a comparable health insurance benefit, as the hospital changes health insurance providers. RNs will also receive a 9.1 percent wage increase over the three years.
“We believed all along that our requests were reasonable, and that the way to keep good nurses at Nyack was through a fair contract,” said Anna Marie Perkins, LBU president. “Maintaining Nyack’s competitiveness is an important part of ensuring that RN staffing remains stable. We’re proud of what our members were able to accomplish at Nyack. It’s a true example of determination.”