“It’s about patient safety, we’re tired! But we’re dedicated and committed. They never thought we would do this,” said Bridgette, a nurse for 15 years at a major private NYC hospital.
Several hundred nurses and supporters are on strike in front of the busy Madison Avenue entrance to Mt. Sinai hospital in New York City.
As private hospital employees, they negotiate contract deals through their union.
“The only way people listen is when things are done on a large scale. And so finally we came together. Without a union this wouldn’t be possible. We would just be individuals fending for ourselves,” said Melany, an oncology nurse.
They have been pushed to the breaking point by management. The issue is untenable nurse-to-patient ratios, making safety and quality care all but impossible.
“There’s a sign that reads ‘If nurses are outside, something is wrong inside.’ We would much rather be inside with our patients, taking care of them, but they know we’re doing this to fight for them,” said Rachel, a nurse and strike captain at Mt. Sinai.
Another sign read “1:15 is obscene,” a reference to the extreme number of patients to whom nurses are sometimes expected to attend. A normal ratio is 1 to 3 or 4, but double that or more has become the “norm.”
Said Rachel, “Management created this situation during the worst of the Covid time. Today it’s different. We are not able to work safely and provide quality care. We’ve risked our safety and that of our patients.”
Coby works with the NY State Nurses Association and came from Albany for the strike action. He pointed to the greed which makes a disaster of healthcare in general, and which pushed the nurses to the limit: “The problem is profit! Healthcare should not be a money-making business.”
Rachel summed up why this strike had so much energy and public support. “We have this post-Covid trauma, where everybody is more fired up. We’re worn out, tired, fed up, but also more tenacious.”
Update: After three days on the picket line, NYC nurses at Montefiore and Mt. Sinai Medical Centers have reached a tentative agreement with management. Yet to be voted on by membership, the spirited strike action of 7000 strong won several key demands including: safe staffing ratios, new hires, and a 19% pay increase over three years.
With safe staffing as a primary demand, nurses centered the issue of healthcare over profits.
They are the essential workers who risked their health and the health of their families to care for patients during the worst pandemic we’ve seen in 100 years. We congratulate and stand in solidarity with these courageous frontline workers.