This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on January 12, 2023. It is shared here with permission.
New York City nurses and two major hospitals reached a tentative agreement on Thursday that the healthcare workers’ union celebrated as a “historic victory” after three days of striking for a fair contract.
The more than 7,000 striking nurses agreed to return to work Thursday at Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center, privately owned hospitals whose management previously refused to accept the nurses’ central demand for safer staffing requirements—pushing the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) to leverage the power of collective action.
“NYSNA nurses have done the impossible, saving lives night and day, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and now we’ve again shown that nothing is impossible for nurse heroes,” said Nancy Hagans, RN, the president of the union. “Through our unity and by putting it all on the line, we won enforceable safe staffing ratios at both Montefiore and Mount Sinai where nurses went on strike for patient care. Today, we can return to work with our heads held high, knowing that our victory means safer care for our patients and more sustainable jobs for our profession.”
According to NYSNA, the tentative deal includes “wall-to-wall safe staffing ratios for all inpatient units with firm enforcement so that there will always be enough nurses at the bedside to provide safe patient care, not just on paper.”
“New staffing ratios take effect immediately in a historic breakthrough for hospitals that refused to consider ratios that nurses have been demanding for decades,” the union said. “At Montefiore, nurses will also return to work this morning after winning new safe staffing ratios in the Emergency Department, with new staffing language and financial penalties for failing to comply with safe staffing levels in all units. Nurses also won community health improvements and nurse-student partnerships to recruit local Bronx nurses to stay as union nurses at Montefiore for the long run.”
The nurses’ fight for safe staffing measures and other changes drew national attention to Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore’s business practices, including their lavish compensation of executives.
“While Montefiore and Mount Sinai are technically nonprofits, they frequently act like large corporations—with massive investments on Wall Street and overseas, and providers sidelined from essential care decisionmaking,” The Lever‘s Matthew Cunningham-Cook reported earlier this week. “These nonprofit hospitals also boast huge executive salaries. Mount Sinai CEO Kenneth Davis made $5.6 million in 2019, the last year for which complete tax records are available. Montefiore CEO Philip Ozuah made $7.4 million in 2020. Montefiore disclosed providing an unnamed executive (or executives) with a chauffeur and first-class airfare in 2020.”
“In filings with the IRS, Mount Sinai disclosed that 15 executives made more than $1 million annually in 2019,” Cunningham-Cook added. “Montefiore disclosed ten in 2020, with all making more than $1.5 million.”
On the picket line with striking nurses on Monday, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said he was “tired of living in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, but we never have enough money for our workers.”
“If CEOs can double their pay,” Bowman declared, “we can give workers a fair contract.”