On Tuesday, December 19, approximately 100 nurses from the New York State Nurses Association gathered in front of Montefiore Nyack Hospital to voice their support to authorize a strike at Montefiore Nyack, New Rochelle, and Mount Vernon Hospitals in the Lower Hudson Valley. All wore red—NYSA’s signature color—in a sign of solidarity.
Several Rockland community leaders and elected officials, including Rockland County Central Labor Council President Kevin Connell, Assembly Member Ken Zebrowski, Rockland County Legislator-elects Beth Davidson and Dana Stilley, and Rockland County Legislator and Retired Montefiore Nyack nurse Aney Paul, also attended the rally as allies.
96% of NYSNA nurses (nearly 800 in number) from the three hospitals voted in favor of authorizing the strike if their working conditions do not improve. The nurses are calling for safe staffing with strong accountability for patient safety and respectful competitive wages that help recruit and retain nurses. Montefiore’s nurses are on a short time table to secure their demands, with their contracts set to expire at the end of December 2023.
The group’s support to authorize a strike at the three hospitals does not mean a strike is immediately imminent. Rather, it is a statement that should progress not be made in reaching an acceptable contract agreement with employers, nurses at one or all of the three hospitals would be able to deliver a 10 day notice to give the hospitals time to prepare for an impending strike. Bargaining dates between hospital administration and a committee of NYSA nurses are set between now and the end of the year.
Montefiore Nyack nurse Anna Marie Perkins, who MC’d the December 19 rally, said that though nurses from the three hospitals have been negotiating with administration for months, New York State Department of Health staffing guidelines are not being enforced.
“Nurses are mentally and physically drained,” Perkins told the crowd. “They miss lunches, they miss breaks. They lose sleep at night just thinking about the short staffing the next day. Our nurses should have five to six patients. Instead they have eight daily. On Sundays they have nine, ten and even eleven. It is unacceptable. Nurses want to take proper care of their patients and they are unable to. They go home defeated at the end of their shift because they were unable to take care of their patients they wanted to…Hospitals can do better.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, all three facilities have also seen high nurse turnover. Several areas of each hospital are routinely understaffed as working conditions and wages have not kept pace with nearby hospitals. The nurse vacancy rate at Nyack Hospital is nearly 25%, and 20% at New Rochelle. At Mount Vernon, there’s been a 23% reduction in the workforce since 2020 due to resignations, vacancies and service reductions by Montefiore.
RCT reached out to Montefiore Nyack leadership for comment on the dispute, but did not receive a statement at time of publication.