Risking their jobs to do their jobs
Nurses walk out for first time in upstate New York hospital to protect their patients.
Facing frigid, single digit temperatures, nurses at Nathan Littauer Hospital walked out on strike Wednesday morning after working without a contract for the last 2 years. The 130 striking nurses said that they are striking due to a lack of progress contract negotiations. The biggest sticking points are staffing levels and protecting their benefits. The nurses, who are represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), say that management has refused to move from their initial offer that was made two years ago.
The nurses are planning to only be on strike for one day, but the hospital has said that they will be locked out for an additional four days. The hospital has brought in under-qualified scab nurses from an outside agency to meet their staffing needs. NYSNA has said that if their members were locked out they would bring the case to the NLRB and request an immediate hearing so that they could get back to work.
On top of refusing to negotiate with the nurses, the hospital has become severely understaffed. Nurses at the hospital say that due to a subpar benefits package, they are not attracting enough talent to fill needed positions. In an interview, the nurses also say that the understaffing at the hospital is putting patients in danger. “Our biggest concern is our patients,” said Marion Enright, a nurse at Nathan Littauer Hospital. “We need to retain and recruit nurses here to take care of our patients and our community, which is not happening because of the benefit package.”
The nurses are not alone in walking the picket line. “The decision to strike is never taken lightly. NYSNA nurses at NLH have been fighting for safer nurse-to-patient ratios since negotiations began more than two years ago. In addition, the nurses face increased contributions to an already unaffordable healthcare network, elimination of their current pension benefits and limited access to accrued sick time, forcing nurses to work while ill,” said NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.”We stand shoulder to shoulder with our NYSNA brothers and sisters. They will continue to have the full resources of the New York State AFL-CIO at their disposal throughout this contract fight.”