A last-minute offer by Montefiore administrators on Sunday night wasn’t enough to stop a wave of Bronx nurses — holding firm on their frustrations with hospital management for understaffed units and low wages — from joining a strike that included 7,000-plus nurses citywide as the clock struck 6 a.m. on Monday.
Hoping to avert a worker’s strike via a last-minute deal on Sunday, Montefiore’s latest offer to its 3,500 nurses included a 19% wage increase and a plan to create more than 170 new nursing positions.
Montefiore’s previous offer on Jan. 5, included an 18% wage increase. Montefiore’s 19% wage increase offer factors to around $51,000 in salary.
While Sunday led to tentative agreements for Mount Sinai Morningside and West nurses — and even an attempt at binding arbitration from Gov. Kathy Hochul — Montefiore and Mount Sinai nurses and hospital administrators left the negotiation table without a deal.
In a statement sent to the Bronx Times, Montefiore officials called Monday’s strike, the aftermath of failed negotiations between administrators, nurses and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), “a sad day” for New York City.
Montefiore’s CEO and president Dr. Phillip Ozuah said he felt that Montefiore and its nurses were close to a final agreement, but implied that nurses were the ones who walked away from negotiations.
But outside of Montefiore’s three Bronx campuses, nurses stood in solidarity beginning at 7 a.m. Monday, chanting “patients over profits” and “safe staffing saves lives” amid growing support from politicos and onlookers.
Bronx nurses like Brenda Wynns said it was the first time in four years she’s “missed a day of work” but said solidarity and strength in numbers is needed to improve the state’s nursing conditions and the Bronx’s last-in-the-state health outcomes.
“This is important. This is for our patients, for our communities, and for everyone who has been banging on the table for better working conditions for years,” said Wynns.
On Monday, Montefiore’s hospitals remained open, but opted to reschedule all its elective surgeries and procedures at its Moses Hospital, Weiler Hospital, Children’s Hospital campuses. Striking nurses are imploring patients to continue receiving medical care at their hospitals for the duration of the strike.
“Striking is a last resort. But our patients matter and they deserve better. Our nurses deserve better,” said Vanessa Weldon, who works for Montefiore Home Health and chairs NYSNA’s Montefiore bargaining committee. “We want everyone to know that we are fighting for you, fighting for better staffing, better services and better experiences for our patients.”
BronxCare was the other Bronx hospital — eight private hospitals in total — to be met with a Dec. 30 strike notice, before reaching a tentative agreement that will improve safe staffing levels and increase nursing wages by 7%, 6% and 5% for each year of a proposed three-year contract, while also preserving health care benefits.
According to NYSNA, the new nursing agreements aim to improve patient care, staffing and wages for thousands of nurses while ensuring that the quality of hospital care is the same for upper-income Manhattan patients as it is for low-income Black and brown patients in the outer boroughs.
Mount Sinai and Montefiore have more than 1,200 nurse vacancies between them which striking nurses say is unsafe for both nurses and for patients.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes