Thousands of nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital in East Harlem walked off the job at 6:00 am Monday morning, part of a strike that also includes Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. The caregivers-turned-protesters formed a picket line outside Mount Sinai’s campus, demanding a fair contract thats includes both wage increases and improved staffing levels.
Hundreds of nurses, some still in their scrubs with winter coats layered over them, lined Madison Avenue, cheering as the drivers of a steady stream of cars, trucks and MTA buses honked their horns in solidarity. One man stuck his head out of his car window to shout “We’re with you!”
Overnight, talks between the hospital and union broke down, despite Governor Kathy Hochul’s call for both sides to agree to binding arbitration to resolve the labor dispute.
Mount Sinai Hospital pinned blame on leadership from the New York State Nurses Association, which they claim walked out of negotiations shortly after 1:00 am, refusing to accept “the exact same 19.1 percent increased wage offer agreed to by eight other hospitals.”
“Nurses don’t want to strike,” NYSNA said in a statement on Sunday, “Bosses have pushed us to strike by refusing to seriously consider our proposals to address the desperate crisis of unsafe staffing that harms our patients.”
“These nurses are dedicated professionals who provide quality patient care under unimaginable conditions including short staffing, which were only exacerbated by the pandemic,” Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO.
“The hospitals treatment of these nurses is proof that all their words of adulation for their healthcare heroes during the pandemic were hollow,” Cliento added.
The estimated 3,500 Mount Sinai nurses have drawn broad support from local officials, including Upper East Side City Council Member Julie Menin who spoke with nurses on the picket line Monday morning outside the East Harlem campus, showing solidarity for their cause.
“Nurses are the lifeline of the healthcare system,” Council Member Menin said, “We cannot ignore the understaffing crisis in our healthcare system, which endangers patients lives and nurses ability to serve.”
“Empowering and respecting our nurses means that hospitals uphold safe staffing levels and fair wages. Hospital management must agree to fair contracts to ensure the future of public health,” Menin added.
Ahead of Monday’s action, Mount Sinai Hospital said it had been preparing for a strike by diverting ambulances away from their medical centers, postponing elective surgeries, transferring babies from their newborn intensive care unit to other hospitals and even helping cancer patients find alternative locations for treatment.
“As we have said consistently through this process, we greatly value our nurses and hope we can soon resume moving forward together to keep providing safe, compassionate and equitable care to the communities we serve,” said Mount Sinai Hospital in a statement.
The nurses’ union also had a message for New Yorkers who find themselves in need of medical attention during the Mount Sinai nurse strike.
“We appreciate solidarity from our patients, but going into the hospital to get the care you need is
NOT crossing our strike line,” NYSNA said Monday.
“In fact, we invite you to come join us on the strike line after you’ve gotten the care you need.”