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Picket Averted For Now, Unionized Nurses At Albany Medical Center Press On

Although a picket was averted, unionized nurses at Albany Medical Center continue to voice their concerns about staffing and patient care. 

Last year, nurses at Albany Medical Center voted join the New York State Nurses Association. Since then, contract negotiations have been ongoing. They gathered Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn across from the Medical Center to air their concerns, which they say are essential to ensuring patients get the care they need and deserve.

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Chris Lee, Jennifer Bejo and Karen Gerstenberger speaking outside Albany Medical Center in July.

RN Chris Lee has been with the hospital for six years:   "We've been trying to address this with our contract, with our language that we had proposed previously, and it seems that all our concerns are kinda falling on deaf ears. And we feel that is quite unfortunate and we feel these concerns need to be known. We're using this opportunity today with our kind of forum and rally to let the general public know we are in the midst of trying to negotiate a contract."

Karen Gerstenberger has been a Cardio-Pulmonary ICU nurse at AMC for more than three decades.  "We're trying to let the community know about our concerns about staffing, our work to get a competitive contract and a fair contract. We're looking for competitive wages and benefits and to have a say in staffing in the hospital."

A planned picket was stymied when the hospital took legal action, filing an unfair labor practice charge alleging the union violated federal law by announcing its intent to picket before mediators could intervene.

Our goal is to make sure that we can continue our focus on patient care. ~ AMC Spokesman Jeffrey Gordon

Albany Med maintains it is negotiating “in good faith." Hospital Spokesman Jeffrey Gordon:   "Negotiating a contract, especially the first contract, is a very long process. It's not uncommon for it to take over a year or longer, to get everything in place for the for the first contract. So, we're continuing to work towards that goal. To get a contract that meets all of the needs of the nurses as well as the needs of the institution and the patients and the community in our region."

Dave Lucas:  "So both sides are talking to each other, negotiating?"

"Absolutely. The conversation is ongoing. We have negotiation sessions on a regular basis. And we continue to make progress on some very important issues that are very important to the nurses and to our patients and the institution."

Dave Lucas:  "Does it look like we may be able to avert a picket or even worse a strike?"

"Our goal is to make sure that we can continue our focus on patient care. That's our number one priority and our only priority. We're working as hard as we can to get an agreement that will help us get back to focusing, and to ensure that we can focus on patient care."

We deserve to be respected too. ~ ICU Nurse Jennifer Bejo

Jennifer Bejo, an ICU nurse for 13 years, appreciates those who stopped by the event to show their support, and hopes for a good outcome.  "I know it's a process. The bargaining is a process. And eventually I'm very positive that we'll be able to get to that fair contract that we all deserve. But they have to, like, listen more. Listen more to the nurses, because we are the backbone of the hospital. Without us, I do believe that the conversation is gonna be nothing. We contributed to the success and whatever prestige that they have achieved all through the years. We deserve to be respected too."

Credit Periscope @davelucas

NYSNA's Upstate Political Director Corey Ellis, who is also president of the Albany Common Council, encouraged the crowd.  

"Your effort, your effort will lead to organizing more nurses right down the street at St. Peter's Hospital."    (WATCH)

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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