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Albany Med Nurses Approve Union Contract

NYSNA-affiliated nurses pose for a photo after voting to approve a three-year contract with Albany Medical Center Thursday
Lucas Willard
NYSNA-affiliated nurses pose for a photo after voting to approve a three-year contract with Albany Medical Center Thursday

With 97 percent of union members voting in favor, Albany Medical Center nurses affiliated with the New York State Nurses Association have approved a three-year contract.

“What did you get? Contract! When did we get it? Now!”

The contract approved Thursday night ends three years of negotiations between NYSNA and Albany Med. The newly unionized nurses celebrated across the street from the hospital after the conclusion of two days of voting.

Registered Nurse Lenore Granich, a member of the NYSNA Negotiating Committee, spoke in a conference room at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“The best part of this contract is in the 180-year history of this institution across the street, this is first that time the nurses will have a voice…”

Before a scheduled press conference, Albany Medical Center President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna released a video message Friday morning.

“I am pleased to announce that after the vote, the contract has been ratified. This contract is consistent with the Albany Med values of fiscal responsibility, quality and safety. I’m also pleased the contract has been ratified because we value our nurses and we know we cannot carry out our very important mission without them,” said McKenna.

Under terms of the contract, nurses will be guaranteed 1.5 percent annual raises, with up to 1.5 percent annual merit-based increases, market adjustments, and caps on the increase of health insurance costs. Nurses will be able to choose whether to join the AMC-NYSNA Union.

With changes to staffing levels a main demand from NYSNA negotiators, Granich says a staffing committee comprised of bedside nurses and hospital administrators will be formed to discuss issues of concern.

“You can say that a nurse can appropriately care for five patients but if those five patients are extremely sick, that is not an appropriate ratio. There needs to have some fluidity to these numbers, it can’t just be a static thing. And the fact that now we have an ability to sit at a table and discuss acuity, discuss certain patient needs in certain care areas, that is going to make all the difference in the world,” said Granich.

With a pandemic, strikes, and a dispute over a “repayment fee” to foreign nurses that was recently resolved with the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the negotiation period between NYSNA and the Capital District’s largest employer drew attention from across the region.

New York State Assemblyman Phil Steck, a Democrat from Colonie, was among local officials who joined nurses Thursday night.

“I have not seen in my time in public life, a more vibrant union than this one. And I want to thank you for setting an example for everyone in the Capital District for fighting back. We’ve had a movement in this country to beat down working people, to force them to take less and less and less. You fought back, you stood up, and you won, and I congratulate you,” said Steck.

Looking ahead, Dr. McKenna, speaking with reporters Friday morning, said the hospital is focused on a campaign to attract and keep nurses.  In a time when hiring is difficult across the board, McKenna used three words to describe the goals of Albany Med: retain, recruit, and retain.

“The market right now, as far as finding nurses who can come in an work in a hospital setting is challenging and that’s something that we’re facing not only in this campus and not only this region, but it’s a national issue. These market adjustments that were in this contract were something that Albany Medical Center has been committed to for a while. As the market shifted, we were going to shift with it. So, yes, I truly believe that the market adjustments and the merit plan that’s in here will allow us to continue to be competitive and will allow us to attract the best nurses for our care,” said McKenna.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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