Nurses at Albany Medical Center have decided to hold a one-day walkout in their contract dispute with the hospital.
Nurses rallied Friday morning outside Albany Medical Center following months of failed negotiations. With another surge of COVID-19 underway, members of the New York State Nurses Association say they must take a stand against understaffing and a lack of personal professional equipment.
Nurse Lenore Granich-Berghela is an AMC Negotiating Committee Member.
"We have just delivered our 10-day notice to management. It says that we will strike for one day on December 1st. This is not something we set out to do. What we set out to do was make absolutely certain that our patients get the treatment they need and the quality care that they deserve. It's our professional calling. It is something we are morally obligated to do, and something that we all share. We sat down two years ago in good faith and sought to reach terms of contract. This year the process was halted when the coronavirus hit. There was no time for anything but patient care. We reported to work every day and helped save more than 75,000 New Yorkers. It was brutal and some of us were infected. What made it so hard was we did not have the staffing or personal protective equipment needed to effectively battle this virus. And we still don't."
Granich-Berghela says Albany Med is cutting corners when it comes to PPE, requiring nurses to reuse masks, which has led to an unsafe working environment.
"The resources that we need to do the job right are not available. We cannot keep reusing masks, and we cannot continue with severe understaffing. AMC has unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of work and it has intimidated RN's for communicating with coworkers about the union. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating these unfair labor practice changes. Our strike is aimed at these management policies and practices, these severe deficiencies. Our one-day strike is a wake-up call to Albany Medical Center. Give us what we need for our patients. I want to make something abundantly clear. The reason we voted for strike was for the safety and wellbeing of our patients and the community that we serve."
The New York State Nurses Association claims COVID and non-COVID patients have sometimes mingled as a result of overflow at the hospital.
NYSNA's Upstate Political Director Corey Ellis says the AMC strike announcement comes on the same day that nurses at Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital put out their announcement of a two-day strike over poor working conditions and the imminent threat of the next wave of COVID-19. Ellis is also president of the Albany Common Council.
"Those nurses will be going out. There'll be issuing a 10 days strike notice to their employer, going out for two days. And it's around the PPE issue, reusing of the PPE, which is against CDC regulations. And so the nurses feel, know it's unsafe, not safe for them, not safe for their patients. So they feel they've reached a point where they have to go out to protect our patients."
Albany Med responded to a request for comment by email saying:
“These statements are false – unfounded, alarmist and completely irresponsible. Albany Med presented a fair contract to the union, and that contract was rejected. Nurses who choose to strike will have made the choice to abandon their patients. But Albany Med will not. Albany Med is prepared for a strike and will continue caring for our community without interruption. We will not abandon our mission.”
Hospital management has scheduled a 1 p.m. press conference to outline preparations for the December 1st strike.
— Dave Lucas (@davelucas) November 20, 2020