Published Nov 28, 2001
New York State Nurses Association/UAN
Nurses strike in NY
RNs STRIKE at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center Strike
Smithtown, Long Island, NY -
Registered nurses of St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center (NY) filed notice on November 15 that they would strike at 7 a.m., Monday, November 26. The hospital did not come to an agreement with the RNs in the face of the 10 day strike countdown and so, at 7am, another RN strike for patient/nurse staffing, patient/nurse safety, and nurse recruitment, retention, and compensation began. Scabs have been brought in to staff the hospital which now has the best staffing it has ever had.
The staff nurses striking at St Catherines of Siena Medical Center in Smithown, Long Island are represented by the 34,000-member New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) - a constituent member of the American Nurses Association (ANA) and founding member of the United American Nurses (UAN) - the labor arm of the ANA and affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
Issues - at a glance:
1. On November 19, a four-hour negotiation session was scheduled. With parties in attendance across the table from each other for just five minutes, no progress was recorded......
2. Union leaders scheduled an afternoon rally for Sunday, November 25....
3. Federal mediators scheduled a negotiation session for Sunday evening, November 25.......
4. NYSNA represents 474 registered nurses at the center. Their most recent three-year contract expired May 15. Negotiations have been underway since April. They held a session of informational picketing on Oct. 19 to protest the hospital's lack of concern about improving working conditions.......
5. The nurses, through contract negotiations, have attempted to solve the many problems with workplace conditions that have driven many veteran RNs to leave the facility, and discouraged new RNs from applying.
* STAFFING - In June 1998, the hospital, then known as St. John's Episcopal, was cited by the state Health Department for numerous violations - including low RN staffing - after the death of a patient. After this incident, NYSNA fought to establish, and won, a set of unit-by-unit, shift-by-shift, RN-to-patient staffing guidelines that would ensure a safe staffing level......
Within a year, because of complex administrative problems, St. John's faced bankruptcy. Catholic Health System of Long Island offered to buy the facility, but demanded the nurses surrender their staffing guidelines, threatening to close the hospital if they refused.......
In the interests of their patients and the community, the nurses reluctantly agreed to give up the guidelines at that time but fully expected to re-visit the issue when that contract expired last May......
Hospital officials promised that they would do their best to maintain a safe staffing level. But staffing remains a problem, and is why the nurses voted Nov. 13 and 14 to strike........
Although the hospital is willing to consider reinstating a form of staffing guideline, it is not willing to enable nurses to enforce them through third-party arbitration. Such enforcement is a must if the nurses are to have the legal means to hold the hospital accountable........
* MANDATORY OVERTIME - A problem that is an outgrowth of short staffing, mandatory overtime fills vacant shifts when there are not enough RNs on staff. Typically, a nursing supervisor orders a nurse to work the next shift, or leaves the nurse with no choice but to "volunteer." Not only is this disruptive to the nurse's life, should the nurse have children in daycare, etc., but working an additional eight-hour shift is exhausting and dangerous
for patient care.......
The nurses want a provision stating the hospital will not require overtime except in an emergency. The hospital prefers to use such overtime as a regular staffing tool to fill vacancies rather than make the improvements that would attract nurses to come work at that facility or to retain nurses who do work at that facility.......
* HEALTH BENEFITS - As a means of encouraging veteran nurses to stay at St. Catherine's, NYSNA is seeking to improve their health benefits plan. NYSNA is offering a plan that would be more financially stable and offer far better benefits than the hospital's current self insured plan. The NYSNA plan would also offer the nurses the option of retirement health insurance, which is not available through the hospital. Although the plan is
competitively priced, the hospital has inflated the figures to say it is too expensive.......
* 12-HOUR SHIFTS - Currently many RNs in specialty units are working "flextime" - a schedule of three days of 12-hour shifts. Not only does this schedule provide for greater continuity of patient care, it is attractive tool for recruiting nurses. The hospital is seeking the sole right to discontinue flextime, with eight weeks notice, whenever it feels its nursing shortage has been corrected, leaving the nurses with no say or control in their workday lives. This would disrupt many facets of the nurse's life and would lead to even more resignations.......
* REFUSAL TO WORK OVERTIME - St. Catherine's RNs were the first in the nation to officially refuse to volunteer for overtime last month. Under a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, a union can call for such a concerted action if it serves a 10-day notice. Nurses Are Exercising Their Rights.......
6. This is a time when our nation is recognizing the crucial role of all who serve the public, especially in health care. It is now more important than ever that our health care system be able to respond to emergencies and provide the necessary care. Yet the Medical Center continues to ignore nurses' concerns about safe staffing.
7. In the United States, when employees believe their concerns are not being addressed they have a legally protected right to take action. The RNs in Smithtown, Long Island will remain on strike for as long as it takes.
NYSNA | Current Collective Bargaining | St. Catherine of Siena Strike Countdown
Contact Information | Press Releases
NYSNA/UAN Registered Nurses Strike on Long Island
Smithtown, LI, NY - November 27, 2001
Nurses at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown went on strike yesterday, frustrated over being forced to work mandatory overtime and in seeking a new health plan.
Some of the same issues now on the table almost doomed the sale of the hospital (then St. John's Episcopal Hospital) in February 2000, when nurses initially rejected and then grudgingly approved a contract that Catholic Health Services demanded before it would complete its deal to buy the struggling hospital and keep it open.
"They asked us back then to give them a year," said Barbara Crane, a registered nurse at the hospital and president of the hospital's New York State Nurses Association unit, breaking into tears. "We gave them a year and a half, and this is where we end up? "
The registered nurses, about 475 full-time and part-time nurses, represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) had voted overwhelmingly to strike, and a bargaining session Sunday night failed to produce a last-minute agreement. The nurses have been working without a contract since May.
Hospital officials said yesterday they had brought in more than 100 replacement nurses to staff the hospital and that no cutbacks in service are planned. Hospital president and chief executive Jim Wilson said the hospital had as many nurses working as would be normally needed to take care of the 200 patients staying there.
"It's important for the community to know we are here and we are fully operational and we will continue to take care of their needs," he said.
Both sides cite two areas as major sticking points in negotiations: the nurses' desire to leave the hospital's health plan for a New York State Nurses Association plan and their concern with mandatory overtime.
As nurses walked the picket line yesterday, they expressed concern of routinely being told they would have to work extra hours after they finished eight- to 12-hour shifts to help fill holes in the schedule.
"They're using it as a regular scheduling tool," said Dan Chamberlain, a long-time operating room nurse at the hospital and a member of the union negotiating team. "These floor nurses are getting killed."
While Wilson acknowledged that the hospital does sometimes require mandatory overtime, he said that it accounts for no more than 4 percent of staffing over a typical two-week period.
The problem, he said, is a national nursing shortage. "Recruiting registered nurses has become very, very difficult for every health care provider in the country," he said.
CHS has hired 109 new nurses since taking over the hospital, but union representatives note that it has also lost more than 70 nurses since then. "What they don't understand is what it takes to keep a nurse," Crane said.
Wilson said nurses left for a variety of reasons, including retirement and relocation. "It's not an excessive number given what's going on in the industry," he said.
Wilson also said the overriding issue in the negotiations has been the nurses' wish to join a union-sponsored health plan.
That plan would cost the hospital some $500,000 more annually he said.
Crane said the nurses want to switch because the hospital has changed its benefit package several times and because the union plan may soon offer benefits that continue through retirement.
It's not clear when the sides will meet again; no bargaining sessions are scheduled at this time.
The nurses pledged to stay out as long as necessary.
A bargaining session last night failed to produce any agreement between the two sides, which have been negotiating a new contract since March. The nurses, who number about 475, have been working without a contract since last May.
"We're going to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes", said Michael Chacon, the hospitals nursing representative from the New York State Nurses Association.
About 300 nurses gathered yesterday morning in front of the hospital, which was bought in 1999 by Catholic Health Services. At that time, the nurses grudgingly approved a contract so that the deal could go through, with hopes of addressing issues such as understaffing when the contract expired in May.
The nurses struck shortly after 7 a.m., hospital spokesperson Pat Stickle said this morning.
Replacement nurses have been hired to take their place.
Newsday.com - Strike at Smithtown Hospital
recv'd this from a nurse involved in the strike on Long Island:
Thanks to those that spoke for us.
Tomorrow we are having a special TV channel 2 (CBS) media representative at 10 am. I would appreciate your attendance at that time. Also there is going to be a meeting at the Knights of Columbus at the junction of 347 and 454 (Vets highway) 6pm tomorrow night Tuesday.
Another person I admire and respect sent me an email today regarding whether or not this is a democratic society. She felt that her opinion and the others like her who voted not to strike was disregarded by the majority and she was pulled along by the tide.
My understanding of a democracy is just that, based on a majority, not by way of disregarding the individuals rights, but it is the expression of the majority of us that stems the tide of our way of life. This friend has lived through a strike and feels we left the "Patient" out in our equation.
I had hoped we made it clear to all -
THIS STRIKE IS FOR THE PROFESSION OF NURSING.
Make a stand now or face extinction.
In answer to her real concern about the patients welfare, we too were worried about what is happening to them (was that not the main topic of conversation on the line)? Today we all heard that for every four nurses that left the floor at 7am at least 6 came on duty. These scabs are not stupid, they won't work the way we do. They are being treated the way we wish we were.
It is our strong belief if we don't make workplace improvements to make our profession a viable choice for the young amongst us, the patient really will be in serious peril because there won't even be scabs to care for them.
Before I end for tonight, I want you all to know that Nancy Maggio, RN PerDiem Educator refused to cross the picket line today and has probably put her job in jeopardy as a result of her supporting us. Thank you Nancy I hope we don't lose you.
Good night, I am beat.
The Registered Nurses on strike at
St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in
Smithtown, Long Island, NY
will be featured on CBS
The Early Show,
Thursday, November 29 at 7:48 a.m. (Eastern time)
strange, hospitals can afford ceo's and administrators up the wadzoo. special services for doctors. ( go ask the or rns how much was spent on special stuff just because the surgeons wanted it and then how much of that equiptment gathered dust).and ten secretaries for each to kiss thier @@@@ but pay nurses decently or have decent work conditions???? you think the walls of jericho came tumbling down. to the ladies on the strike line. We are with you and know nurses are the largest group in health care, make this count.
Received this from one of the unurses on strike at St Catherines of Siena on Long Island, NY
For the sake of their community, and with promises from the administration, these nurses agreed to give-backs in their prior contract in order to save the hospital from closing & allowed the sale to another facility to go thru. This is what they got as a way of thanks from their administration.......
POINTS OF INTEREST ON FRIDAY
Today the Times of Smithtown, St. James and Nesconset ran a letter on pg. 63, regarding our strike. It was written by a Mr. Joseph Latini, Exec. Loan Officer from Hartford funding.
In short what he said was, Mandatory OT should go away, and that we should not force the hospital to spend $500,000 /yr for essentially the same health benefits we have now.
I quote, "..... it serves to do nothing more than allow the union a tighter grip over the already fiscally stangulated hospital. This is just the type of negligent expenditure that caused the rapid demise of St. John's Hospital. ....Let us not forget the CHS saved the hospital from closing because they are proven to be extremely competent healthcare managers."
Now you all know I can't let that go unchallenged, so I sent the following to the Editor.
To whom it may concern;
I am responding to the letter written by Joseph A. Latini Jr., regarding the nurses on strike at St. Catherine of Siena. Although I appreciate Mr. Latini's sensitivity to the issue of mandatory overtime I believe he is very misinformed about a few key issues.
We are asking for the NYSNA medical plan for several reasons:
CHS is a self insured employer, which means they can and have changed the coverage three times since they took over and have increased the cost of prescriptions by 33%. without union input.
Most importantly the NYSNA medical plan is currently working on providing medical retirement benefits for our nurses. Which do not exist in the private sector of health care to my knowledge.
I am one of the more fortunate nurses to sit at the negotiation table with CHS. I am also very confused about some of the issues. Each time we sat down with management the cost of the NYSNA plan changed. Mr. Wilson sent a letter to the entire staff and stated the plan would cost $250,000.00/yr. In his latest press release he said it is $500,000.00 so which is it Mr. Wilson, let the public know the truth. Next week it will be a million.
Let them know how you can look them in the eye when you deliberately mislead them with this gross distortion of the truth.
Let them know NYSNA offered ways to reduce this cost for you.
Tell them how CHS even said the "NYSNA plan was a better one," and that the rest of the employees would all want in.
Mr. Latini seems to think "the health coverage is virtually no change in service". Not true is it Mr. Wilson?
Tell them how we agreed to take less than 3% raise in the last year to help fund this plan.
Tell them how we offered to increase the contribution by our part time members to offset the costs.
Tell them how we offered to allow an opt out clause to encourage people to not take the plan, thereby reducing the cost to management. You see, right now 60 nurses opt out of the CHS plan for $1000.00/yr. Our plan is so good the hospital now assumes those 60 will want back in and hence Mr. Latini, is where the cost difference comes from. With an attractive opt out that cost almost goes away.
Let them know how you just spent over $500,000.00 on nurses from all over the country to come and take care of their family and neighbors and you didn't think that the women and men that saved and served their community hospital were worth that same sum to safe guard their retirement.
I wonder if the public was even aware that after retiring from the medical field after 20, 25 or 35 years that all nurses that work for CHS walk away empty handed. No medical benefits even as a bridge to Medicare.
We spend our careers taking care of the health needs of an entire community and retire with our own health needs in jeopardy. This, Mr. Latini, is the single biggest reason to acquire the NYSNA plan.
CHS has said openly at the table, "We are not interested in nurses retiring, there is a shortage you know." What would they say then to this aging population of men and women, "grease up your walkers and grab the support hose, we are in for the long haul"?
I wonder why the nurses on the hill would not agree with Mr. Latini when he stated, "CHS saved the hospital from closing because they are proven to be extremely competent healthcare managers." And in the same letter he states that the "hospital is fiscally strangulated." Surely not by those "competent healthcare managers." The 1700 employees know it had more to do with the fact that we all lost everything and CHS walked in debt free and had absolutely no regard for the dedicated staff that stayed and pulled this organization out of the hole that promised to consume it.
Competency is in question when you are fortunate enough to hire 109 nurses in 16 months and allow over 70 to quit do to poor management and horrific working conditions. Seems like that bit of "competent business management", cost about $350,000.00 over the last 16 months.
Is it wrong to want for ourselves that which we provide everyday of our professional careers to the people of the communities we serve. Can you tell me why any religious organization could want to deny all their employees this basic human need?
Come on CHS, come back to the table, it is time to practice what you preach.
from the striking nurses on Long Island.....
I have read your letter and appreciate your voice being added to ours and the thousands of nurses flocking away from the bedside. Today I watched the nurses at my facility stand and be counted in the battle against this national tragedy....
You know as well as I do what it takes for single mothers & heads of households to walk away from jobs we have held for years, to take a stand for the future of our profession.
Amazing, amazing, damn amazing.
I am flying high from the rally we had today. Our nurses are in it for the full run.
Keep up the letters and the support.
You can post our updates any where you think they might help please feel free to include my email address. I would love to hear the comments. (send to [email protected]).
I appreciate the strong words of support....
I know we are seeing a new era in our profession and we need to keep the spirits high. The nurses here have been empowered with a strength they never realized they had! They have banded together and taken to the road and found jobs everywhere from Macys to big trauma centers.
Many have been here 25 yrs + and have never taken a risk in their professional lives. This experience has shown them what our employers never wanted us to see - that we
are a valued, respected and vital profession that will no longer tolerate the injustices of a healthcare system bent on profit instead of patient care.
A wonderful nursing educator I met recently said it simply, that "what is good for the nurse is good for the patient". Nurses are patient driven and Healthcare providers are bottom line driven. Who do you want in charge of your care?
I hope to meet you one day soon. I believe if enough of us join hands and voices they can't help but hear us.
As, for the updates, they are one of the best tools I have to keep everyone on the same page. To date I send about 240 per day and they get faxed and phoned to those that don't have Internet access..... I believe strongly that information is power, and it belongs to everyone that wants it.
If you lose someone to the enemy nine times out of ten they didn't have the information they needed to be feel part of this action. We also have open negotiations, any member can come and listen any time. That de-mystified the entire process for them. It also helped turn a resistant group in the RR around to see the bigger picture. At negotiations during the breaks we explained what was going on, we shared our documents and took suggestions from anyone with an idea that might help. They went back to the hospital as our ambassadors of good will. Talk about Win-Win. We really hit a home run with
I give all the credit to an amazing team, Tom Darby & Mike Chacon (NYSNA). They differed enough to give us a balance of opinion and a winning strategy.
As we sat on the hill in front of our facility, we were greeted by a beautiful sunny day and realized what an amazing set of circumstances have put us in the street with such cooperative weather. 74 degrees and one hell of a turnout.
Bye for now, and thanks again, and thank your coworkers for that beautiful weather.
Barbara Crane, RN
President of NYSNA
Bargaining Unit at St. Catherine of Siena Hospital
To lend support/encouragement to the nurses on strike in NY, send email to: [email protected]
RALLY HELD FOR STRIKING NURSES AT ST CATHERINE'S
More than 400 people, including NYSNA President Bob Piemonte, RN, United American Nurses director Susan Bianchi-Sand, and Congressman Steve Israel attended a rally Saturday for striking nurses at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center............
Representatives of numerous labor, nursing, religious, and legislative organizations also attended to pledge their support. Ms. Bianchi-Sand presented NYSNA Economic & General Welfare Program Director Lorraine Seidel, RN with a $5,000 check for the strikers. Nurses from area hospitals joined St. Catherine colleagues in the 70º sunshine to listen to speakers and sing along with labor tunes and satirical songs.........
Attendees heard words of support from NYSNA board member Ed Goldberg, RN; Delegate Assembly Chair Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN; Nyack Hospital NYSNA chair Howard Doughty, RN; and others........
NYSNA President-elect Lolita Compas, RN and board member Ann Tahaney, RN also encouraged nurses, as did members from Maimonides Hospital and other facilities......
"You're striking for two reasons: for the sake of your patients, and for the sake of our profession," Seidel reminded the crowd. Piemonte said, "NYSNA is behind you 100%. We know you're united and determined, and we know you're going to win!"......
Participants enthusiastically cheered encouraging news: the Windham Watch Hotel refused to house scab nurses the hospital flew in to replace strikers, and, best of all, Suffolk County Community College nursing students refused to cross NYSNA picket lines for clinical rotations.
They will work at Southside Hospital instead........
Among other speakers expressing strike support were representatives from the PEF, CSEA, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and the Long Island Federation of Labor.........
Suffolk County Legislature member Bill Lindsay said, "You're here because when nurses are forced to work 16 hours a day, the system is broken." Congressman Israel told the crowd, "We're here to stand up for quality care through quality staffing ratios. We need to stop understaffing here, to set an example for the rest of America." A representative from Congressman Gary Ackerman's office reminded attendees that he supported the nurses when the hospital, then owned by Episcopal Health System, was going bankrupt, "and he supports you today." No date has been set for another bargaining session, but negotiators predicted some time after December 10.........
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