Using music to rally the troops, nurses at city hospitals took to the steps of City Hall Tuesday to demand a new contract.
The last agreement with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation expired nearly two years ago. There was no pay increase in the final year of that contract, so nurses haven't even had a cost of living adjustment in three years.
"Other unions within the municipal labor coalition have gotten pay increases, and we kind of came at the end of when they were giving out the four and four percent, and we came at the end when everything fell apart in terms of financials," said Ann Bove, a registered nurse.
"The cost of living is so high, and we've got nothing. We are working so hard taking care of New York City, but nobody's taking care of us," said Tola Shuib, a registered nurse.
All told, 8,800 members of the New York State Nurses Association are working in the five boroughs: 8,500 work in city hospitals, and 300 are assigned to city agencies.
Members say they're not only being paid less, they're being asked to do more.
“Through the last couple of years with other hospitals that have closed in the other boroughs and St. Vincent’s, we’ve had a steady increase of patients come through the emergency rooms, creating more of a challenge for our staffing, so this tonight is to help make the mayor aware that we need better staffing levels for patient safety,” said Grace Otto, a registered nurse.
Hospitals have said they can't afford higher labor costs because of budget pressure and cuts to Medicaid.
Nurses say their counterparts at private hospitals have fared better in terms of contract negotiations, but hospital executives have not made any sacrifices.
"Five CEOs last year made $18 million," said one nurse present at the rally.
HHC referred NY1 to the Office of Labor Relations. NY1 reached out to them but did not hear back.
Negotiations between the two sides are ongoing, but unlike nurses at private hospitals, city nurses are barred by state law from going out on strike.