Pictured Above: Healthcare workers at Peconic Bay Medical Center were hailed as heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Approximately 700 New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) nurses at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead and Northwell Health/ Long Island Jewish in Valley Stream are planning to strike beginning Feb. 21.

On Feb. 9, NYSNA members at both hospitals “marched to their hospital administrators’ offices to deliver 10-day strike notices, notifying management that they intend to strike starting Feb. 21 unless tentative contract agreements can be reached beforehand,” the union announced Friday morning. “The notice gives hospitals time to plan care for patients while nurses and healthcare professionals are on strike. However, the best way for management to protect patient care is to listen to healthcare workers and settle fair contracts.”

The 700 workers have been without a contract since Jan. 1 of this year. The union said nurses “have been at the bargaining table for months demanding safe staffing and fair wages that will help recruit and retain nurses.”  

Members of the union at both hospitals voted on Feb. 1 by a margin of 99.5 percent to authorize a strike, and the union said Friday that its members “hope to bargain as much as possible between now and Feb. 21 to reach an agreement to avert a strike. NYSNA members at Peconic are at the bargaining table today.”

The union said after the Feb. 1 vote that pay for healthcare professionals at Peconic Bay Medical Center “stands out as the lowest-paid on Long Island. The low starting rate makes recruiting and retaining enough nurses and healthcare professionals a challenge and has led to high turnover and understaffing.”

The Nurses Association launched an advertising campaign Feb. 8 that focuses on Northwell’s high executive pay, including that of CEO Michael Dowling, who made $7.7 million in 2021 while “healthcare workers at Peconic are some of the lowest paid on Long Island.”

Northwell Health representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We, the nurses and healthcare professionals of Peconic, are united,” said Chris Honor, RN, BSN, CAPA, the Local President at PBMC and the NYSNA Southeastern Regional Director, in the announcement of the union’s intent to strike. “We have our eye on the prize — a fair contract with safe staffing that will allow us to retain healthcare workers and provide excellent patient care. We see striking as a last resort, but I’m confident because my colleagues are confident that we must do what it takes because we are committed to doing what’s best for our patients. If that means going on strike, we are ready.” 

“We don’t work on Wall Street. We work right here on Franklin Avenue,” said NYSNA Local Leader at LIJ Valley Stream Sandra Armstrong, RN. “We don’t want to go on strike, but Northwell seems to only care about investing in advertisements, infrastructure, and executive pay. We’re asking them to invest in our patients. That’s why I became a nurse. That’s why we’re united in our fight for quality patient care, and we are ready to fight for the contract nurses and our patients deserve.” 

The Long Island Federation of Labor and 22 labor unions also sent a letter to Mr. Dowling earlier this week calling “on Northwell Health to immediately deliver and finalize a fair contract. Do the right thing and respect our healthcare heroes.” 

“New York State Nurses Association members want what will keep New Yorkers safe,” the labor unions added. “Their platform consists of: improving patient care through safe staffing; fair wages to recruit and
retain nurses; protecting healthcare and retirement; protecting public health by listening to nurses;
and uplifting communities with good jobs and responding to community health needs.”

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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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