Although it is voluntary, approximately 17 percent of all nurses in the United States belong to a union. However, that number is expected to increase vastly over the upcoming months and years due to reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current political climate. Many nurses believe management’s responses to the pandemic to not only be slow but also uncaring, unaccountable, and ineffective. As such, nurse labor unions, using labor law, have figured out ways to improve the employment situations for nurses. In New York alone, several nursing strikes across NYC and the state of New York itself have made their desires and demands known publicly, backed by a variety of labor unions. Many strikes took place toward the end of last year, including some in Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital, the site of the first COVID-19 outbreak in New York City, as well as Albany Medical Center and its related facilities. Here is an overview of their concerns in case you too face these issues at your hospital or medical facility.
Why Nurses Have Held Strikes During the Pandemic
As you may already know, several nurses at a variety of locations across New York have been going on strike at one time or another over the last few years, and while many expected there to be a significant pause in strike activity during the pandemic, the truth is that after an exhaustive first year of the pandemic, many nurses realize now how unsustainable their situations are and have enlisted the assistance of labor law and labor unions to help them overcome all the ways their employers seem to have failed them. In fact, per the New York Times, “nurses and other health workers remain in a precarious frontline against the coronavirus and have turned again and again to unions for help.” For example, nurses have dealt with, and might even currently be dealing with, the following problems:
- Lack of Staffing—The same was true in 2019: Many hospitals and other medical facilities are understaffed. The current pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, as many nurses might have to stay home due to COVID-19 protocols. Now being understaffed is not just an irritant; it can be a matter of life or death. This fatal understaffing is particularly problematic and vexing because many of these hospitals and medical facilities have received extra funds from local, state, and federal governments to cover necessary spending that helps with the pandemic.
- Difficulties with COVID-19 Testing—Especially early in the pandemic, some facilities in New York failed to set up the appropriate COVID-19 testing protocols, causing some nurses to work when they were sick or even being encouraged to do so. In addition, limited testing was available at many sites, further hindering proper safety protocols and leading to an unhealthy work environment.
- Insufficient Time-Away-from-Work Policies—Again, this was a concern before the COVID-19 pandemic, but now it is even more serious since exhausted nurses had been at risk of catching the virus without much rest due to unfair PTO policies before the vaccines were released.
- Inadequate Safety Supplies—Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, there were not enough masks, sanitizers, face shields, and other vital safety equipment and supplies to protect the health and safety of the nurses and other healthcare professionals.
- Too Many Patient Assignments—Many nurses are assigned too many patients to properly provide adequate care.
Contact a New York City Labor Law Attorney
If you are a nurse or other medical professional and you suspect that your hospital or healthcare facility might be acting on policies that violate your rights as a worker, it is imperative that you seek professional legal counsel. Contact a labor union and a proficient NYC labor union defense lawyer for answers and the support you need regarding your case. Call Joey Jackson Law, PLLC today at 833-563-9522 to learn more about the legal protection of your rights as a healthcare worker during the pandemic.