Albany Med nurses rally as contract dispute continues

Jacquie Slater & WNYT Staff
Updated: September 07, 2020 06:57 PM
Created: September 07, 2020 01:11 PM

ALBANY - Nurses at Albany Medical Center voted to unionize back in April 2018 but have yet to secure a contract. The nurses picketed outside the hospital on Labor Day, alongside their supporters.

"Two years to me is too long. Two years, too long," said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, President of the New York State Nurses Association.

The more than 2,000 nurses at Albany Med say insufficient pay, not enough staff, and unsafe working conditions are taking a toll.

"We take care of patients, and we have patience, but we don't have any more patience because what is going on here is all about power," said Gonzales.

Joined by staunch supporters in front of the hospital, the nurses hope this unified push for a contract prompts hospital officials to meet their demands.

"We stand with you. You need a contract, and we will continue to fight for you. Go nurses," said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

"We need to empower our nurses with respect and provide them a contract. I'm here to join you in those efforts," said Congressman Paul Tonko, D – Rotterdam.

Jennifer Bejo is an ICU nurse at Albany Med. Over the weekend, the union announced they voted to agree to strike if a contract is not put in place. Bejo says a lack of action left them with no other choice. 

"They have dragged their feet at the bargaining table. They have played games and tried to divide nurse against nurse. They called us heroes during the COVID pandemic, but treated us like zeros," said Bejo.

Matthew Markham, Vice President of Communications at Albany Med, sent the following statement to NewsChannel 13 after the rally.

"Albany Med continues to negotiate in good faith with the New York State Nurses Association. Our 2,500 nurses are the heart of our organization. We understand our mission of patient care, research and education is only possible with the compassionate expertise of our entire workforce. That is why, despite a year-to-date $25.6 million operating loss resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Albany Medical Center is one of several U.S. hospitals that has not laid off or furloughed any staff. We must ensure that any contract agreement is both fair to all our employees and fiscally responsible, so that we may continue our mission as our community expects and deserves. Quality and safety are always our highest priorities. All decisions are made to provide a safe environment for patients and employees. During this picket, as at all times,  Albany Med will do everything possible to keep our workforce, our patients and our visitors safe. That said, we are concerned that NYSNA did not request a special events permit as required by law for this picket from the City of Albany, particularly when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend collaboration with state and local health officials for events and gatherings. Such a permit would provide important information such as the particular site of picketing. We would have hoped Albany Common Council President Corey Ellis, who is also NYSNA’s Upstate Political Director, respected this guidance for security and safety during the pandemic. Despite this, Albany Med is prepared to do everything in our ability to protect the safety of our workforce, our patients, our visitors and picketers."

The nurses could strike in the next 10 days.

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