Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital nurses secure new contract, call off strike


After months of haggling, Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital nurses and hospital administrators agreed to a new labor contract, sidestepping a potential full-scale walkout on Feb. 21.  The marathon bargaining session between the New York Nurses Association, and Northwell Health, the hospital’s parent company, resulted in an agreement that — both sides say — meet key demands raised by nurses, namely improved safe staffing standards, better employee benefits, and wage increases.

Northwell told the Herald it is “pleased to have reached an agreement with NYSNA,” which represents roughly 700 nurses in the hospital. The decision follows closely on the heels of NYSNA nurses and health care workers at Peconic Bay Medical Center and Northwell Health reaching a similar agreement on Feb. 16.

“From the start of negotiations, our sole focus remained on ensuring that our patients continue to receive world-class care and our dedicated nurses can continue to provide that care in the best environment,” Northwell said. “The agreement provides competitive compensation and benefits and reaffirms our commitment to our team members and patients.”

Over two-thirds of nurses voted for the agreement on Feb. 21, which enacts an average wage increase of 19.3 percent over three years with additional pay bumps tied to years of experience. Aside from better wages and pension benefits, the contract ensures fairer patient-to-nurse staffing ratios, which figured prominently in nurses’ list of demands.

Under the new contract, “NYSNA members won improvements to safe staffing standards in medical-surgical, telemetry, and Emergency Department units.” said the union. There are also new provisions to fast-track the process of holding “grievance meetings” if and when nurses raise alarm about staffing violations and have an impartial arbiter decide on these cases.

“Previously, we would have had to send staffing complaints to the corporate chief nursing officer, who was not an impartial judge of unsafe staffing in the way an arbitrator is,” said the union. “And the timeline for resolution would be much longer.” 

The breakthrough deal came days after registered nurse and negotiator Sandra Marion-Armstrong painted a bleak picture of the working conditions of her fellow nurses. “There are nurses who have come and gone within six months,” she told the Herald. “Some nurses have come crying every day. They don’t know how much they can take. They don’t want to stay.

Now, she’s decidedly pleased with the results of the contract.

“LIJ Valley Stream was one of the hardest hit hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic and I think that made us even more determined to fight for our rights and our patients during these negotiations,” she said. “I am hopeful our new contract will help us keep more of our new and experienced nurses, and ultimately help us deliver the quality care our community deserves.”