Photo by Gina Martinez
Registered nurses gathered outside NY Presbyterian Queens for a 1199SEIU rally last Thursday.
By Naeisha Rose

Nurses at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Queens in Flushing held a rally last week to demand fair wages.

At the March 1 rally, registered nurses said eight months of negotiations were long enough and listed their demands before talks were set to begin this Monday. According to organizers from the 1199SEIU union, after eight months of bargaining, there is still little progress in negotiations.

Nurses who are part of the union, along with supporters, held a rally in front of the hospital, located at 56-45 Main Street. Local elected officials and their representatives came to show support for the nurses, including state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), a representative from Congresswoman Grace Meng’s (D-Flushing) office and Ibrahim Khan, the chief of staff for Public Advocate Letitia James.

The nurses said their top priorities in negotiations were health insurance benefits. According to 1199SEIU union representatives, management has proposed alterations to the existing contract that would allow them to alter health insurance benefits at any time. They also demanded staffing level improvements, which they said are currently below standard, and the nurses are proposing attendance incentives for better patient outcomes and finally they are fighting for fair wages and supplemental health care for pre-Medicare retirees aged 62-65.

About 50 nurses held up signs that read “Respect Registered Nurses” and chanted “What do we want? Contracts!” “When do we want it? Now!” Ambulances and trucks driving by honked in support of protesters, leading to cheers from the nurses.

Stavisky addressed the crowd and told them she stands by them and hopes negotiations work in their favor.

“Thank you, because if you look at the sign it says ‘amazing things are happening here’ and it’s not an accident. It’s because of you that amazing things are happening,” she said. “This is a great hospital because of the people who work here. I’m here to thank you for your care, you all fight for our safety everyday. We care about you and I sincerely hope that the contract is mutually accepted and negotiated because your job in there is about caring everyday.”

Bayside resident Mary Gardner was among the registered nurses who participated at the rally. She has been working at New York-Presbyterian for 34 years and said she and her fellow colleagues are not asking for anything extraordinary, just what is fair.

“Amazing things are happening here everyday all day. We the nurses just want a fair contract, fair health benefits and fair retirement,” she said. “We have many bricks in this building, amazing things should happen to those who care the most.”

Ozone Park resident Myriam Pagan-Colon has been a nurse at the Flushing hospital for 11 years.

“We are amazing nurses and we do amazing work,” she said. “However, we need management to recognize our worth and give us a fair contract.”

By Wednesday morning a union representative said talks are still ongoing, but that there was movement on the part of management on at least one issue.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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