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Nurse Strike Update: The Latest on Nursing Strikes and Labor Disputes Around the Country

Scott HarrisMeg Lambrych, RN-BC
Updated January 24, 2024
Edited by
    Nurse strikes are underway around the country, while others are seeing results at the bargaining table.
    Nurses striking outside of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York CityCredit: Getty Images
    • Nurse strikes are in the works, underway, and achieving results at the bargaining table.
    • Hundreds of nurses walked off the job in Hawaii
    • Learn more about deals in Pennsylvania, New York, and beyond.

    Strikes have swept industries nationwide, from hospitality to Hollywood. Nurses are no exception and are striking around the country to make their voices heard.

    Nurse burnout, staffing ratios, low pay, paid leave, and all-around better working conditions are all major bargaining points for many nurse strikes.

    Here’s a roundup of major nursing strikes and related actions around the country, including ongoing strikes and those that made an impact at the bargaining table.

    Hawaii Nurses Participate in First Nursing Strike of 2024

    Yesterday, 600 nurses at Hawaii’s Kapiʻolani Medical Center went on strike. This one-week action from January 21-28 comes after four months of failed negotiations and growing frustrations from the nursing union members over a lack of safe staffing.

    Paulette Vasu, a nurse at the Kapiʻolani Medical Center, told Khon2 News, “We really didn’t want to have to do it, but management’s not listening to us, and we feel this is our only recourse for patient safety. For our safety. This is what we have to do.”

    A lack of adequately trained staff remains the number one cause of nursing strikes nationwide.

    “We really didn’t want to have to do it, but management’s not listening to us, and we feel this is our only recourse for patient safety. For our safety. This is what we have to do.”

    Paulette Vasu, Nurse, Kapiʻolani Medical Center

    However, Gidget Ruscetta, the chief operating officer for Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children, believes the nurses must be flexible. Clearly confused by the nurses’ refusal, hospital administrators point to what they believe is a generous pay package in their latest offer, including an annual base nursing salary of $124,000 to $151,000.

    Yet the nurses are adamant that patient and nursing safety is their primary concern, and steps must be taken to guarantee safe nurse-to-patient ratios and nursing retention. The striking nurses hope to reach a deal with the hospital as soon as possible, but negotiations are currently ongoing.

    New York Nurses at Nyack Hospital Avoid Strike

    A total of 99% of unionized nurses at the Montefiore Nyack Hospital in New York voted to ratify a new contract on January 3. The victory was secured after a prolonged campaign by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) at three local hospitals to improve staffing, pay, working conditions, and tuition reimbursement.

    The new agreement includes:

    • New staffing ratios with accountability mechanisms
    • Significant wage increases, including averaging a 14% increase in the first year and up to 20% for new nurses in year one to help recruit more nurses.
    • Inclusion in the NYSNA pension
    • Recognition of Juneteenth and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as celebrated holidays
    • Better tuition reimbursement
    • Pay differentials for additional responsibilities such as precepting, charge nursing, and being a team lead

    Anna Marie Perkins, RN, the president of the local bargaining unit at Montefiore Nyack, spoke with National Nurses United — the NYSNA’s national union affiliate — about the victory and its impact.

    “Nurses at Nyack have been struggling to achieve safe staffing ratios, competitive wages, and better benefits that will help fill nurse vacancies and retain nurses for quality care. Better benefits like the NYSNA pension will help retain nurses and demonstrate respect for the hard work we do. This agreement finally puts Nyack nurses in line with wages and benefits of other Montefiore facilities, and that should make a huge difference in retaining nurses and improving working conditions and quality care for our patients,” Perkins said.

    What’s in the Newly Ratified Deal following the New Jersey Nurse Strike?

    A bitter, four-month nurse strike ended with a new deal for roughly 1,700 nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

    According to the United Steelworkers, the union representing the nurses in the strike, the deal contained several key provisions, most notably long-sought-after nurse-patient staffing levels:

    • Establishing safe nurse-patient staffing ratios
    • Raising wages by 8.5%
    • Capping insurance costs
    • Public health emergency planning

    “This contract would not have been possible if the nurses hadn’t stood together and demanded what our patients deserve.”

    Judy Danella, Nurse & Union Leader, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

    “This contract would not have been possible if the nurses hadn’t stood together and demanded what our patients deserve,” said nurse union leader Judy Danella in a statement reported by CBS News. “This campaign has always been about safety and quality care, and we are ready to get back to work doing what we love. We are particularly proud that this contract includes accountability and communication, which will ensure that staffing will remain a top priority moving forward.”

    Washington State Nurses Strike Ends, Negotiations Ongoing

    About 1,300 nurses at the dual-campus, 571-bed Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (PRMCE) in Washington state conducted a five-day strike from November 14-19. However, with no contract agreement in sight, negotiations between the two sides continue.

    [Sunday] are happy to be back at the bedside, but they also feel like, you know, the strike was a lot emotionally for us to go through and they feel that their patients didn’t get the care that they needed.”

    PRMCE nurses are seeking to alleviate what they call “chronic” understaffing through beefed-up nurse recruitment and retention strategies. Providence Everett reportedly lost more than 600 nurses in 2019 and has yet to fully recover from the deficit.

    Nurses Reach Deal in Pennsylvania

    In October, approximately 1,200 nurses and nurse practitioners at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) — one of the largest hospitals in Pennsylvania — voted to authorize a strike. But a late deal following a 26-hour negotiation period staved off the strike and earned several concessions for nurses at the 576-bed hospital.

    According to reporting from TribLive, AGH’s parent company, Allegheny Health Network (AHN), agreed to make significant investments in wages and staffing levels, including nurse-to-patient ratios. The contract also includes an average 23% raise for nurses over the life of the contract.

    “The agreement is reflective of our commitment to providing competitive wages and benefits for all employees at AHN, and to maintaining a workplace experience for all employees that is conducive to the delivery of exceptional care for our patients,” said Dan Laurent, spokesman for Allegheny Health Network. “This new contract with our AGH nurses is part of a planned investment in AHN’s workforce that will further strengthen our ability to continue recruiting and retaining the best and brightest health care professionals.”

    Other notable contract provisions include:

    • Starting rate of $40/hour by the end of the contract for all nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing degree.
    • New salary scale based on years of licensure
    • Significant pay raises for nurse practitioners.
    • Hiring 70 per-diem nurses to reduce the use of traveling nurses.
    • Bolstering the hospital’s “zero tolerance” policy for workplace violence and abuse of staff.
    • Installing additional weapon detection and panic alarms throughout the hospital.

    What’s in the Historic Kaiser Permanente Deal?

    Following the largest healthcare worker strike in U.S. history, nurses and other care professionals at Kaiser Permanente reached a new agreement that includes pay increases and a host of other concessions.

    While union workers had held out for the possibility of a second strike, the coalition representing more than 85,000 Kaiser workers reportedly withdrew its notice for a November strike.

    The four-year contract purportedly includes the following changes:

    • Increased California minimum rates are $23, $24, and $25 over three years.
    • In states outside of California, minimum rates increased to $21, $22, and $23 over three years.
    • A more detailed plan for a redesigned performance sharing plan (PSP) will be paid out in March 2024. The plan will have a guaranteed minimum of $1,500 (prorated for part-time), potentially more based on goals. The plan further outlines payouts:
      • If Kaiser fails to meet financial goals, members will be paid $300 per labor goal met (up to $1,200 for four labor goals).
      • If Kaiser meets financial goals, members will be paid $700 per labor goal met (total potential payout of $2,800).
      • If Kaiser strongly exceeds financial goals, members will be paid $950 per labor goal met (total potential payout of $3,750).
    • A $1,500 ratification bonus for healthcare workers
    • Renewed outsourcing and subcontracting protections for all classifications, including revenue cycle workers
    • Improved medical and retirement benefits
    • Traveling for continued education for nurses and other healthcare teams
    • Tracking staffing vacancies

    No Contract Updates Yet for the Striking Saint Louis Nurses

    Nurses at the SSM Saint Louis University Hospital (SSM SLU) in St. Louis, Missouri, voted overwhelmingly to authorize a two-day strike and did so from Wednesday, December 27, to Friday, December 29, 2023.

    Despite this, progress has yet to be made on a new contract. The nurses at SLU cite union-busting tactics and an unsafe work environment, including hiring temporary nurses instead of permanent staff, inadequate staffing ratios, and chronic low retention rates as their reasons for the action.

    “SSM seems to be dragging this process out and encouraging the decertification of our union. This is why we are striking.”

    Maddi O’Leary, RN, SSM SLU

    “We condemn SSM for trying to break the union by encouraging nurses to leave the union instead of bargaining in good faith,” Registered Nurse Maddi O’Leary told the Riverfront Times in a statement. “SSM seems to be dragging this process out and encouraging the decertification of our union. This is why we are striking.”

    This is the second time SLU nurses have had to strike in their ongoing negotiation with the hospital that began in May of 2023.

    University of Chicago Nurses Hold Informal Picket and Rally

    About 2,800 unionized nurses at the University of Chicago (UChicago) Medicine have yet to come to an agreement with the hospital and held an informal informational picket and rally on January 15.

    The move comes after three months of failed negotiations where nurses claim the administration has not addressed their crucial safety concerns. The nurses at UChicago cited an ongoing list of issues, including unaddressed and increasing violence against healthcare workers, unsafe staffing, and the need for more resources and training.

    The UChicago nurses demand hospital administration provide adequate staffing and resources and respond to the workplace violence proposals they submitted.

    Nurse Negotiations Begin in Missoula, Montana

    Contract negotiations are set to begin this week for the 625 unionized nurses at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana. The current contract will expire on February 29. Tensions have risen between the union and the hospital since June 2023, when hospital administrators tried to increase the nurse-to-patient ratio from 1-to-4 to 1-to-6 on one floor as a test run.

    “All the nurses expressed a lot of concern, and we asked if there was going to be any kind of a wage increase with a 30% increase in workload,” one St. Patrick’s nurse who asked to remain anonymous told the Missoulian.

    Limited negotiations began in 2023 and resulted in a package the nurse’s union turned down. The nurses cite safe staffing as their number one priority heading into talks. They hope to reach an agreement quickly and amicably.