"We love our community, we love our patients. We do not want to go on strike. However, we are prepared to do what we have to do,” said NYSNA Local Bargaining Unit President Christopher Honor, a nurse at Peconic Bay Medical Center. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The union representing nurses and other healthcare workers at Peconic Bay Medical Center and LIJ-Valley Stream has issued strike notices to Northwell Health, notifying management at both hospitals that the union intends to strike on Feb. 21 unless the two sides can reach a tentative contract agreement before that date. 

The New York State Nurses Association, which represents approximately 400 healthcare workers at PBMC in Riverhead and another 300 members at LIJ-Valley Stream, voted overwhelmingly last week to authorize a strike.  Federal law requires the union to provide 10 days notice of a planned strike. The Feb. 1 vote to authorize a strike received support from 99.5% of the union’s members, union leaders said.

MORE COVERAGE: Nurses and healthcare workers at PBMC vote overwhelmingly to authorize a strike

Northwell Health expressed disappointment that the union issued the strike notices, but said it remains optimistic that it will reach a deal with the union.

“In the event of a strike, patient care remains our highest priority. We will continue to serve our patients and our community by providing uninterrupted world-class care,” a Northwell Health spokesperson said in an email this afternoon.

NYSNA and management at Valley Stream were back at the bargaining table yesterday for the first time since the Feb. 1 vote, according to NYSNA. The two sides are back at the table for the first time today in Riverhead, where the negotiating session got underway this morning.

The issues at the two hospitals are different, though related, the union said at a rally outside PBMC last Thursday. While NYSNA says the union is pressing for better staffing in Valley Stream, in Riverhead, the issue is wages. Both affect the ability to recruit and retain nurses and other healthcare workers, and ultimately patient care, the union says.

Peconic healthcare workers are the lowest paid on Long Island, according to the New York State Nurses Association. 

Starting pay at PBMC is approximately $12,000 less than at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, another Northwell hospital, according to Marie Boyle, a member of the board of directors of the New York State Nurses Association. The top of the scale at PBMC is approximately $32,000 lower than it is at South Shore, 30 miles to the west, Boyle said.

NYSNA is taking aim at the compensation Northwell pays its top executives. In a press release this morning,  NYSNA said it has launched a website and an advertising campaign “that focuses on Northwell’s high executive pay.”

The union noted in the press release that Northwell CEO Michael Dowling had total compensation  in 2021 of $7.7 million, according to the not-for-profit corporation’s IRS Form 990 for that year. 

Northwell’s Form 990 for 2022 shows Dowling’s compensation dropped to just over $5.2 million.

Northwell’s 2022 Form 990 shows 17 other top executives in the health system that year were compensated more than $1 million, with three executives, besides Dowling, earning more than $2 million. 

The company reported gross receipts of nearly $3.3 billion in 2021 and more than $2.9 billion in 2022.

Not-for-profits are required to report income and expenses to the IRS on Form 990.  They are also required to list compensation for all current officers, directors, trustees, current key employees and the five current highest compensated employees. The forms are accessible on the website of ProPublica, which maintains a database of 990 forms for nonprofit organizations. 

“LIJ Valley Stream Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center are disappointed in NYSNA’s decision to issue a strike notice but as always, our goal is to reach a fair contract,” a Northwell Health spokesperson said in an emailed statement this afternoon. 

“We remain optimistic that an agreement can be reached and will continue to bargain in good faith. We look forward to ongoing positive and productive negotiations with NYSNA,” the Northwell spokesperson said in the statement. 

Chris Honor, a registered nurse who is the NYSNA local’s president at PBMC and a southeast regional director of the union, said its members are determined to negotiate a “fair contract with safe staffing.”

“We see striking as a last resort,” Honor said in a statement emailed by NYSNA. He said the union’s members are “committed to doing what’s best for our patients. If that means going on strike, we are ready.” 

Correction: This article has been amended to correct a misstatement when originally published. The 10-day notice is required by federal, not state, law as initially reported. The notification of intention to strike any health care institution is required by the federal National Labor Relations Act.

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