Phelps Hospital Workers in Westchester Overwhelmingly Vote to Strike

May 17, 2024

“We do NOT want to leave the bedside,
but we are willing to strike if necessary.”

In a powerful show of solidarity, registered nurses and other caregivers at Phelps Hospital voted 98.9% to authorize a strike if hospital management refuses to settle a fair contract that provides greater staff input on patient care.

“What we do is more than a job. People’s lives are in our hands. Nurses take that responsibility and their trust with the utmost seriousness–and that’s why we want an expanded voice in patient care and staffing. It is shameful of Northwell to force us to this point. We do not want to leave the bedside, but we are willing to strike if necessary,” explained Anne Moss, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit who has worked at the hospital since 2011.

In June 2022, approximately 900 Phelps Hospital caregivers voted to form a union with 1199SEIU. For over 18 months, workers have been fighting for a fair contract. Earlier this month, hundreds of Phelps staff rallied outside the hospital during nonwork time to send a strong message that they will not back down. Yet, management continues to refuse the healthcare workers’ pleas for greater input on issues relating to patient care and staffing. 

“When we were fighting on Covid’s front lines, Northwell hailed us as heroes. Now that the dust has settled, we’re forgotten,” said Alexi Matos, an administrative support assistant, who has worked at the Sleepy Hollow facility for five years. “I was born at Phelps Hospital and raised in town. Phelps is my community hospital and I want to provide the best care possible for the patients, but frontline workers need more. Many of us feel squeezed on all sides by the rising costs of day-to-day life. We are ready to strike for a fair contract that treats us the same as 1199SEIU caregivers at other Northwell institutions.”

Employees at the Sleepy Hollow facility are also calling for improved pay and benefits. The 238-bed Phelps Hospital is part of Northwell Health which is New York State's largest healthcare provider and private employer. Tens of thousands of 1199SEIU members at other Northwell facilities–including nearby Northern Westchester Hospital–already have strong 1199SEIU contracts that include no-cost family health insurance, guaranteed pensions, education funds, and competitive wages. 

“I am passionate about patient safety and staffing, and nurses deserve to have a greater voice in these matters,” said Tiffany Barrett, a registered nurse who has been at Phelps for four years. “It’s been frustrating that we voted for our union almost two years ago and still do not have a contract. We aren't asking for anything more than what 1199 nurses already have at many other Northwell facilities. It’s demoralizing and it feels like nurses don’t matter to the hospital administration.”

This week’s vote in favor of a work stoppage does not mean that healthcare workers will necessarily go on strike, but gives the caregivers the authority to do so.