Last week, unionized nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) voted to authorize a labor strike, according to an article from My Central Jersey.
The vote, which was finalized on Monday, came less than a month after the union's contracts expired on June 30 and after three months of negotiations.
Judy Danella, the president of United Steel Workers Local 4-200 (USW), said the strike authorization passed with the support of 96 percent of 1,270 full and part-time registered nurses within the union who voted, according to an article from NJ Advance Media.
Following notice of the union's vote, the hospital released a response outlining its dismay at the decision, according to the article from My Central Jersey.
"We are extremely disappointed that the union leadership even proposed a strike and that a narrow majority of the nursing workforce now has voted to pursue that avenue, rejecting what we believe is a fair and equitable proposal," the statement said. "A strike is an extreme measure that serves no one’s best interest, including the nurses themselves nor our patients."
After the vote, the two parties held another bargaining session, according to another article from My Central Jersey. The session lasted 14 hours, and the parties ultimately did not come to an agreement. Without any further developments, 1,500 nurses will go on strike beginning July 22.
With regard to contract negotiations, members of the nurses' union are primarily advocating for staffing expansions in the hospital, according to NJ Advance Media. They claim that the hospital's staffing issues compromise the well-being of nurses and patients alike, while hospital leadership claims they have already hired 600 new nurses and have approved the hiring of 100 more.
Issues stemming from nursing shortages are not uncommon. Approximately 100,000 nurses left the field during the pandemic, according to a study published in the Journal of Nursing Regulation. More than 600,000 nurses are expected to leave by 2027.
Staffing shortages in the medical field can be attributed to various factors, such as burnout, high-stress levels and workplace violence, according to an article from NPR.
In addition to more staff, the USW Local 4-200 is calling for increases in pay, retirement support and limitations on insurance costs, according to the My Central Jersey article. In response, the hospital's statement said that RWJUH's nurses are already paid more than their peers at other New Jersey hospitals.
The hospital has not provided any further comments following Wednesday's bargaining session. The union's leadership has said they would be willing to meet with the hospital again but have not received any initiative from them to do so.
"The union is always willing and ready and able to go back and talk to the hospital," Danella said. "I can only say I do not have any dates at the current time to go back and talk to them."