Thousands of New York City nurses have voted in favor of going on strike if they’re not able to reach an agreement on a new contract, the New York State Nurses Association announced at a press conference in Manhattan Thursday.

The strike authorization vote does not require the nurses to strike by a particular date, but rather allows them to deliver a 10-day notice of a strike at any time. The workers’ current contract expires Dec. 31.

Voting has taken place in recent days at 12 New York City medical centers and hospital systems, and more than half — representing about 14,000 of 17,000 nurses so far — have voted in favor of authorizing a strike. The remaining hospitals are expected to have results soon, and the New York State Nurses Association predicts they will follow suit.

Negotiations at the hospitals have been ongoing for months and have stalled over demands for safer staffing levels, as well as better pay and health benefits.

“We want to protect our patients, so staffing is No. 1,” said Aretha Morgan, a nurse in the pediatric emergency room at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Washington Heights. “We don’t want to strike but we will strike if management gives us no other choice.”

After publication, Angela Karafazli, a spokesperson for New York-Presbyterian, noted that only three of the network’s facilities will be affected: NYP/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, NYP/Allen Hospital and NYP/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

Hospitals have struggled to recruit and retain nurses and other staff amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent report from industry groups including the Healthcare Association of New York State and the Greater New York Hospital Association, “100% of the state’s hospitals report nursing shortages they cannot fill.”

The issue has become more urgent as hospitals have grappled this winter with an influx of patients infected with the flu, RSV and COVID-19. Morgan said nurses on her unit have been dealing with high caseloads in recent weeks that have affected patient care.

Gothamist reached out to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office for comment on how the state plans to address ongoing staffing issues at hospitals – and if there’s a plan in place to protect patient care if nurses do go on strike.

The 12 hospitals are listed below:

  • BronxCare Health System – voted in favor
  • The Brooklyn Hospital Center
  • Flushing Hospital Medical Center
  • Interfaith Medical Center
  • Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center
  • Maimonides Medical Center
  • Montefiore Medical Center – voted in favor
  • Mount Sinai Hospital – voted in favor
  • Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West – voted in favor
  • New York-Presbyterian – voted in favor
  • Richmond University Medical Center – voted in favor
  • Wyckoff Heights Medical Center

This story was updated to clarify how many hospitals have currently voted as of Thursday afternoon.