Labor relations expert says nurses’ disgruntlement not unique to Rochester

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – In just a few hours, hundreds of nurses at Rochester General could be walking the picket line.

The union representing the nurses has given Rochester Regional Health until Wednesday night to come to an agreement on their first-ever contract.

If talks fail, nurses will begin their two-day strike at 7 a.m. Thursday.

This would be the first nurses’ strike ever in the hospital’s 176-year history.

RGH and the Rochester Union of Nurses & Allied Professionals have spend Tuesday and Wednesday trying to mediate their differences. A union leader tells News10NBC that the two sides are deadlocked over a wage increase over the next five years.

Meanwhile, Rochester Regional Health says it wants to avoid a strike, but is prepared to bring in other nurses to keep the hospital staffed.

Nurses say they deserve better pay and that they need more of them to adequately care for patiens.

Penn State University professor Paul Clark, an expert in labor and employment relations, says what’s happening in Rochester is not unusual. Nurses becoming unionized is a part of a greater trend across the country in health care.

Both sides have been at the bargaining table for nine months. That’s also not unusual, Clark says, adding that employers are known to drag out negotiations.

The nurses say the strike will last two days.

“So often what they do is go out on a short strike to send a message to the hospital that they’re willing to go this far to try to improve things in their hospital,” Clark said. “They may try a two-day strike initially to show the hospital they’re serious. If that doesn’t work, down the road they might try a longer strike.”

In the event of a strike, RGH is turning to travel nurses to come in and provide patient care. The health care system says a strike would have a big impact. According to RRH, it lost $145 million in 2022 for the first time in its 10-year history and is projecting a $150 million loss this fiscal year.