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On Sept. 17, PEF filed a declaration of impasse with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) requesting a mediator be assigned to facilitate impact bargaining with the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) over the Sept. 27 vaccine mandate imposed by the New York State Department of Health on patient-facing healthcare workers.

The declaration was emailed to all members subject to the mandate, which includes employees at the three SUNY hospitals, as well as five veterans’ homes across the state, the Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Hospital and  Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. It was also posted Sept. 18 on the PEF website.

Left to right: Jessica Carpenter from PEF Organizing, Executive Board Member Kenneth Dischel, Region 11 Treasurer Charles Roland, Region 11 Coordinator Bernadette O’Connor, Vice President Darlene Williams, and Director of Organizing Dan Carpenter at SUNY Downstate on Sept. 21.

Beginning on Monday, Sept. 20, PEF leaders fanned out across the state to visit the impacted facilities and answer member questions. Site visits were made to the following facilities by PEF leaders to educate members about their rights:

  • Sept. 20: SUNY Upstate
  • Sept. 21: SUNY Downstate
  • Sept. 22: Roswell Park, St. Albans Veterans Home, SUNY Stony Brook
  • Sept. 24: Long Island State Veterans Home
Region 1 Coordinator Michele Silsby, center, was joined by Secretary-Treasurer Joe Donahue and PEF staff to answer member questions at Roswell Park.

This fact sheet was also distributed at the events. Throughout the week, PEF posted the photos seen on this page on social media as leaders and staff engaged with members on location.

On Sept. 22, a statement was posted on the PEF website, PEF social media and released to the press as mediations with PERB began.  Those mediations concluded on Sept. 24. PEF was able to stave off the State’s attempt to circumvent Article 33 in the PS&T Contract. They will not be allowed to summarily terminate any member who is not vaccinated as of Sept. 27. They must give PEF members their due-process rights. A fact sheet outlining those rights can be found here.

Also on Sept. 22, PEF President Wayne Spence, joined by General Counsel Edward Greene, Director of Contract Administration Deb Greenberg and Director of Field Services Katie Vorwald, conducted a telephone town hall for the 5,861 members subject to the mandate. In addition, President Spence invited Dr. Burton Rochelson, who is the Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at North Shore University Hospital, to speak on the call because many members who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant have expressed reservations about getting the vaccine. Dr. Rochelson provided members with the facts, which show pregnant women are greatly at risk from the virus, but the vaccine is not causing problems during pregnancy. He recommended members with concerns talk to their own doctors, but said that he is advising pregnant women under his care to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

While all this activity surrounding the vaccine mandate was happening, PEF also celebrated two victories in the ongoing fight for better nursing compensation. On Sept. 22, PEF signed a Memorandum of Agreement with SUNY that could provide an increase in the overtime rate for many members at the three SUNY hospitals as well as the Long Island State Veterans Home. Gov. Hochul released details in this press release.

More good news for nurses came on Sept. 24, when SUNY announced an increase in the geographic pay differential for nurses working at SUNY Stony Brook. PEF President Wayne Spence advocated for the increase with SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. It was SUNY’s decision and not a contractually negotiated pay raise, but any reward for New York’s healthcare heroes is worth celebrating. Details can be found in this SUNY press release.