Nurses rally outside Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital on Feb....

Nurses rally outside Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital on Feb. 1. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nurses at Peconic Bay Medical Center have reached a tentative contract agreement with Northwell Health, but nurses at LIJ Valley Stream, where a strike was also authorized, allege they are encountering discrimination in negotiations, according to their union, the New York State Nurses Association.

The union said it believes its team is facing disparate treatment at the negotiating table because Valley Stream has a more diverse workforce and patient population — a claim that Northwell spokeswoman Barbra Osborn denied and called offensive. 

The New Hyde Park-based health system and union agreed on a proposed contract for Peconic Bay, which NYSNA said would improve staffing ratios at the Riverhead hospital, enforcement of these standards and “major” wage increases.

Nurses are scheduled to vote on the agreement on Tuesday, a day before nurses at both facilities could strike. Last year, nurses voted three times to authorize strikes at hospitals on the Island, only to reach agreements with health care organizations before the mandated 10-day notice period had passed.


Northwell has rejected wage increases sought by the union at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream while, according to NYSNA, claiming the hospital's staff and clientele are “characteristically different.” The union said the health system was also refusing to improve staff ratio standards that are low compared with other facilities. 

Sandra Armstrong, a nurse leader at the hospital near the border of Queens and Nassau County, said Northwell has previously made comments that appear to be motivated by LIJ Valley Stream employing more people of color and serving a more diverse and lower-income population than its other hospitals.

“They used to say 'demographics,' and now they are saying 'characteristically different,' ” Armstrong said in a statement. “So that's why Northwell won't deliver safe staffing and fair pay here? I think it's despicable that they would disrespect and discriminate in this way.” 

Osborn issued a statement on behalf of Northwell, stating that “the words 'characteristically different' were never said.” The health system said the going rates for nurses varied by geography and other factors.

“NYSNA's misrepresentation of what happened at the negotiations table to achieve a contract is reprehensible,” Osborn said in a statement. “What is accurate is the reference to the different characteristics of compensation in the bargaining units, for example elements of pay such as experience steps and salary relative to market. When negotiating compensation, we assess the specific market position to ensure fairness across the organization.”

Despite the disagreement, both the union and Northwell indicated they wanted to reach a resolution. 

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