After 4-month strike, New Jersey hospital nurses approve labor deal

Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., approved a new labor contract Dec. 15, two weeks after reaching a tentative agreement with the hospital following a strike that lasted more than 120 days.

The agreement covers members of United Steelworkers Local 4-200, which represents about 1,700 nurses at the facility.

"Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital has been notified by United Steel Workers Local 4-200, the union representing RWJUH nurses, that the members have voted to ratify a new, three-year collective bargaining agreement," Alan Lee, president of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, said in a statement shared with Becker's on Dec. 15.  "We are pleased with the outcome of today's vote and look forward to welcoming our nurses back home."

The hospital and union reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract on Dec. 1, about four months after union members began a strike Aug. 4. Staffing, among other things, has been among key sticking points at the bargaining table. 

The agreement includes enforcement mechanisms "to help ensure the hospital maintains safe staffing levels, as well as an infrastructure to facilitate greater communication between front-line nurses and the hospital's administration," according to the union.

Under the deal, the hospital will also add an additional 70 registered nurse positions, effective May 1, 2024. 

USW Local 4-200 President Judy Danella, RN, said in a Dec. 15 news release: "This contract would not have been possible if the nurses hadn't stood together and demanded what our patients deserve. This campaign has always been about safety and quality care, and we are ready to get back to work doing what we love. We are particularly proud that this contract includes accountability and communication, which will ensure that staffing will remain a top priority moving forward."

A representative for the hospital told Becker's Dec. 15 that a specific return date for nurses had not been announced.

Mr. Lee said the new contract "provides for staffing standards that support the highest levels of care provided at academic medical centers, such as RWJUH, and offers a collaborative platform and process for nurses and leadership to address staffing issues and concerns together."

He said the deal also provides pay "that reflects the value of the role of the RWJUH nurse on the care team, many of which hold the highest certifications and education levels in their field. This agreement reflects our shared commitment to providing the highest quality patient care and creating a safe and supportive working environment for our nurses and all team members." 

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