Nancy Hagans, RN: The nurses union powerhouse

Nancy Hagan at podium backed by nurses holding various signs

The following is an excerpt taken from an article in City and State New York

Choosing winners and losers of the year for 2023 wasn’t easy. Not because there was a lack of notable events and scandals, but because the year seemed to lack a coherent political arc. 2021 saw the fall of Andrew Cuomo and the rise of Kathy Hochul. Last year was the year New York handed the House of Representatives to the Republicans. And this year was the year … of many things: an influx of asylum-seekers to New York City, major labor victories, a bruising legislative session for the governor, withering public trust in the mayor, an off-year election with abysmal voter turnout, the rise of AI as well as the beginning of a devastating war in Israel and Palestine that rocked New York. So this list highlights a varied group of bright stars who managed to stand out in the chaos.

Presenting City & State’s 2023 Winners of the Year:

Nancy Hagans

The nurses union powerhouse

New York State Nurses Association President Nancy Hagans worked this year to rectify one of the biggest complaints from nurses coming out of the pandemic: short staffing and burnout. After a historic three-day strike by more than 7,000 nurses at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, Hagans finalized a labor contract in January that dealt with both issues. Nurses received a 19% wage increase over the next three years, and more than 170 new nursing positions were created in a bid to ease staffing concerns and increase retention.

Hagans parlayed that win into an appointment in February to the council of presidents of National Nurses United, the largest union of nurses in America. Since then, she hasn’t slowed down, testifying before the U.S. Senate in October that the nursing industry was in crisis and imploring lawmakers to introduce federal staffing guidelines to improve the experiences – and safety – of nurses and patients across the country. Hagans became a bona fide labor darling in the process. She garnered shoutouts from prominent New York lawmakers like U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas and had the honor of leading New York City’s Labor Day parade.

Hagans, who was born in Haiti, had an eye toward labor from a young age. When she first became a nurse, Hagans kept track of grievances she faced and ended up calling a meeting with supervisors and her union representatives to rectify the situation. After seeing the gusto with which Hagans understood and executed her rights, the representative invited her to become grievance co-chair, and Hagan’s career in union leadership began. She continued her career and became a highly rated ICU nurse, according to former colleagues, and rose up the ranks of union organizing before becoming New York State Nurses Association president in 2021.

We might be hearing more from Hagans in 2024. The labor agreements with nurses at three Montefiore hospitals in the Lower Hudson Valley expire at the end of the year, and her union is ramping up calls for staffing increases.

Hagans said in a November statement, “Let’s do whatever it takes to make sure Monte nurses win fair contracts that help deliver quality care for ALL New Yorkers – no matter the ZIP code!”

– Austin C. Jefferson