Press Release

Nurses at Steward Health Care hospitals in South Florida vote resoundingly to ratify new contracts

Group of five nurses inside Palmetto Hospital

RNs at Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah and Florida Medical Center in Lauderdale Lakes ratify new contracts, RNs at Coral Gables Hospital win first contract

Registered Nurses at three Steward Health Care hospitals in South Florida —Coral Gables Hospital in Coral Gables, Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah, and Florida Medical Center in Lauderdale Lakes — resoundingly voted over the past week in favor of ratifying new three-year contracts announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) today. The new contracts support improvements in patient care and will strengthen each hospitals’ capacity to retain and recruit registered nurses, which is a priority given the staffing crisis at each facility.

Nurses at Coral Gables Hospital won their very first contract in record-breaking time, less than three months. The RNs voted to affiliate with NNOC/NNU in July of this year. Their new pact guarantees the same high standards achieved at the other two Steward hospitals, which have been under contract for several cycles.

“We are thrilled with all that we have achieved in the past few months, winning union representation this summer and now, in record time, a first contract,” said Dorotea Reyes, an RN in the ICU unit at Coral Gables Hospital, where she has worked for 31 years. “We want our patients to know that our advocacy for them does not stop here. We are united in our commitment to improving their care and with the new contract we have an excellent tool for accomplishing this.”

“We stood together, and we did not back down,” said Jessica Luengo, an RN in the mother-baby unit at Palmetto General Hospital. “We made it clear that the staffing crisis in our hospital cannot be ignored and can, with a strong contract, be addressed. The new contract enhances recruitment and the retention of seasoned RNs, and also provides health and safety provisions that are essential for optimal care.”

Highlights of the contract include:

  • Staffing improvements that include implementation of a resolution process for staffing disputes, protection against unsafe patient assignment loads and unilateral changes to staffing plans, safeguard the role of the charge nurse, and make more than two consecutive 12-hour shifts optional.
  • Protections against unsafe floating: Floating is a management practice where nurses are reassigned to units of the hospital where they do not normally work. The contract includes language that reduces unsafe floating of nurses to other units.
  • Health and safety enhancements, including the establishment of an Infectious Disease Task Force and improved PPE protections.
  • New extended sick leave bank that nurses can use instead of PTO.
  • Eight hours of paid education leave time per year.
  • Economic gains including the elimination of second-tier pay scales bringing all RNs to the higher pay scale with 8 percent to 27 percent pay increases over the next 20 months for all RNs plus an additional 2 percent raise for 2022.

The new pact covers the period October 2022 to October 2025.

“As nurses, we see at the bedside, day in and day out, what our patients need to heal, to recover, to feel truly cared for,” said Chrystel Willis, an RN in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Florida Medical Center. “That’s what we fought for in negotiations and we’re proud of the resulting contract. Through our collective strength and faith in each other, the nurses won a contract that prioritizes patient care, so this is a victory for our patients and our community.”

NNOC/NNU represents 8,000 Florida RNs at 16 hospitals across the state.

National Nurses Organizing Committee is an affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with more than 180,000 members nationwide.