96% of Nurses Authorize Strike at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, NJ

4 Min Read Published July 12, 2023
96% of Nurses Authorize Strike at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, NJ

Image: TAPinto New Brunswick

Update 8/11

Due to the inability of the United Steelworkers Local 4-200 nurses’ union and hospital administration to come to an agreement on terms, a strike is officially underway at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.  According to reports, nearly 2,000 nurses walked off the job last Friday after contract negotiations stalled.


The hospital has made multiple offers to the nurses’ union to end the strike, including one that “addressed staffing concerns and provides a $20 an hour bonus for nurses should the hospital fall below agreed-upon standards.” However, all offers have thus far been declined by the union as the strike approaches the one-week mark.


United SteelWorkers 4-200, the union which represents RWJUH nurses, today formally rejected the hospital’s latest offer that would have established clearly defined staffing guidelines, further bolstered nurses’ highest-in-the-state salaries and ensured zero increases in employee health contributions for a fourth consecutive year,” said hospital spokesperson Wendy Gottsegen. “Unfortunately, the union instead submitted a counterproposal well in excess of its last proposal. This proposal is now under review by RWJUH, and we look forward to the next meeting to be scheduled by the mediator. A prolonged strike benefits no one – least of all, our nurses. We urge the union leaders to consider the impact the strike is having on our nurses.”

“The USW remains, as ever, committed to negotiating a fair contract that ensures safe staffing and reflects nurses’ contributions to the success of the hospital,” said union staff representative Joe Arico. “We stand ready to continue bargaining and encourage management to join us back at the table.”

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital faced criticism in the media after they requested medical students to volunteer to work in a supportive capacity while the hospital transitioned to replacement nurses. Hospital officials now claim they are fully staffed and that replacement nurses have been brought in for at least 60 days.

Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey have voted to authorize a strike. A landslide majority vote of 96% was made in favor of the strike after the union rejected the facility’s proposed settlement agreement. 

Unionization and Reasons for Strike

The nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are represented by the United Steelworkers Local 4-200 union. The union currently represents over 1,500 nurses at the hospital. The union’s contract with the hospital expired June 30 and both sides have been in contract negotiations ever since.

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Back in May, nurses from the union conducted a rally at the State House in Trenton, New Jersey, urging lawmakers to pass safe staffing legislation.

@unitedsteelworkers 🚑👩‍⚕️ Nurses from USW Local 4-200 at Robert Wood Johnson joined a rally at the State House in Trenton, New Jersey, to demand safe staffing for nurses! They're urging lawmakers to pass a new law setting minimum staffing levels at hospitals and health care facilities. Let's support our nurses and ensure a strong health care system for everyone! 💪🏥 #SafeStaffing #NursesWeek #USWHealthCare #TrentonRally #HealthcareHeroes ♬ original sound - USW

Union president Judy Danella says that staffing issues are the primary reason for the strike authorization vote on July 10, stating:

"I am a bedside nurse. And many times we've seen that the nurses are overloaded on patients. Patients are not getting the care that they need. And we just want to see that they put ratios in. Safe staffing needs to become a reality."

Danella says the staffing situation at the hospital is “inadequate” and positions are often filled by new graduate and travel nurses.

Also, according to union representatives, the hospital spent $58 million on travel nurses, money the union argues should go to the hospital’s staff nurses to aid in retention efforts. 

The nurses are also negotiating for increased pay, retirement benefits (there currently are none), and improved medical insurance.

The nurses will issue a notice of intent to strike at least ten days in advance in order to provide Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital with time to coordinate patient care alternatives. A date for the strike has not yet been set.

The strike authorization comes amid a severe nursing shortage across the state of New Jersey, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. New Jersey has been ranked among the states with the most vacant registered nurse positions.

Image: My Central Jersey

Hospital Statements

In response to the nursing strike vote, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital representatives said the hospital has "continued to underscore its utmost respect and appreciation for our nurse colleagues."

"We value their service and dedication to this hospital and to our patients," a hospital statement said. "It is why we are extremely disappointed that the union leadership even proposed a strike and that a narrow majority of the nursing workforce now has voted to pursue that avenue, rejecting what we believe is a fair and equitable proposal. A strike is an extreme measure that serves no one’s best interest, including the nurses themselves nor our patients."

Hospital officials also claim that the facility’s nurses are the highest-paid nurses in the state "at every level among their peers at comparable hospitals – even before the proposed increase offered in this contract renewal."

"To further our commitment to our nursing staff, RWJUH has put forth a generous package that ensures our nurses remain at the top for years to come," the hospital’s statement read. "On average our wage proposal is 14% higher than the average published rates for similar New Jersey hospitals."

Hospital spokespeople also claim that the hospital has addressed the criticism for their staffing ratios by budgeting for more than 100 additional registered nursing positions, hiring over 600 registered nurses since 2022, and proposing a collaborative council to continue to address staffing issues. 

“Throughout this process, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital has been committed to negotiating transparently and in good faith with the goal of reaching a fair and equitable resolution as quickly as possible," the hospital’s statement said. "We hope that the union will come back to the negotiating table and do the same in order to avert such a disruptive action."

Ayla Roberts
Ayla Roberts
Nurse.org Contributor

Ayla Roberts is a Registered Nurse and freelance content writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has over 8 years of clinical experience, primarily in pediatrics. She has also worked extensively in nursing education and healthcare simulation. She holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Nursing, but her first love has always been writing. Connect with her on LinkedIn, on Instagram @thernhealthwriter, or by visiting www.thernhealthwriter.com.

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