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In Saranac Lake, nurses call for fair wages, benefits

A large group of nurses gathered in front of one of the region's largest health care facilities this week to call for fair wages and benefits.

The nurses' union at the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake says it wants a contract similar to those at other area hospitals, like the CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh and the Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone.

But hospital officials counter that they've been negotiating in good faith, and that their contract proposal is, in fact, fair.

More than 40 people lined the highway in front of the Adirondack Medical Center Thursday morning. Some carried signs reading, "Be fair, give us our share," while others urged oncoming cars to sound the horn in support of the nurses union.

Barbara Ryan of Saranac Lake is a nurse with some 30 years of experience in the field. She says a fair contract for the 165 nurses at AMC isn't just about getting their fair share - it's about supporting the local economy.

Ryan says she's reached the top of her pay scale - but other, younger nurses need better wages so they can stay in the Tri-Lakes.

"We need to keep the young nurses here," she said. "I retired last year and I'm coming back as a per diem employee because we don't have enough nurses. The whole point is that these nurses are coming up through the ranks - they deserve the raises in the steps that they're supposed to get. To freeze them, or to stop it, or to say they don't deserve it is completely wrong. They can go to Plattsburgh and get their steps - it's really not that far."

New York State Nurses Association spokesman Mark Genovese says the union simply wants a contract that's on-par with other regional hospitals.

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