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2,000 CWA Members on STRIKE at Catholic Health Mercy Hospital in Buffalo

06 Oct, 2021

Dozens of healthcare workers - including nurses, techs, transport, environmental, and dietary workers - walked out of Catholic Health's Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY at 6am on October 1st, and were greeted by thousands of their coworkers, community members, faith leaders, and elected officials. Mercy Hospital workers - roughly 2,000 members of CWA Local 1133 - are now in the 6th day of their strike, the first in healthcare in District 1 since 1987.

At 6am on October 1st there was an incredible energy among a crowd so big it surrounded the entire hospital. Some held candles while others joined in prayers with faith leaders, calling for strength for the workers to weather the tough fight ahead. The mood was a mix of fierce and emotional, as many CWA members in the crowd cheered for and embraced their coworkers as they exited the hospital.

Click here to see the 6am walkout

No patient was left without care at 6am - CWA members were given a clear transition plan for walking off the job, with instructions to hand off all patient care to managers on duty, and between 5:30am and 6:05am 1133 Executive Officers went floor-by-floor and department-by-department to check that every patient was covered before leaving the building.

CWA Local 1133 Executive Board Member Jamie Banks explains how CWA members ensured a transition of care for patients

Since Friday, CWA members have been picketing at multiple locations, including Mercy Hospital and offsite locations Mercy Nursing Facility at OLV and Mercy Ambulatory Care Center.

Mercy Hospital strikers will be entitled to weekly benefits from the CWA Members Relief Fund starting 15 days after the strike began - and they'll be our first members ever to be covered by the improved NYS Unemployment Insurance rules for strikers, which reduced the waiting period from 7 to 2 weeks for those on strike, and which we helped get passed in the New York State Senate last year.

CWA Locals 1133 and 1168 represent about 2,500 workers at three Catholic Health facilities - Mercy Hospital, Kenmore Mercy, and St. Joseph Campus. Although only Mercy workers are able to strike due to no strike clauses at Kenmore Mercy and St. Joe's, workers from all three facilities are bargaining jointly with the hospital - and they've been at it for more than a year.

Our members have been fighting tooth and nail to have the hospital system recognize the dire conditions that our members have been working under and the danger these conditions pose to patient care. Severe understaffing has led to things like:

  • Nurses caring for eight, twelve, sometimes even up to 30 patients at once
  • Patients being forced to wait in hallways because there aren't enough environmental staff to get rooms cleaned on time
  • Cafeteria shutdowns because of staff shortages, leaving workers without any meal options during 12 hour overnight shifts
  • Workers unable to take bathroom or water breaks because they're so overwhelmed with patients

Click here to hear from our members about why our members are taking a stand for patient care.

The Mercy Hospital workers - all members of Local 1133 - voted by a 97% margin last month to authorize strike if the hospital system failed to reach a fair agreement on a new contract that addresses staffing and equipment shortages, low wages, and healthcare costs. After continued stalling from Catholic Health and an unacceptable final proposal dropped on the table after 3am, workers went on strike at 6am.

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