Bargaining Update: Catholic Health Buffalo Workers Hold Massive Info Picket

Negotiations are heating up! On Wednesday, August 25th, following two days in a row of bargaining with Catholic Health Services, members of CWA Locals 1133 and 1168 came out in force for an Informational Picket at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo. The contract expired June 30, 2021, with a mandatory 90-day "cooling off period" that will end on September 30.

Over 700 CWA members, allies, elected leaders, and labor unions walked the line to demand a fair contract that prioritizes safe staffing at Catholic Health hospitals.

“I’ve been here for over 30 years,” said Sharon Scime, a registered nurse. “I came here because it’s a small community hospital. And my heart’s in it. I want to give the best I can. And now I go home defeated, because I know I can’t do what I was meant to do.”

Contract demands include

  • Safe staffing ratios to protect both workers and patients

  • No concessions on healthcare, pensions, and benefits

  • Competitive wages to recruit and retain staff

Despite heroic efforts over the past 18 months to care for patients and keep Buffalo, NY going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers—including registered nurses, technical employees, and service employees—have been disrespected by the hospital management, with poor equipment and long hours due to understaffing. Catholic Health has proposed a mere 1% in salary increases for the workers, lower than the rate of inflation and amounting to a 6.5% to 10% pay cut for most workers considering the massive proposed increase in out-of- pocket healthcare costs. Meanwhile, the hospital system’s CEO brings in $1.4 million per year, while the top 11 administrators made more than $7 million combined in 2019.

“We actually cut towels to make washcloths, so we can wash our people,” said Corrine Webb, a registered nurse. “We’ve been out of needles. “I have no urinals, we are searching from floor to floor.”

“Over the weekend we were short 26 registered nurses," said Jillian Trageser, a registered nurse. "Those are just registered nurses. That's not including the aides that were missing, the supplies that were short, equipment that is 50 years old.”

The energy was high on Wednesday during the picket, with many CWAers fired up and ready to keep fighting as long as it takes to win a fair contract. The “Safe Staffing Saves Lives” chants were accompanied by the near constant honking of car horns as supportive community members drove by.

While CWAers and supporters walked the picket line, CWA District 1 Upstate Area Director Debora Hayes, along with CWA Local 1133 President Jackie Ettipio and CWA Local 1168 President Cori Gambi, led a rally with several speakers from elected offices and Buffalo community groups.

You can help!

Sign the petition to tell Catholic Health to respect their workers and settle a fair contract now.

Are you a CWA member at Mercy, St. Josephs, or Kenmore Hospitals?

Read more about what our Catholic Health members are fighting for in this op-ed by Heather Lawrence.

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