Tentative Agreement Reached with Kaleida Health Following Strike Authorization Vote!
Round-the-clock bargaining through the weekend by the joint CWA Local 1168 and 1199SEIU Bargaining Committee with employer Kaleida Health culminated in a tentative agreement for a new 3-year contract that will cover more than 6,300 union healthcare workers in Buffalo, NY!
The agreement follows months of tough negotiations and strong mobilizing efforts by the two unions that included a massive informational picket in late August, op-eds published in local media outlets, solidarity actions throughout multiple Kaleida worksites, and a vote to authorize a strike if necessary.
CWA 1168 and 1199SEIU members voted in droves on September 13th, 14th, and 15th, with an overwhelming majority - 96% - choosing to authorize a strike if the sides could not reach an agreement on the contract.
During the voting workers proudly displayed “I Voted YES” stickers as they headed back into the hospital to continue caring for patients. As shifts changed in the hospital, some entire units came out together to vote. Many workers filled out signs explaining why they voted yes, with messages ranging from “safe staffing saves lives” to “our patients deserve better” to “I’m tired of working alone; we need proper staff for proper care,” to “my patients deserve pillow cases”.
Among the issues on the table, arguably the number one priority has been staffing - CWA and 1199SEIU members have been working under severe staffing shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and excessive rates of fatigue and burnout among the workforce. Kaleida currently has roughly 1,200 vacancies to fill, and the unions are fighting for a contract that will better equip them to recruit and retain staff, as well as an enforceable commitment to necessary staffing levels.
“The last thing we wanted was a strike, and this week, our committee worked around the clock to avoid that. It was hard work, but we have won an agreement that will keep talented healthcare workers at Kaleida and alleviate what is currently a devastating staffing shortage,” said Local 1168 President Cori Gambini, a Registered Nurse. “After years of exhaustion, back to back shifts, and unmanageable patient loads, we knew for the sake of our patients’ health and safety that we could not back down from this fight.”
“Union healthcare workers made an overwhelming decision that they would not settle for the status quo of being chronically understaffed, fearing for their patients’ safety, and the discouragement and anger that comes with not being able to give their patients the attention they need and deserve,” said CWA District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor. “They came right up to the edge of a strike, and in the end, that is what some employers need to fear in order to take workers’ needs seriously. While hospitals everywhere are facing a nationwide staffing crisis, it is union members who are standing up for patients and fighting for change to address it. I could not be prouder of them for standing strong in this fight.”
Social Workers at Kaleida Health Join Local 1168
On September 19th, eight social workers at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, part of the Kaleida Health system, voted to join CWA Local 1168. Welcome to our newest members!