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Both sides in Mercy Hospital strike to meet Tuesday

"We’re not being treated like we are valuable"
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Posted at 7:41 PM, Oct 04, 2021

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Striking workers at Mercy Hospital in south Buffalo were on their fourth day on the picket line Monday.

A walkout by about 1,900 hospital workers continues to surround the outside of the hospital sidewalks.

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Mercy Hospital workers on strike.

But early Monday evening, after a quiet day from CWA Local 1133 leadership and Catholic Health leaders, word came that both sides would be meeting in-person Tuesday morning.

Catholic Health issued a brief news release Monday afternoon stating he two sides communicated through federal mediators and will meet on specific conditions.

Catholic Health says the union has agreed to provide in writing its questions about hospital’s latest proposal made on Friday.

Meanwhile, CWA Local 1133 members are pounding out their union chants in hopes Catholic Health will hear their plea from the picket lines.

“We’re not being treated like we are valuable,” stated Melissa Piechowsez, respiratory therapist at Mercy.

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Melissa Piechowsez, respiratory therapist at Mercy.

The striking respiratory therapist says she and her colleague are striking not only for decent wages, but for safe staffing and patient safety.

“You cant expect to have grandma in here — waiting five hours just to get water because we have one person taking care of 25 people,” reflected Piechowsez.

Mercy Hospital workers say patient ratios are horrible with some night shifts seeing up to 30-patients for one nurse.

Union members walked off the job early Friday.

Catholic Health has brought in replacement workers since the strike began Friday. That enraged the union, which calls them scab workers.

“How tough is it to watch those replacement workers walk in?” Buckley asked.

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Jessica Whitt, unit clerk at Mercy.

“It hurts. You kind of feel violated,” replied Jessica Whitt, unit clerk at Mercy.

“They are paying people who are outside of this community a lot more — like four times as much as I get paid — to come in and do the same job that I would be doing, but definitely with a lot more care because I know people who come here,” replied Piechowsez.

Catholic Health CEO Mark Sullivan says they had no choice but to bring in health care workers to make sure patients are the number one priority.

Catholic Health says it wanted to the union to bargain over the weekend virtually, but the union refused.

The union says it was back at the bargaining table in person Monday, but Catholic Health was not.

On Friday, Sullivan says catholic health has been there every day ready to talk.

“We’re committed to bargaining. We don't want this to continue,” explained Sullivan.

Catholic Health delivered a proposal to the union early Friday just before the strike deadline.

Catholic Health says it has not received any written response from the union since September 19th.

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Striking Mercy Hospital workers.

The union is bargaining six contracts that includes Mercy Buffalo, Kenmore Mercy and St. Joseph's Hospital campus.

But hospital workers at those other locations have a "no strike" clause in their contracts.

South Buffalo Common Council Member Chris Scanlon showed up to support striking workers not only as a lawmaker, but someone who lives in the hospital neighborhood.

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South Buffalo Common Council Member Chris Scanlon

“These are men and woman that I live amongst and men and women who are the patients of this hospital and it's very frustrating and concerning,” Scanlon remarked.

Scanlon tells me he's frustrated with Catholic Health and says they need to be back at the bargaining table.