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Catholic Health union hospital workers vote to authorize strike if needed

Posted at 11:29 PM, Sep 09, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A union representing various Catholic Health hospital workers voted on Thursday night to authorize a strike if necessary.

The union workers say conditions are worsening due to staffing shortages.

According to the Communications Workers of America, the vote to strike had 97 percent support and a strike could happen as early as October 1, when the union contract is set to expire, but no official date has been set.

“We voted to strike if necessary because understaffing is so serious that it is becoming virtually impossible for nurses to provide basic care to patients. As a nurse who has dedicated my life to caring for people, there’s no way I can stand by and let that happen,” said Jackie Ettipio, President of CWA Local 1133 and a 30-year Registered Nurse at Mercy Hospital. “We are working around the clock as fast as we can, but when we’re expected to manage too many patients at once, the results are dangerous. Patients are sitting soiled for lengths of time, falling trying to get to the restroom themselves, not getting fed in a timely manner and even waiting hours for medication. Our community deserves much better.”

In response to the vote, Catholic Health sent 7 Eyewitness News a statement, which read:

We are disappointed CWA Local 1133 is threatening to strike at Mercy Hospital. It is unconscionable the union would take registered nurses and other crucial healthcare workers away from patients’ bedsides and out of our hospital to walk the picket line while COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our community.

Mercy Hospital will remain open and operational if CWA Local 1133 decides to lead associates on strike. A multi-disciplinary team at Mercy Hospital has developed a comprehensive strike contingency plan that includes hiring fully licensed, highly experienced, vaccinated temporary replacement nurses and other qualified staff who will provide uninterrupted care to our patients.

Many Mercy Hospital associates have been quietly expressing dissatisfaction with their union’s actions and rhetoric against their hospital. They are feeling pressured by CWA leaders and fear union retaliation for challenging its handling of negotiations and threatening to strike. Others have shared frustration with CWA that the strike pay it may provide during a strike is only a fraction of the money they would earn caring for patients and performing their jobs.

Mercy Hospital remains committed to bargaining in good faith with our associates’ union to settle these contract without further delay or disruption as we did recently with the SEIU for other contacts at St. Joseph Campus and two of our long-term care facilities.

With nearly three weeks until the contracts expire on September 30, we believe there is sufficient time to reach fair, market-competitive contracts that will allow us to continue providing safe, high-quality care and service to our patients and competitive wages and benefits to recruit and retain the best associates at Mercy Hospital.

Last week, Catholic Health filed unfair labor practice charges against the CWA.