Working Without Contracts At Three Buffalo Area Hospitals, Angry CWA-Represented Employees Target Catholic Health With Fat Cat Inflatable Holding A Nurse By The Neck
Unique Inflatable Will Be Used In Series Of Additional Public Actions Taken Against Catholic Health As Union-Represented Workers Overwhelmingly Vote To Strike If Need Be
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Pictured above, Communications Workers of America (CWA)-represented Employees at the Catholic Health System unveiled a new and unique inflatable - a fat cat boss holding a Nurse by the neck - outside Catholic Health’s downtown headquarters this week as Union Members, who are working under expired contracts, continue their battle to achieve new agreements at three area hospitals. (CWA Photos)
(BUFFALO) – You couldn’t miss it driving into Downtown Buffalo Monday (July 11th) morning – a massive inflatable depicting a fat cat boss holding a Nurse by the neck – that had been moored on a public sidewalk in front of Catholic Health System’s headquarters where a number of Communications Workers of America (CWA)-represented Nurses were publicly protesting the lack of a new contact at three Buffalo area hospitals – despite the fact Catholic Health reported a $27 million surplus for 2015 as company execs raked in huge raises.
“This is about ‘bringing our situation to light,’” CWA District One Area Director Deb Hayes told WNYLaborToday.com just hours after she took part in the downtown rally. “This is ‘not only about’ new contracts. It’s about ‘safe and additional’ staffing. It’s about ‘taking care of our patients.’ And it’s about ‘cleanliness’ in their hospitals, which is ‘terrible.’ They’ve cut their housekeeping staff ‘in half.’ It’s gotten to the point where Catholic Health Employees are telling people ‘not to come to our hospitals,’ because we ‘can’t serve you.”
“It’s also about a ‘lack of a healthy’ Labor-Management relationship. You just ‘can’t work with them’ on solving problems, which ‘magnifies’ other problems. It’s the Nurses we represent looking at our recent and new agreement with Kaleida Health and ‘asking why’ Nurses at Kaleida are ‘getting more’ than at Catholic Health,” Hayes (pictured below with Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz) told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper.
Contracts between the CWA and Catholic Health at three of its Buffalo area hospitals have expired: St. Joseph’s in Suburban Cheektowaga on August 31st, 2015; and Kenmore Mercy and South Buffalo Mercy on November 30th, 2015. In addition, Technicians represented by CWA at Kenmore Mercy also expired on November 30th, 2015.
Overall, Hayes says the CWA represents 2,500 Catholic Health Employees who are working under expired contracts. Overall, the CWA represents around 3,000 Catholic Health Workers.
While negotiations took place with Catholic Health last week and on Monday (July 11th) – with additional talks scheduled for later this week – involving each hospital, the CWA District One Regional Director is “not optimistic” new contracts will be bargained in the not too distant future and that the fight against Catholic Health may be a long one.
“No, because Catholic Health ‘still holds the belief’ we will be ‘bullied’ into agreements. Things are ‘going to be different’ (this time around) ‘- we ‘won’t be bullied’ into ‘concessionary’ contracts,” pledged Hayes, adding the CWA Members are taking a Strike Vote this week and that the Union is already planning a major informational picket that will be held in early August outside South Buffalo Mercy Hospital.
It’s a sure bet the inflatable fat cat boss will making an appearance at that picket event. It certainly caught the eye of Catholic Health management and security, who wasted no time contacting the Buffalo Police in an attempt to have it immediately removed.
However, the CWA had done its homework and ascertained that a 14-foot stretch of sidewalk that located in front of Catholic Health was indeed a public sidewalk, which allowed Union representatives to come in after measuring the space, which nicely accommodated the inflatable.
Hayes said Catholic Health “didn’t like the fact we were out on their front lawn,” adding Buffalo Police confirmed the inflatable was on public property and there was nothing they could do in terms of having it removed.
As CWA Members employed at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo headed to participate in a Strike Vote today (Tuesday, July 12th), the Union distributed the following press release:
Members of CWA Local 1133 employed at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo will be voting today and tomorrow (Monday and Tuesday) on whether to strike the hospital.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: CWA Local 1133 President Deb Arnet announced late Tuesday that the Strike Vote taken passed by an overwhelming 96%. “Our Members have spoken ‘loud and clear’ to Catholic Health. We are united and committed. (Catholic Health) needs to work with us to get this done,” she said.
The approximately 2,200 Registered Nurses, Technologists, Service and Clerical Workers are fed up with the hospital’s refusal to embrace a normal Labor-Management Relationship, its refusal to provide enough Workers to care for the patients and facilities, and the ongoing pattern of concessionary contracts.
The Union’s inability to work collaboratively with the hospital has resulted in system-wide problems which go unresolved, including: Short staffing; Filthy facilities; Lack of updated equipment; and Employee concerns around work conditions.
Also, Catholic Health and Mercy Hospital of Buffalo are committing Unfair Labor Practices (ULP). Specifically, they are: Pulling Employees into closets to threaten them about going to Union meetings; Telling Employees they “better not” file grievances; Retaliating against those same Employees when they complain about such treatment; Taking Mercy Union Work and moving that identical work to Non-Union Catholic Health corporate work where Employees can be fired at the Employer’s will for a any reason; Failing to bargain with the Union before making changes to the health care plan; Not bargaining about Dual Status until the Union files ULP Charges; and Not providing information until the Union files ULP Charges.
In June 2015, the CWA released results of a new study that it commissioned on Catholic Health. The study was prepared by Dr. Fred Hyde, a Clinical Professor at the Mailman School for Public Health at Columbia University, who used information from the audited financial statements of Catholic Health and Kaleida Health between the years of 2011 and 2014, and also from the form 990 tax returns of both organizations, years 2008 through 2013.
In the study, Dr. Hyde noted the owners and board of Catholic Health, including the Diocese of Buffalo, “signed off on an incentive plan solely aimed at enriching executives by reducing compensation to Hospital Employees.”
Other highlights included: Executive compensation was extraordinary during the recession (2008 through 2013) as Catholic Health’s Chief Executive Joe McDonald was paid $7,324,915. McDonald received an average raise of 15% per year - each year between 2008 and 2013, while CHS Workers averaged increases of less than 3% per year. While Employees were told of the necessity of belt tightening during the recession, CHS Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Moley had an average increase of 17% in compensation during the period of 2008 through 2013 - beginning at $326,927 and ending at $668,122.
Ironically, this was the individual delivering the message to Catholic Health Employees about belt tightening, Dr. Hyde said.
The study also found bonuses are a big part of compensation at Catholic Health.
For example, McDonald’s bonus in 2013 was $355,199, while Moley’s bonus was $151,753.
The study stated the bonuses were not tied to patient satisfaction or quality of care, but only to the “Catholic Health System operating income target.”
“The sponsors of Catholic Health - including the Diocese of Buffalo – ‘signed off’ on an executive incentive plan ‘solely aimed at enriching’ top management, by ‘reducing’ compensation to Hospital Employees,” Dr. Hyde noted.
In addition, the study found Catholic Health had a “cash hoard” of more than $300 million at the end of 2013, three times the amount of cash on hand at the larger across-town competitor Kaleida.
Despite the reputation of church-owned hospitals for charity care, the “community benefit” provided by Kaleida is more than twice that of Catholic Health, according to tax records from both - 6% of total expenses at Catholic Health versus 13% of expenses at Kaleida.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: For More on What Catholic Health Makes, Read The Buffalo News’ story, headlined: Catholic Health Operating Income Rose 28% In 2014 at www.buffalonews.com/business/catholic-health-operating-income-rose-28-percent-in-2014-20150401 and for More on This Labor News Story, Read WNYLaborToday.com’s June 3rd, 2015 Labor News Report, Headlined: After Listening To An Array Of Emotional Testimony, Workers’ Rights Board Urges Catholic Health System Employees To ‘Go Public’ With Workplace Problems & Concerns At Area Hospitals & Nursing Homes