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CWA-Represented Kaleida Health Workers In Buffalo ‘Successfully Stave Off’ Management's Efforts To Ban Printed Scrubs, And In The Process, ‘Built A Stronger’ Union

Published Wednesday, January 31, 2018 4:00 pm
by Patrick Weisansal II
CWA-Represented Kaleida Health Workers In Buffalo ‘Successfully Stave Off’ Management's Efforts To Ban Printed Scrubs, And In The Process, ‘Built A Stronger’ Union

WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Patrick Weisansal II is a Radiologic Technologist for Kaleida Health and also serves as the Director of Mobilizing and Organizing for Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1168 in Buffalo.  His authored story recently appeared in LaborNotes.

 

(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) - Wearing scrubs emblazoned with cheery cartoon characters, superheroes and holiday themes is a point of pride for many who work at Kaleida Health in Buffalo - and it’s especially important to patients at the Children’s Hospital, bringing a little life into what can otherwise be a dreary, even scary, place to visit.

But last Fall, administrators tried to wiggle their way around the contract language and impose uniform scrub colors.

Kaleida first raised this issue during 2016 bargaining.  Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1168 and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 represent 8,000 Workers under a Joint Master Contract at Kaleida’s four area hospitals and smaller clinics.

The company argued that assigning colors by department or job would help avoid confusion among patients and family members.

The Unions objected and eventually agreed only to continue discussing the issue with management.

After the contract was ratified, the Unions and Kaleida exchanged studies, shared professional opinions and discussed what other health care systems did.

But despite many meetings, no agreement was reached.

The Unions thought scrub colors would be a non-issue - until at least 2019 bargaining.

Then in October, out of the blue, Kaleida decided to ban printed scrubs as of January 1st (2018).

Union Members were incensed.

“Scrubs ‘are who you are,’” said Karen Howard, a Registered Nurse (RN) at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital. “They’re ‘your individuality’ - your favorite colors, hobbies, interests.”

Union Workers at the Children’s Hospital were particularly upset and so were Nurses whose patients have dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“Memory issues ‘often create a state of anxiety and uncertainty,’” said Mary Nowocien, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at DeGraff Memorial Hospital. “Choosing ‘warm, welcoming scrub apparel helps us create an environment that does not seem so institutionalized.’  ‘It feels more like home.’”

“I often work with patients ‘who are in a very stressful time of their life,’” said Cindy Harris, a Registered Nurse in the Critical Care Unit at Buffalo General. “The patterns I wear to work ‘are a memory tool, a means for my patients to be able to identify me.’”

Union Stewards got quite a few calls, e-mails, and texts about the issue, but Local 1168’s Executive Board was concerned the contract language didn’t give the Union strong enough grounds to win.

In the CWA’s view, this unilateral change violated the employer’s duty to bargain.

When the Union brought the issue up in a pre-grievance meeting, though, management insisted it had the right to ban patterned scrubs, since the contract language only required Kaleida to discuss the colors of scrubs with Union Representatives.

To Continue Reading This Labor News Story, Go To: http://labornotes.org/2018/01/buffalo-hospital-workers-save-colorful-scrubs

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