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A ‘Busy’ Labor Day In Buffalo: A CWA Rally For Unionized Veterinary Workers In Orchard Park; A Strike Authorization Vote Announced For Unionized Kaleida Health Workers; & Buffalo Teachers Rally Outside City Hall For A Fair Contract

Published Friday, August 26, 2022
by WNYLaborToday.com Staff & Union Press Releases
A ‘Busy’ Labor Day In Buffalo: A CWA Rally For Unionized Veterinary Workers In Orchard Park; A Strike Authorization Vote Announced For Unionized Kaleida Health Workers; & Buffalo Teachers Rally Outside City Hall For A Fair Contract

(ACROSS THE BUFFALO AREA) - Wednesday (August 24th) was a busy Labor Day in the Buffalo area with three actions occurring within hours of each other: Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1168 rallied in the morning in support of recently-Unionized Veterinary Workers in Orchard Park; A Strike Authorization Vote announcement was made in early afternoon by CWA Local 1168 and 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-represented Hospital Workers employed by the Kaleida Health System; and at the end of the day, Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF)-represented Educators rallied outside Buffalo’s City Hall for a fair contract.

The day kicked off with CWA Local 1168 protesting the firing of two Workers employed at the Orchard Park Veterinary Center on North Buffalo Street who were involved in the recent and successful drive to Unionize Employees at the facility - becoming the first Veterinary Medical Center in the Buffalo area to do so (Read WNYLaborToday.com’s July 31st Labor News Report, Headlined: 140 Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center Workers Vote To ‘Go Union’ With CWA Local 1168, ‘Become The First’ Veterinary Center In The Buffalo Area To Unionize At www.wnylabortoday.com/news/2022/07/31/buffalo-and-western-new-york-labor-news/140-orchard-park-veterinary-medical-center-workers-vote-to-go-union-with-cwa-local-1168-become-the-first-veterinary-center-in-the-buffalo-area-to-unionize/).

CWA Representatives told WNYLaborToday.com the firings, as well the company “writing up several other Employees on disciplinary charges,” was nothing more than retaliation for their decision to Unionize.

CWA 1168 is fighting against what they described as the employer’s “retaliatory tactics” by filing Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Charges with the Buffalo Office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The new Orchard Park Veterinary Medicine Union Employees were joined in their protest outside their employer’s business by a variety of other Unions and their Representatives, including CWA Local 1122, 1199 SEIU and Starbucks Workers United.

“They were ‘beyond overjoyed’ (by the show of Union solidarity and support),” CWA Representative Mary Nowocien told WNYLaborToday.com of the Veterinary Workers’ reaction.  “‘They had no idea they would get that kind of support (from other Unions).’” 

Meanwhile, in early afternoon in Buffalo, the more than 6,300 Health Care Workers who are represented by the CWA and 1199 SEIU at Kaleida Health announced that starting on September 13th - until September 15th, the Workers will vote on whether to authorize a Strike after months of contract negotiations.

Having already extended their contract twice, and following last week’s informational picket where the Workers called out critical staffing shortages that they say jeopardizes patient care, Kaleida Health’s Unionized Employees are now demanding a swift resolution from the largest Hospital System in Western New York (Read WNYLaborToday.com’s August 21st Labor News Report, Headlined: 2,000+ Unionized Caregivers & Hospital Workers ‘Send A Very Strong Message’ To The Kaleida Health System & New York State: “Understaffing And COVID Has Decimated The Workforce And Crippled (Our) Health Care System - We Demand Relief!” At www.wnylabortoday.com/news/2022/08/21/buffalo-and-western-new-york-labor-news/2-000-unionized-caregivers-hospital-workers-send-a-very-strong-message-to-the-kaleida-health-system-new-york-state-understaffing-and-covid-has-decimated-the-workforce-and-crippled-our-health-care-system-we-demand-relief/).

A yes vote authorizing a Strike, however, does not mean the Workers will go on Strike immediately, Union Officials said.

But it does mean they’ve given their Unions – CWA and 1199 SEIU, the power to do so.

In the event the Unions do call a Strike, Kaleida Health will be provided with a 10-day notice.

Kaleida’s Union-represented Members are employed as Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Dietary Workers, Patient Care Assistants, Professionals, Technicians, Service and Maintenance Workers, Clerical Workers and more.

Kaleida operates three major area hospitals, two nursing homes and clinics across Western New York including: The Buffalo General Medical Center; Oishei Children’s Hospital; Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital; HighPointe on Michigan; DeGraff Medical Park; and various community-based clinics.

Kaleida’s Workers have been raising concerns over chronic understaffing as Kaleida has more than 800 vacancies it must fulfill to cover currently open jobs and another 436 to meet New York State’s new Staffing Law requirement.

Since the July 31st expiration of their contract, the Unions’ Bargaining Committees have been negotiating five days a week in order to reach an agreement, but they say rather than working to address understaffing, Kaleida is on track to spend nearly $100 million dollars on Travel Nurses and Agency Workers this year.

Meanwhile, Staff is also raising real concerns around continuity of care for patients when the hospital is relying on temporary, non-local Employees.

Kaleida’s Full-Time Staff, who report feeling underappreciated and undervalued, are raising concerns about Health Care Workers choosing to enter into travel nursing rather than accept or stay in full-time positions at Kaleida because of the understaffing, lower wages and lack of respect on the job.

The Unions are demanding a competitive contract with increased wages to help recruit local Staff to fill the vacancies.  

Then at the end of the day, outside Buffalo’s City Hall, more than 100 BTF-represented Teachers rallied to send the Buffalo School District a strong message that they want to be paid on a level with their area counterparts for the work they do (Read WNYLaborToday.com’s August 21st Labor News Report, Headlined: ‘Buffalo Teachers Deserve A Fair Contract’ - Union Starts Campaign To Educate The General Public & The Parents Of School Children ‘To The Wide Disparities In Pay That Impact The Retention & Hiring Of’ Public School Teachers In The City At www.wnylabortoday.com/news/2022/07/06/buffalo-and-western-new-york-labor-news/buffalo-teachers-deserve-a-fair-contract-union-starts-campaign-to-educate-the-general-public-the-parents-of-school-children-to-the-wide-disparities-in-pay-that-impact-the-retention-hiring-of-public-school-teachers-in-the-city/).

“More than (100) came out to protest ‘and it demonstrated how angry Teachers are.’  Other (area School) Districts’ are paying their Teachers more,”’ BTF President Phil Rumore (pictured below) told WNYLaborToday.com.  “It ‘shows the solidarity they have and the School District will not break that solidarity.’  ‘The bottom line is, Teachers are angry.’”

For three years now, the Buffalo School Board has been stonewalling Buffalo’s Teachers with what the BTF describes as insulting and demeaning contract offers.

On that note, Rumore cited this example of how long it takes a Buffalo Public School Teacher to reach his or her maximum salary: Buffalo Teachers, 27 years; Other Teachers in Erie County, 21.7. 

A second example of comparable Step 1 salaries that he also shared with WNYLaborToday.com: In Buffalo, $39,531 vs. the average Big 6 other New York Cities (New York City, Yonkers, Albany, Rochester and Syracuse) - $54,540.

Meanwhile, Rumore said the BTF was unhappy with the School Board for failing to produce information before a mutually-agreed to Fact Finder, saying the School Board stated it could not do so until sometime in October. 

“In addition, an actual hearing ‘won’t be scheduled until December,’” Rumore added, “‘All this after two years of negotiations and they still aren’t ready.’”

WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Photos that appear with the Orchard Park Veterinary Workers are courtesy of CWA 1168 Representatives; and Photos that appear with the BTF rally are courtesy of Louisa Fletcher-Pacheo/Western New York Organizer for the New York State United Teachers.

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