“We Are Fighting For A Fair Contract That Will Make Safe Staffing In Our Hospitals A Reality” - Unionized Kaleida Health Workers In Buffalo Overwhelmingly Vote To Authorize Strike, If Need Be
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: To watch Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1168 and 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Healthcare Workers East’s news conference that was held late Thursday (September 15th), Go To: https://www.facebook.com/1199UpstateNY/videos/757046662259134 and https://www.facebook.com/CWA1168/videos/389614683352541. Photos and Video Screenshots that appear in this Labor News Report are courtesy of CWA Local 1168’s and 1199 SEIU’s Facebook Pages
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) – More than 6,300 Health Care Workers employed by the Kaleida Health System in Buffalo, who are represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1168 and 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Healthcare Workers East, have voted to give their Unions Strike Authorization, should it be deemed necessary, as contract talks are slated to resume at 9 a.m. today (Friday, September 16th).
CWA Local 1168 and 1199 SEIU represent Workers employed at Kaleida Health’s Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe on Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park, and various community-based clinics.
The Workers - who are employed within the Nursing, Clinical, Technical, Service and Clerical Departments at Kaleida Health, overwhelmingly voted to authorize a Strike - with 96% voting in support, CWA and 1199 SEIU Representatives announced late Thursday evening.
The vote provides the Unions with the power to call a Strike, but does not mean it will be done immediately. In the event a Strike is called, the Unions must give Kaleida Health a 10-day notice, as required by State Law.
During a late night news conference, CWA Local 1168 and 1199 SEIU Representatives said the current contract at Kaleida has already been extended – twice, after months of bargaining.
Workers, they said, are exhausted and fed up with staffing shortages that have increased their patient loads exponentially and compromised quality of care.
The Unionized Kaleida Workforce is seeking a fair contract that will enable Kaleida Health to recruit and retain critical Staff and meet its new Safe Staffing Ratios as required by State Law so patients receive the quality care they need and deserve, the Unions said.
Under the State’s new Safe Staffing Law, Kaleida management and the Unions worked together to come up with staffing plans for each patient care area. That collaborative process resulted in Kaleida pledging 436 new full-time equivalent positions. However, with more than 800 vacancies that need to be filled already, Kaleida Health is now tasked with filling more than 1,200 total vacancies.
“We are fighting for a fair contract that will make safe staffing in our hospitals a reality,” said Jim Scordato (pictured below), 1199SEIU Vice-President for Western New York Hospitals. “Kaleida was financially impacted by the pandemic, as all hospitals were, but we cannot let its financial losses continue to dictate the quality of care within its hospitals and quality of life for its workforce. We will not settle for understaffed facilities, burnout and exhaustion as the status quo. We are demanding a contract that will enforce Safe Staffing Ratios, keep wages competitive and help attract and retain the Staff needed to make Kaleida a great place to work again.”
“A Strike is the last thing we want. No one wants to walk off the job, but we are considering all of our options because we are seeing a decline in quality of care that must be reversed,” said Cori Gambini (pictured above), a Registered Nurse who serves as President of CWA Local 1168.
“As a Nurse, it breaks my heart to not be able to give each and every patient the attention they deserve, but it’s also dangerous. It’s dangerous when we are stretched thin, when we are exhausted, and when colleagues continue to leave because they see zero action from Kaleida to attract new hires. We voted to authorize a Strike, because if the Hospital Workers who walk through Kaleida’s doors every day and see the dire situation do not stand up for Buffalo’s residents, who will? Patients and families are frustrated waiting hours for care, even as our Staff runs themselves into the ground to try and keep up - and it has to change,” Gambini said.
“Kaleida is the largest private employer in Western New York and the biggest provider of care for the Buffalo community, and we remain confident that management can and will present a proposal that will alleviate this crisis for our Members and build Kaleida back to the quality system it was before there is a need to Strike,” CWA District 1 Area Director Debora Hayes said. “But, after months of negotiating, we are at a breaking point. This Strike Vote is a clear message that we will not settle for the status quo that is short staffing, burnout, and high Employee turnover, that continues to diminish quality care for Buffalo.”
However, rather than working to address understaffing, Kaleida is on track to spend nearly $100 million dollars on Travel Nurses and Agency Workers this year, and current Staff are raising real concerns around continuity of care for patients when the hospital is relying on temporary, non-local Employees, Union Officials said.
Kaleida’s Full-Time Staff, who report feeling underappreciated and undervalued, continue to see 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, they added.
As such, Unionized Kaleida Employees are demanding a competitive contract with enforceable staffing ratios and to help recruit local Staff to fill vacancies, the Unions said.