Kaleida Health Workers To Hold Strike Authorization Vote
For Immediate Release: August 23, 2022
Kaleida Health Workers To Hold Strike Authorization Vote
More than 6,300 healthcare workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and United Healthcare Workers East (1199SEIU) say the hospital system is stalling in addressing severe understaffing that compromises patient care
BUFFALO, NY -- Starting on September 13th until September 15th, more than 6,300 union healthcare workers employed by Kaleida Health, represented by CWA and 1199SEIU, 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 calling out critical staffing shortages jeopardizing patient care, Kaleida health employees are demanding a swift resolution from the largest hospital system in Western New York.
A yes vote authorizing a strike from members does not mean the unions will go on strike immediately but will have the power to do so. In the event the unions do call a strike, they must give Kaleida Health a 10-day notice.
Workers across the Kaleida Health System have been raising concerns about chronic understaffing as Kaleida has more than 800 vacancies it must fulfill to cover open jobs and 436 to meet the state’s new staffing law requirement. Since the July 31st expiration of their contract, the bargaining committees have been bargaining five days a week in order to reach an agreement.
Staffing across the hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics is critical while workers are exhausted and frustrated by seeing inadequate action from the hospital system to attract new hires. Burned-out workers are most concerned about the impacts short staffing has on patient care, and say a competitive contract that works to recruit and retain talented local workers is crucial to Kaleida remaining a top-tier hospital providing high-quality care.
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 staff are 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 healthcare 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 are demanding a competitive contract with increased wages to help recruit local staff to fill vacancies.
“We want to take care of our patients, our families, and our community, but short staffing is a huge problem at Kaleida right now. The last thing that we want to do is strike. Workers across Kaleida facilities are seeing their colleagues leave due to low wages, inadequate staffing, and a lack of respect on the job. Improving this working environment is Kaleida’s responsibility and they can start by agreeing to a contract that finally addresses what members have been demanding for months.” said Jim Scordato, 1199SEIU Vice-President for WNY Hospitals. “It is our goal to reach an agreement that we can take back to our membership to ratify, but we are still far apart on the economics and safe staffing levels.Yesterday, our joint bargaining committee unanimously voted to ask our membership for a strike authorization vote. Our committee is united to fight for safe staffing levels and fair wage increases that will help to recruit and retain the local workers we desperately need,” said Scordato.
The workers and their union have been trying to come to the table with Kaleida to settle a fair contract that allows healthcare workers to do their jobs safely and recognizes their essential contributions to the community. With more than 800 open jobs in addition to the 436 newly created positions to meet the state’s new staffing law, Kaleida must recruit and retain staff to care for the Buffalo community. Kaleida workers also called on the state to provide funding for the 436 positions that Kaleida must fill to comply with the new safe staffing law, citing the already-strained finances of the hospital system and the need to support accessible healthcare for Western New Yorkers.
“The staffing crisis at our hospitals is only getting worse, and after months of negotiating with Kaleida Health, demanding they take our concerns seriously and work with us to protect our patients, we’re at a breaking point,” said Cori Gambini, President, CWA Local 1168 and a Registered Nurse. “Striking is our last resort, but members have been risking their own health and the health of their families to provide care for Buffalo during the pandemic and amidst unbearable staffing shortages. As the largest hospital system and the biggest provider of care for the Buffalo community, we need a contract that will allow Kaleida to recruit and retain staff. The bargaining committee hopes that Kaleida will present a proposal that alleviates the stress put on our members due to low staffing levels and ensures Buffalo residents receive the quality care they deserve.”
Union members work as Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Dietary Workers, Patient Care Assistants, Professionals, Technicians, Service & Maintenance Workers, Clerical Workers, and more. Union Healthcare Workers at Kaleida Health are located at three major hospitals, two nursing homes, and clinics across Western New York including: Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe on Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park, and various community-based clinics.
The Communications Workers of America represents 300,000 working people nationally in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, and manufacturing.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.
Kaleida Health Union Workers Deliver 10-day Notice to Hospital for Informational Picket Calling Attention to Deteriorating Conditions for Staff, Patients
CWA, 1199SEIU Unions Will Not Extend Current Healthcare Worker Contract After July 31 Deadline