BREAKING: KALEIDA HEALTH WORKERS VOTE TO AUTHORIZE STRIKESeptember 16, 2022
For Immediate Release:
The more than 6,300 healthcare workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1168 and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East may now call a strike at any time as contract negotiations with Kaleida Health continue
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Healthcare workers within the nursing, clinical, technical, service, and clerical departments at Kaleida Health, who are represented by CWA Local 1168 and 1199SEIU, have overwhelmingly voted in favor of authorizing a strike should it be necessary. Having already extended their contract twice after months of bargaining, workers are exhausted and fed up with staffing shortages that have increased their patient loads exponentially and compromised the quality of care. They are 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 that patients receive the quality care they need and deserve.
The healthcare workers voted to authorize a strike with an overwhelming 96 percent in support. The vote grants them the power to call a strike, but does not mean the union members will do so immediately. In the event the unions do call a strike, they must give Kaleida Health a 10-day notice, as required by state law for hospitals.
Under the state’s new safe staffing law, Kaleida management and the labor 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 hiring for 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, 1199SEIU Vice-President for WNY 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, President, CWA Local 1168 and a Registered Nurse. “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.”
“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,” said Debora Hayes, CWA District 1 Area Director. “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.”
CWA Local 1168 and 1199SEIU represent more than 6,300 workers 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.
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, continue to see 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 enforceable staffing ratios and to help recruit local staff to fill vacancies.
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. https://www.cwa1168.org
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. https://www.1199seiu.org<