CWA Union members not backing down despite potentially losing healthcare benefits during strike

Catholic Health Hospital Strike

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Union members are speaking out now that Catholic Health is considering to take away their healthcare coverage.

“If they don’t want to pay, they don’t have to pay because our union will,” said Diane Peach, who works in environmental services at Mercy Hospital.

“It’s their right to pull the insurance if they want to, but it just shows their true character,” said Karen Mahoney, who’s an RN at Mercy Hospital.

“I’m pretty proud of what Catholic Health did for our associates to offer health insurance in a time when we are spending a ton of money on replacement workers,” Catholic Health CEO Mark Sullivan said during a news conference on Tuesday. It’s not a bargaining war. This can end today. It can end right now. The offer on the table, again, fair and competitive wages, compared to anywhere else in the community, fair benefits, the best staffing model, most progressive in the state.”

Besides Catholic Health considering to remove strikers’ health benefits, hospital officials say if the strike continues the their exploring ways to allow union members to cross the picket lines.

“We’ve heard from associates that want to get back to work so our leadership team is also assessing the ability to allow associates to cross the picket line,” Sullivan said. “Those that want to come back to work, those that prefer to work, those that have financial hardships. So they can continue caring to see patients again.”

Union members tell News 4 they have no intention of breaking the picket lines.

“I don’t see any of us breaking the line and trying to go back to work,” Peach said. “That was a good thought he had but I doubt if that ever happens.”

“If we start to crumble now then we’ve been out here for a month for nothing,” Mahoney said. “We’re trying to keep strong. Give everybody moral support. It will get better. We have to stay strong.”

Both Catholic Health and CWA officials say each meeting brings them closer to a deal. CWA says the hold up continues to be over staffing, wages and benefits.

“If was fair, we would have agreed and we would be back and worked it out,” Peach said. “He has not given us anything fair yet and that’s what we’re working for. and why we’re out here striking, to get a contract that is fair for all of us, so we can get back in there and be there for our patients.”

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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