BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The bargaining committee for Kaleida Health employees has unanimously authorized a strike authorization vote, meaning employees will have the opportunity to vote within the next month on whether they’d like to strike.
“We didn’t do this lightly, we took into account a lot of factors in regards to us deciding on taking a vote,” said Jim Scordato, who’s the 1199SEIU VP for WNY Hospitals. “We think with everything out there and the changes that need to be made in healthcare in Western New York, this is the next step.”
“It is the absolute last straw, bottom line, if we can’t get this done,” CWA Area Director Debbie Hayes said.
Votes will be collected from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. between Sept. 13 and 15. The first two opportunities to vote will take place at the Wyndham Garden Downtown on High Street on Sept. 13 and 14. The third will be at the CWA Local 1168 office on Sweet Home Road in Amherst on Sept. 15.
“A yes vote shows Kaleida Health that we are ready, willing, and able to do what it takes to protect quality care for our patients and our residents,” the union said. “We will not settle for any contract that does not provide for competitive wages and better staffing levels to help us provide the care our community deserves.”
Unlike the strike last year between CWA and Catholic Health where workers walked out of only Mercy Hospital, if workers go on strike this time, it’ll be throughout all of Kaleida Health’s facilities.
According to the union, over 1,000 members from CWA Local 1168 and 1199SEIU showed up to an informational picket last week.
Kaleida issued the following statement Tuesday evening:
Kaleida Health, 1199SEIU and CWA continue to make significant progress with our collective bargaining efforts as we enter week 23 of negotiations. The informational picket held late last week has not impeded the progress we’ve made with the unions and does not change our goal of finalizing a new labor contract.
As an organization, we remain committed to reclaiming our position as market leaders in wages, benefits and staffing levels and will continue to negotiate the best possible agreement for our employees. Our current proposed economic package already accomplishes each of these objectives and will put the organization on firm footing to continue providing excellent patient care and meeting the healthcare needs of all Western New Yorkers.
We understand that CWA and 1199SEIU’s bargaining team has chosen to hold a strike authorization vote among its membership. While the unions have said that a strike authorization vote will help put ‘pressure’ on Kaleida Health, we are fully aware of the importance of these negotiations to bargaining unit employees and the organization alike.”Kaleida Health
The healthcare provider also said they believe a strike will cause “longstanding harm” to Kaleida Health, as the organization is already fragile financially. The organization said its ability to pay for what has been offered to date would be put in jeopardy.
Kaleida Health said they have reached out to the NYS Department of Health to “ensure their awareness and review” of the organizations contingency plans.
“Patient access will remain paramount as the community will depend on us to continue providing vital healthcare services no matter the duration or location of a potential work stoppage,” Kaleida said.