AG James sends cease and desist to company over its operations at Mercy Hospital amid strike

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — New York Attorney General Letitia James is calling for replacement worker company Huffmaster to immediately stop providing security services to Catholic Health, as its strike with CWA nears the two-week mark.

The Michigan-based company is providing both replacement healthcare workers to cover shifts left behind by striking members of the CWA, and indoor and outdoor security during the strike. Sources tell News 4 there are between 100 to 150 security workers employed by Huffmaster across three daily shifts.

Huffmaster is violating two state laws, according to the attorney general’s office. Companies providing replacement workers are prohibited from also providing security workers. Huffmaster is also not licensed to provide security in New York State, the AG’s office says.

“New York law requires a company to obtain a license to provide either service and precludes a company from obtaining a license to provide both services,” James said. “It is also our understanding that Huffmaster employees have been interfering with the rights of picketers in violation of General Business Law Section 84.”

Huffmaster may still provide replacement healthcare workers as the strike continues.

After learning of the AG’s letter regarding the temporary staffing agency during the strike, CWA Are Director Deborah Hayes issued this response:

“It is unacceptable that Huffmaster, the company with which Catholic has contracted to provide replacement nurses and security at Mercy Hospital during the strike, is knowingly operating illegally in New York State. Huffmaster is violating the law in two ways — by acting simultaneously as an employment agency and as a security company, and because it is not registered to provide either of these services in New York. Sadly, this is all too typical of Catholic Health’s conduct throughout this entire time period. We applaud NYS Attorney General Tish James for taking swift action to terminate Huffmaster’s role in this dispute. And instead of wasting millions of dollars on this illegal temporary staffing agency, Catholic Health should invest in its own long term employees, by negotiating a fair agreement that provides adequate wages to attract and retain staff, and that guarantees adequate levels of care in the hospital.”

News 4 reached out to Catholic Health and Huffmaster for comment and is waiting to hear back.

Below is a copy of the letter the attorney general’s office sent to Huffmaster:

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