Catholic Health and CWA blame each other for the lingering strike now on day 24

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Tensions are rising between Catholic Health and CWA, as the union’s strike shows no signs of ending at Mercy Hospital, where employees walked out of work 24 days ago.

“We all want this to end but we can’t just lay down and say ‘ok guys let’s go, let’s go back to work,’ because nothing changes,” said Melissa Piechowicz, who’s a respiratory therapist at Mercy Hospital.

Catholic Health says there’s no urgency on CWA’s side to end the strike. CWA says they want nothing more than to put the strike behind them, but the responsibility fall to Catholic Health.

“Their [Catholic Health] words have been we promised to work on this, no, we can’t say we promise to work on things, we need something that says, this is how we’re fixing it, in writing to know that this is going to be done,” Piechowicz said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visits the CWA picket line at Mercy Hospital

Catholic Health released a statement this weekend saying they’ve been waiting more than a week for CWA to respond to key issues.

“The parties made progress this week on contract language about pharmacy benefits, prescription co-pays and overtime pay. But four weeks into its strike, the union still has no sense of urgency to reach an agreement. We have been waiting for more than a week for CWA to respond to key “The parties proposals to end this strike, while the union has spent significant time over the last few days discussing an inconsequential proposal that would allow associates to wear red uniforms on Thursdays.” 

JoAnn Cavanaugh, Director Public Relations

Union leaders held a news conference Sunday to “set the record straight on the status of bargaining.”

“We sat there all day Saturday and we couldn’t resolve an on-call issue because they couldn’t get the director of the Cath lab, and we couldn’t resolve this ridiculous issue with red shirts because they couldn’t get the chief nursing officer on the phone,” CWA Area Director Debbie Hayes said.

CWA strike causing stress at nearby hospitals

“We’ve had members of our bargaining committee lose family, just recently this last week, they’re still there. They’re still there fighting for us and for you to say that, our members aren’t working tirelessly, to help up and the community and the patients in this community is crazy. It’s disgusting,” Piechowicz said.

CWA says one of the hold-ups continues to be staffing ratios, pay and healthcare.

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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