CWA workers continue day two of strike at Mercy Hospital

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Almost 2,000 healthcare workers continue to stand their ground during day two of the strike at Mercy Hospital.

“What do we want? Safe staffing! When do we want it? Now!” CWA members shout at the picket line in front of the hospital.

Workers are fighting for better pay, safe staffing, equipment and supplies to do their jobs.

“Why we’re here is not because we chose this strike, the strike is completely on Catholic Health,” said RN and President of CWA Local 1133 Jackie Ettipio.

Hospital workers say Catholic health has failed to establish safe staffing, which they say was an issue even before the pandemic. During a news conference on Saturday, one nurse mentioned that on average nurses are caring for 10 patients at a time and say that it’s too overwhelming.

“Every department is running short-handed but is still required to give the same amount of care as a fully staffed hospital. This has been detrimental to patient outcomes,” Jillian, who’s an RN at Mercy Hospital, said.

CWA workers go on strike at Mercy Hospital

“My hope is that Catholic Health will work with CWA to address our issues and bring this strike to a close quickly so that all of us across Catholic Health can get the resources we need to do our jobs with dignity,” said Heather, who’s an operating nurse at St. Joe’s Hospital.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz was among the local leaders who showed support for the union members, and says hospital workers are needed more than ever.

“There are more people in the hospitals in Erie County in percentage of beds right now than they were even in the worst days of covid,” he said. “So I say to Catholic Health get this strike over with by giving them a fair contract, a contract they deserve.”

Catholic health did release a statement Saturday afternoon to say “the union has not provided or responded to the hospitals with formal, written proposals on any major economic bargaining topic in almost two weeks” and that staffing has been a mutual priority for Catholic Health and CWA since even prior to the pandemic.

CWA officials say they plan on getting to work on their written proposal either tonight or tomorrow to hand it back to Catholic Health as soon as possible.

“Our committee is ready, willing and able to get back to the bargaining table to look at what they plopped down after we left and to get something back in writing that represents what we need to get this strike settled,” said Debbie Hayes, who’s the CWA area director.

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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