“Safe staffing”: NYSNA members picket at ECMC for new contract

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Outside of ECMC, a group of nurses fought for better working conditions for their colleagues inside. The key issues in this debate are safer staffing levels and better wages to attract and retain workers.

The employees who spoke outside of the hospital say they are overworked and underpaid. This is a common theme that healthcare workers across Western New York have talked about as they picket outside of their facilities. Some unions in the region are in the midst of negotiations right now.

“Plenty of nursing schools with a waiting list, not so many facilities with great working conditions though. It’s not a nursing shortage. It’s a shortage in the facilities to provide the safety, a competitive wage and the things that we deserve,” Lona DeNisco, RN said. “The employers need to realize the importance of a seasoned staff and make better efforts to retain them. As for recruitment, who’s going to stay if you don’t have these nurses to train them.”

To the chant of ‘Safe staffing! Safe staffing!’, workers said they are ready to negotiate with ECMC for a fair deal. The hospital is one of the largest in Western New York, but employees say there is not enough staff to care for the amount of patients.

“We learned that decades of cuts to staffing — no matter what they call it — lean staffing, just-in-time staffing, staff challenge, it all left us unprepared, unsafe and unproportioned,” Steven Bailey, RN, NYSNA regional director, said.

ECMC is not the only hospital where workers are upset. Kaleida healthcare workers that are part of the CWA and 1199 SEIU unions recently voted to give their union strike power. Some of those union members attended the NYSNA picket in solidarity.

“We’ve given Kaleida two extensions. Like others, we don’t want to strike, but if they force us to, we are ready,” Mary Nowocien, LPN, CWA union leader with Kaleida Health, said.

Union leaders and local officials hope agreements can be made and strikes can be avoided.

“We don’t want to strike. It would be disastrous for our community. We are asking Kaleida administration and ECMC administration to hear these nurses,” Assemblymember Monica Wallace added.

ECMC issued the following statement to News 4:

We are looking forward to productive discussions with NYSNA as we have had in the past. We agree that staffing has been a concern for hospitals locally and nationally. That’s why this year, we developed an agreed upon staffing plan with NYSNA and approved a mid-contract 7.75% increase in wages for our RNs to be more competitive in the market and support recruitment. This year, ECMC has successfully recruited 230 RNs and 51 LPNs. We are hopeful that our union partners will also work with us to garner necessary resources from government and private payors, so we can adequately serve the most vulnerable in our community in the midst of unprecedented financial uncertainty.”


Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.

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