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BREAKING: CWA Members Overwhelmingly Ratify Catholic Health Contracts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, November 8, 2021

Media contact:
Rendy Desamours: (516) 406-6637

BREAKING: CWA Members Overwhelmingly Ratify Catholic Health Contracts

94% Vote ‘Yes’ on Overdue Wage Increases and Industry-Leading Safe Staffing Agreements That Will Help Ensure Patient Safety and Quality of Care

Contracts Cement Historic Victory for Over 2,500 Healthcare Heroes Following Five-Week Strike

-- Press conference to be held on Tuesday, November 9 at 12:00 PM EST at Mercy Hospital --

BUFFALO, NY -- Today nurses, technical, service, and clerical staff represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and employed by the Catholic Health System ratified a total of six contracts covering over 2,500 workers across Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Kenmore Mercy Hospital, and Sisters of Charity Hospital-St. Joseph Campus, following a historic five-week strike. The members of CWA Local 1133 and Local 1168 voted to ratify the contracts by a margin of 94% yes to 6% no. The workers at Mercy Hospital will begin returning to work on Wednesday.

“Going on strike was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but my coworkers and I did it because we owed it to our patients,” saidJennifer Williams, charge nurse at Mercy Hospital. “We knew that if we stuck together in our union family, it was possible to win a contract that treats both healthcare heroes and our patients fairly. We stood strong in our demands because we knew we were standing up for our patients and the kind of care they deserve from us, and we know it was the right thing to do because throughout this entire strike, we have seen nothing but steadfast support from our patients, community, elected officials and union brothers and sisters across the state and country. I want to thank everyone who joined us on the picket line and supported us in a myriad of other ways.” 

The safe staffing ratios the union secured with Catholic Health are the first written into a union contract in the country outside of California, currently the only state requiring minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, and will set a precedent for hospitals across New York and beyond. The industry-leading ratios mirror those outlined in federal safe staffing legislation introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown in May.

“The agreement we’ve reached with Catholic Health, now overwhelmingly ratified by our members, is going to allow Catholic Health to attract and retain the staff they need, provide the good wages and benefits our healthcare heroes deserve and usher in a new level of care and safety for patients,” said CWA Area Director Debora Hayes. “Thanks to the steadfast determination and sacrifices of our members over the past five weeks, these Catholic Health hospitals are now the first in New York, and some of the only across the country that will guarantee safe staffing levels. This is a tremendous victory not only for our members, but for the patients, their families and the community who can be assured they will receive the highest quality care. We have set a new standard and we applaud Catholic Health for working diligently with us to get there.”

New York’s own safe staffing legislation, passed earlier this year, played an important role in the CWA bargaining committee’s ability to negotiate the ratios. Effective January 1, 2022 Clinical Staffing Committees must be formed in hospitals across New York, and ratios must be negotiated by members of those committees by July 1, 2022. The ratios must be in place by January 1, 2023.

“With this contract, we’re on the road to compliance. We’ve negotiated the safe staffing ratios so they are already in place and enforceable,” added Hayes. “The union will work diligently with Catholic Health over the next year to recruit staff so that the ratios will be met.”

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 9 at 12:00 PM EST, Debora Hayes and members of the bargaining committee along with Catholic Health workers will hold a press conference at Mercy Hospital to discuss more details about the unprecedented contract and what it could mean for other hospitals across New York.