Catholic Health accuses strikers of attempting to interfere with supply delivery

Amid a strike at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo (N.Y.), Catholic Health is accusing union members of using pressure tactics, including calling hospital suppliers and attempting to interfere with the delivery of necessary medical supplies.

Catholic Health, in a news release shared with Becker's Oct. 28, claims that the Communications Workers of America is telling suppliers not to deliver to Mercy.

The health system also said the union and its supporters have engaged in tactics such as throwing nails outside the physician entrance to Mercy; running TV commercials, radio ads and posts on social media to dissuade patients from seeking care at Catholic Health hospitals; and leafletting board members' businesses and engaging in call campaigns.

"Associates throughout Catholic Health are expressing anger, frustration and disappointment about how the union and some of their colleagues have behaved throughout these negotiations," Catholic Health spokesperson JoAnn Cavanaugh said in the health system's news release. "The union says it's fighting for associates and patients. What CWA, and a small, vocal group are doing, is undermining the hard work of their colleagues — the thousands of nurses, healthcare workers, physicians and others who strive to provide the highest quality care for those in our community who turn to Catholic Health in their time of greatest need."

Communications Workers of America shared a statement with Becker's Oct. 31 related to bargaining.

Union District 1 Vice President Dennis Trainor said, "Catholic Health knows its allegations can’t be taken seriously when it calls us healthcare heroes in one breath and dangerous in the next. Bargaining continues to be productive, and we are hopeful that a resolution is on the horizon. The reality is that Catholic Health is trying to go backward on staffing, and its proposal would create ratios in medical-surgical units that are worse than the current management-created staffing grids. We are ready to put this strike behind us and get back to work, and as soon as Catholic Health agrees to staffing ratios that are safe for staff and patients, we can do that."

The union — which represents about 2,500 workers at Mercy Hospital, Kenmore (N.Y.) Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus, in Buffalo — began the strike Oct. 1, citing concerns about staffing and patient care.

Throughout negotiations, the union has sought an agreement with adequate wages to attract and retain staff, and a contract that guarantees adequate staffing and care levels.

Catholic Health said its hospitals have proposed a market-competitive package with progressive staffing language and other contract language based on what the union has indicated are workers' priorities.

In its Oct. 28 negotiations update, the union said its members discuss the issues that they are facing and ask for support in a new TV ad released Oct. 26.

"Nobody's healthcare should suffer because their hospital refuses to hire enough staff, or won't provide workers with enough supplies, but that's exactly what Catholic Health has been doing for years," Kim Hayward, an environmental service worker at Mercy, says in the ad, according to the union.

This story was updated on Nov. 1.

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