Kaleida Health workers move toward possible strike

Members of Communications Workers of America Local 1168 and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have authorized negotiation leaders to call a strike at Buffalo, N.Y.-based Kaleida Health.

The unions represent about 6,300 workers at Kaleida Health's Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children's Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, HighPointe on Michigan, DeGraff Medical Park, and various community-based clinics, according to a Sept. 15 union news release shared with Becker's. Kaleida Health has about 10,000 employees total.

Union members, who have been in negotiations with Kaleida Health, voted to authorize a strike with 96 percent of voting workers in support, according to the union release. 

Kaleida Health said in a Sept. 15 statement that it seeks a fair contract "that includes no concessionary bargaining, addressing staffing needs, and once again becoming the market leader in wages."  

"We have not wavered from those commitments, but our resources are not endless. In fact, we are trying to negotiate a contract after posting over $200 million in losses since 2020 due to the pandemic. Right now, the current union proposal is estimated at over $500 million. Simply put, those numbers jeopardize the future viability of Kaleida Health," the health system said.

The unions said members seek a contract "that will enable Kaleida Health to recruit and retain critical staff and meet its new safe staffing ratios as required by state law so that patients receive the quality care they need and deserve."

"We are fighting for a fair contract that will make safe staffing in our hospitals a reality," Jim Scordato, 1199SEIU Vice President for Western New York Hospitals, said in the union release. "Kaleida was financially impacted by the pandemic, as all hospitals were, but we cannot let its financial losses continue to dictate the quality of care within its hospitals and quality of life for its workforce."

The strike authorization vote does not mean a strike will occur. The unions must give Kaleida Health a 10-day notice if a strike is called. Meanwhile, the health system said it continues strike contingency planning.

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