Kaleida Health workers to vote on giving union strike authority

Members of the Communication Workers of America and 199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East employed by Buffalo, N.Y.-based Kaleida Health will vote next month on whether to give their bargaining units the authority to call a strike. 

Voting is scheduled for Sept. 13-15 by 6,300 Kaleida Health workers seeking a swift resolution to negotiations that have gone on for more than five months. The unions conducted Informational picketing earlier this month.

Affected workers include registered nurses, nurse practitioners, dietary workers, patient care assistants, professionals, technicians, service and maintenance workers and clerical workers. Kaleida Health has more than 10,000 employees, according to an Aug. 23 union news release.

Kaleida Health is "committed to reclaiming our position as market leaders in wages, benefits and staffing levels and will continue to negotiate the best possible agreement for our employees," the health system stated. "Our current proposed economic package already accomplishes each of these objectives and will put the organization on firm footing to continue providing excellent patient care and meeting the healthcare needs of all western New Yorkers."

The unions contend Kaleida Health has stalled in addressing a staffing crisis that jeopardizes patient care.

"We want to take care of our patients, our families, and our community, but shortstaffing is a huge problem at Kaleida right now. The last thing that we want to do is strike. Workers across Kaleida facilities are seeing their colleagues leave due to low wages, inadequate staffing and a lack of respect on the job. Improving this working environment is Kaleida's responsibility, and they can start by agreeing to a contract that finally addresses what members have been demanding for months," Jim Scordato, 1199SEIU vice president for western New York hospitals, said in a news release. 

If union members vote to authorize a strike, it does not mean a strike would occur. The unions must give Kaleida Health a 10-day notice if a strike is called.

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