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CWA workers approve new union contracts with Catholic Health, return to Mercy Hospital Wednesday

Mercy Hospital of Buffalo
Catholic Health System

After three days of voting, more than 2,500 Communications Workers of America employees at Mercy, Kenmore Mercy and Sisters St. Joseph hospitals have approved six new four-year union contracts.

This officially ends the strike at Mercy in South Buffalo, where nurses, service, clerical and technical staff have been on strike since Oct. 1.

The biggest issue on the bargaining table has been staffing. CWA said the minimum nurse-to-patient staffing levels secured in the new contracts with Catholic Health are the "first written into a union contract in the country outside of California, and will set a precedent for hospitals across New York and beyond. 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."

The ratios must be in place by Jan. 1, 2023. CWA said they mirror federal minimum staffing levels proposed in May by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Those standards say a direct care registered nurse may be assigned to not more than:

  • One patient in trauma emergency units,
  • One patient in operating room units,
  • Two patients in critical care units,
  • Three patients in emergency room units,
  • Four patients in medical-surgical units,
  • Five patients in rehabilitation units and skilled nursing units, and
  • Six patients in postpartum and well-baby nursery units.

"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," said CWA Area Director Debora Hayes. "We have set a new standard and we applaud Catholic Health for working diligently with us to get there.”
“It’s a new day for Mercy Hospital as we prepare to welcome back our associates, and for Catholic Health as we refocus our energies on providing the highest quality care and service to the people of Western New York,” said Mark Sullivan, President & CEO of Catholic Health. “Our collective healing process will take time, but I am confident in the ability of our leadership team and associates to work and heal together, and know we will emerge even stronger than before.”

CWA has planned a noon news conference Tuesday to share more details.

Hospital leaders have developed a return-to-work plan that will restore most services at Mercy during the day shift on Nov. 10. Emergent and urgent surgical cases will continue to be performed as needed, while inpatient and outpatient elective surgery are expected to resume soon.