An inflatable ‘fat cat’ was displayed Monday morning outside the Catholic Health headquarters facing Oak Street and Genesee Streets as the busy morning commute was underway. It was displayed by the Communications Workers of America.
The ‘fat cat’ has his hands around the neck of a nurse as part of the inflatable exhibit to protest against an on-going contract dispute with the health care system.
A group of members from CWA Local 1168 stood with the ‘fat cat’. The union represents workers at Catholic hospitals, Sisters of Charity St. Joseph Campus, Kenmore Mercy and Mercy in south Buffalo. Nurses have been working without a contract for ten months.
The protest started around 7 a.m., but then ended around 9 a.m. as the ‘fat cat’ was deflated.
About 2,200 nurses, technologists, service and clerical workers at Mercy Hospital began voting Monday on whether to strike the Hospital. The voting will continue Tuesday. They are members of CWA Local 1133. The vote only gives strike authorization to union leadership, providing authority call a strike, but does not mean a strike would be staged.
In a news release issued by the union, it stated they are "fed up with the Hospitals refusal to embrace a normal labor/management relationship, refusal to provide enough workers to care for the patients and facilities and the ongoing pattern of concessionary contracts."
The union stated its inability to work collaboratively with the Hospital has resulted in ‘system-wide problems’ that are unresolved. “Short staffing, filthy facilities, lack of updated equipment and employee concerns around work conditions are major issues,” said the union in the written release.
The union accuses Catholic Health and Mercy of committing ‘unfair labor practices’. The union said once voting closes on Tuesday evening at 8:30, ballots will be counted immediately.
Catholic Health issued a written statement late Monday afternoon to respond to the authorization voting.
Catholic Health continues to state it has "consistently bargained in good faith, presenting contract proposals that represent the economic realities of healthcare, while still recognizing the hard work and commitment of our valued associates."
Catholic Health also points to a June 30, 2016 decision issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) indicating the CWA violated the law due to its “failure to bargain in good faith” and meet its bargaining obligations for Registered Nurses at St. Joseph Campus.
In referring to contract talks at Mercy Hospital, Catholic Health stated the union has presented an economic package that totals more than $80 million in the first year alone – "a figure that would be an impossible burden to support. The cost increases that the union is proposing are neither realistic nor sustainable and we cannot jeopardize the future of our healthcare ministry by agreeing to these unreasonable demands."