The strike at Mercy Hospital is more than two weeks old.
But it isn’t the only place in the country where health care workers have gone on strike or reached the brink of walking off the job.
The ongoing worker shortage could provide leverage for CWA as they continue to negotiate with Catholic Health System, hospital employees and labor experts say.
The reasons health care workers cite for striking are similar: They have endured the demands and exhaustion of working through the pandemic and insist hospitals staff up to help shoulder the workload.
They say their complaints about staffing levels and working conditions preceded the pandemic but have moved to the forefront over the past year and a half with greater attention on their work.
The strikes and threatened walkouts are creating more urgency to confront the issues, at a time when hospital systems say they are struggling to recruit workers.
The state Attorney General’s Office called for Huffmaster to stop providing its services to Mercy Hospital.
The swirl of worker shortages, the pandemic and the pressures health care workers are under have led some labor disputes to spill over into strikes, said Larry Zielinski, a former Buffalo General Hospital president.
“It just exacerbates the normal labor-management issues that have existed in health care for a long, long time,” said Zielinski, an executive in residence for health care administration at the University at Buffalo School of Management.
It comes at a time when employers across the country, in all sorts of industries, are struggling to fill jobs, a dynamic that gives workers some leverage by making it harder for companies to hire replacements for striking workers.
The competition for workers also is forcing some industries to raise wages for lower-paid workers – a factor that has taken on a prominent role in the health care labor disputes, including at Mercy.
As the strike at Mercy continues, Catholic Health faces another pressure point, in the form of the millions of dollars it is paying each week to a staffing firm for temporary replacement workers it is relying upon to keep the hospital open.
As about 2,000 striking CWA members support their union’s push for a new contract, they are about to receive a financial boost.
More than 2,000 workers are part