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Catholic Health and CWA to meet Tuesday on a conditional basis

CWA members and followers made it clear to the press and to the public that they would not move forward with virtual negotiations of any kind.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Catholic Health and CWA announced Monday that they are set to meet in person Tuesday morning on a conditional basis. 

The union has agreed to provide in writing its questions about the hospital's last proposal made on October. 1. 

CWA leaders asked Catholic Health Saturday night to meet for a bargaining session, in person, at 10 a.m. Sunday morning.

However, according to a release from union leaders, members of the Catholic Health bargaining committee logged onto a virtual video conference with mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service at the same time. CWA’s bargaining committee, which was invited to the video conference, never participated.

In a press conference held Sunday afternoon, CWA members and followers made it clear to the press and to the public that they would not move forward with virtual negotiations of any kind.

Debbie Hayes is the Area Director of the CWA and tells 2 On Your Side the reason they won't participate virtually is that "it doesn't work, they know that."

Hayes went into detail during the rainy press conference saying, "We did virtual bargaining for months and it was very clear that it is not an efficient way to settle the problems that we have to talk about."

As of Monday morning, Catholic Health is still waiting for a formal, written response from CWA to its last comprehensive offer. Catholic Health reports it has not received written proposals or counter proposals from CWA since September 19.

“Yesterday, the hospitals’ bargaining committee made itself available to the union through video conference. We opened a line and were on it. The mediator also was on the line. The union did not show up,” JoAnn Cavanaugh, a spokesperson for the hospital system.

“We stand firm on our position that until CWA responds to us in writing, and until it can control its followers on the picket line and bargaining committee members, Catholic Health will be available to meet with CWA’s bargaining committee virtually. If there is still any confusion, we’re available to answer any questions the union may have.”  

But according to Catholic Health, the reason for pursuing negotiations and conversations virtually is out of concern for people's safety. 

JoAnn Cavanaugh, a spokesperson for the hospital system, released a statement saying in part, “Given the verbal threats, intimidating actions and other inappropriate and possibly illegal behaviors by many individuals on CWA’s picket line and out of an abundance of caution for the safety and security of its bargaining committee, Catholic Health offered to meet today with the union only virtually,” Cavanaugh said. “We are willing to meet with CWA again in person when it has demonstrated an ability to control its followers on the picket line,” Cavanaugh continued.

In written communications to Catholic Health on Sunday afternoon, CWA leaders refuted allegations of inappropriate and possibly illegal activity by union followers on the union’s picket line. 

Hayes said during Sunday's press conference, "not one person that has made any kind of a threat or harassed or done anything that would scare somebody on the Catholic Health bargaining committee. For some reason they're in the hospital an they're hiding and they won't come out."

To help the CWA recognize its strike line behaviors and actions, Catholic Health is releasing an image retrieved from CHS Workers United.

The image shows two members of CWA’s bargaining committee, Jackie Ettipio, president of CWA Local 1133, and Cori Gambini, president of CWA Local 1168, shouting at temporary replacement workers being transported to Mercy Hospital and possibly illegally blocking the vehicle from accessing the hospital.

Credit: Catholic Health
Catholic Health is releasing an image retrieved from CHS Workers United, an open Facebook page connected to CWA. The image shows two members of CWA’s bargaining committee, Jackie Ettipio, president of CWA Local 1133, and Cori Gambini, president of CWA Local 1168, shouting at temporary replacement workers being transported to Mercy Hospital and possibly illegally blocking the vehicle from accessing the hospital.

As negotiation efforts continue, Catholic Health is collecting additional evidence from various social media outlets and investigating claims of actions by individuals on CWA’s strike line who may have violated federal, state and local hate crimes given the racial overtones of the activity targeting the replacement workers, many of who are people of color.

CWA union leaders maintain these claims are false and plan to continue the strike until they see desired change.

As it stands, Catholic Health maintains they will only be available virtually.

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