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Buffalo Co-Lab

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Buffalo Co-Lab advances an equitable economy and democratic community, collaboratively integrating scholarly and practical understanding to strengthen civic action.

Inequities among Healthcare Workers and Unions

CWA rally in Buffalo

This week I have had the privilege of being able to be in Buffalo and work in person with my organization Communications Workers of America (CWA). Currently, CWA is working with union workers at Catholic Health, which is a conglomerate of hospitals including Kenmore, Mercy, and St. Joseph’s. While the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely impacted the whole world over the last year and a half,  the unsung heroes in hospitals that work grueling hours who are feeling the full brunt of the effects. When I was working remotely last week, CWA was bargaining contracts to elevate and provide better physical, emotional, and economical services for union workers. If I am being completely honest, when I was sitting in on the bargaining session for five hours on Webex, I felt a disconnect between the people that I am supposed to be helping and my role in this larger fight.

The workers that CWA represent in these hospitals include clerical workers, nurse aides, and environmental services (cleaning jobs). Those that take up these jobs are often people of color who have answered the call to work in places that others would not. In my opinion, there is no mistaking the correlation between the bad working conditions, low pay and workers’ intersectional identities. The most effective action that can be taken in order to address the racial inequities in our country is to grant BIPOC individuals rights equal to their non-BIPOC counterparts through policy and legal frameworks. This necessity is something that I have come to realize during my time in Buffalo. 

The first day that I arrived in Buffalo, I was thrusted into the midst of a rally that workers organized outside of the Catholic Health hospital. I was able to hear the struggles of the workers and the betrayal in the voices of those that served this institution for decades. However, through it all, I was struck by their hope and positive outlook that things will get better. The vehicle for this optimism was their union, the CWA. It was up to the bargaining committee to stand up to management and not accept flimsy, weak contracts that would not grant our workers the necessary protections. The need for a strong union really hit home for me when the peaceful workers trekked towards the hospital entrance to deliver a letter with their grievances, only to be turned away by security officials who said that Mark Sullivan, the President of Catholic Health, was not there and did not want to hear about their cries for help. 

What management does not realize is that they are betraying the workers that make hospitals and other institutions tick. Current policies and contracts are not strong in their protection of workers. Rather, current policies and contracts are angled to disproportionately benefit towards those that are wealthy. Being on the ground made me realize that fighting for strong policy and law is the crux for worker’s protections and rights.

Below are photos from the rally:

CWA rally in Buffalo