Catholic Hospital Negotiations on Opposite Coasts Turn in Opposite Directions

Contract Ratified in Spokane, Strike Brewing in Buffalo

Catholic Health SalariesAt Providence Health, a Catholic Hospital system embracing 34 hospitals in the Northwestern United States, many nurses and other health care employees have union representation. Even when both labor and management exhibit mutual respect, bargaining a contract is not always easy – but it’s often edifying and can go a long way toward helping each side understand the needs and priorities of the other, paving the way for a compromise reflecting the common good. After many months at the bargaining table, where staffing levels were a major sticking point, members of the Washington State Nurses Association ratified a contract August 3 covering nurses at Spokane’s Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. The nurses secured staffing commitments in some priority areas of the hospital; a management spokeswoman said that the contract “benefits both parties and meets all our needs.”

In Western New York a different story is unfolding. Nurses and other hospital employees at Buffalo’s Mercy Hospital argue that the facility is “understaffed and underpaid” and have voted to authorize a strike. While hospital administrators say they have made offers to improve staffing and wages, CWA Local 1133, representing the employees, argues that these offers are inadequate. The union has worked with community groups to publicize their views with white papers and informational pickets.