BUFFALO, N.Y. — Five weeks out on the picket line has come to a halt as Mercy Hospital union workers begin voting on a proposed contract.
"The feeling is very positive in the room," said Jamie Banks, a CT tech at Mercy. "People are smiling, and I think this was a long time coming."
Not just for them.
"The agreement is for everybody, so the contract will go across St. Joe's, Kenmore Mercy, as well as Mercy Hospital. It's all going to be one," Banks said.
Added Nathaniel Williams, a cook at Mercy: "It's a great deal what's going on with us and with everyone else in the hospital. I'm happy to get back to work and do what we do best."
That's despite all of his colleagues not saying 'yes' to the deal yet.
Voting only began Saturday and lasts through Monday evening. Yet it seems positive thoughts are in the majority.
"People do have some questions about how we're going to go back in, and it's going to be a phased opening. Some of the units are moving around so the staffing ratios can be me," Banks said.
Added Giovanna Digesare, a nurse at Mercy: "It's extremely historic to see staffing ratios in writing for not just nurses, for ancillary staff as well, is absolutely amazing."
That was their biggest motivator for keeping the strike going. The other?
"There were 15 percent of our employees who were paid under $15 an hour, so it was very important for us," Banks said.
As more than a month of striking comes to a close, negotiators are hopeful.
"I do expect it to be overwhelmingly approved," said Corinne Webb, a nurse from Mercy who is on the negotiating committee.
As for all the time it took to get here, that will likely remain in the past.
"100 percent getting this tentative agreement was worth the wait," Banks said.