BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the strike against Mercy Hospital now in its 13th day, the use of replacement staffers by Catholic Health is now the subject of questions from the State Attorney General and her staff.
That is because there may be issues with licensing requirements for some of them.
Ever since the strike began security staffers hired by the Huffmaster firm in Michigan have been watching over the situation at Mercy Hospital. That was at the request of Catholic Health, which has said it is paying out millions of dollars for security and especially clinical staff replacements.
Some of the clinical staff may be paid up to $130 an hour along with standard travel, room, and meals benefits for specialty hospital positions.
During the tense Day 1 of the strike, we even saw Huffmaster hired guards tangling with union members who were trying to stop the transport of those replacement workers into the hospital.
Just as there have been other politicians showing solidarity on the union picket line, State Attorney General Letitia James wants Catholic Health and Huffmaster to remove those security guards from Mercy. And in a formal cease and desist letter to Huffmaster, the Attorney General's labor bureau chief says they are operating without a required state license both as an employment contractor and with the security detail.
Huffmaster has so far not responded to our request for comment.
But Catholic Health did send this statement: "Registered nurses and other temporary replacement workers requiring clinical licensure who are caring for and serving patients at Mercy Hospital during CWA's strike are properly credentialed to work in New York State. The New York State Health Department has visited Mercy Hospital several times during the strike and has found the care and service to be in compliance with state regulations. Huffmaster Companies is in contact with the Attorney General's office to address their questions."
A Catholic Health spokesperson said she did not know about state licensing requirements for out-of-state hired security staff.
Technically the state officials are still discussing the licensing issue with Huffmaster.
And when asked specifically as to how they would force the guards to leave; a deputy AG says they're making arrangements if Huffmaster does not comply.
The AG's office confirmed that under New York state law security guards are supposed to be licensed. It's listed on the Department of State website with requirements including finger printing.
There is also a question on Huffmaster's website specifically asking applicants for security staffing about which state licenses they hold for such duty.
The State Attorney General may be in Buffalo on Friday, and we'll see if anything happens then.