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About 1,000 Cabell Huntington Hospital service workers remain on strike

About 1,000 Cabell Huntington Hospital service workers remain on strike
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 12:52 PM EDT
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UPDATE 11/3/21 @ 10 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Close to 1,000 employees at Cabell Huntington Hospital went on strike Wednesday after months of negotiations ended with no agreement.

Hundreds of union workers in the service and maintenance units walked off the job at noon. They stood on the sidewalk outside the hospital along Hal Greer Boulevard chanting and holding signs.

“They can do better by their employees,” Jennifer Baldridge, a personal care assistant, said.

Sherri McKinney, the SEIU District 1199 regional director, says inadequate healthcare benefits and unfair labor practices are among the issues that drove them to this last resort.

“On some issues we’re miles away, on others we are very close,” she said.

The union announced the strike around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday after negotiating with Mountain Health Network executives Monday.

“This is just the beginning of several days we could potentially be out here,” McKinney said. “We have to send the hospital a message that we are not willing or able to live with the last, best, and final offer they presented, and we need a better contract for our workers.”

“At this rate, I’m going to have to get a second job just so I can pay for my healthcare for my kids and my husband,” Baldridge said. “It really is wrong.”

“They wanted to take away all the retirees’ health insurance and have them pay for it,” Berniece Vickers, a licensed practical nurse, said.

A written statement from Cabell Huntington Hospital says they’ve worked in good faith since August to reach a fair contract with a generous package of benefits, and they’re disappointed the offer was not ratified.

Despite the work stoppage, they say they will be able to continue normal operations and provide uninterrupted care, thanks to qualified service workers who’ve arrived.

McKinney claims those contract replacement workers were being offered around $15,000 for two weeks of work.

“If they can afford to pay contract workers that, they can afford the proposals these workers have on the table.”

McKinney says a federal mediator will be trying to get the parties talking again, but the workers plan to continue striking as long as it takes.

Groups of workers are rotating and plan to be outside the hospital 24 hours a day.

Some surgeries have been delayed. A statement released Monday from the hospital’s director of Human Resources, Molly Frick, said, “We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience this is causing our patients.”

UPDATE 11/3/21 @ 6 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Cabell Huntington Hospital released a statement Wednesday following a walk out by union workers and the beginning of a strike after the rejection of a contract offer.

“We are disappointed that the comprehensive offer made by the hospital to the members of SEIU District 1199 Service was not ratified yesterday. Cabell Huntington Hospital has worked in good faith since August, throughout the demands of COVID, to reach a fair contract with a generous package of benefits. The Hospital’s offer included 3% average annual wage increases, an enhanced uniform allowance, and increased shift differentials. The Hospital also agreed to continue automatic annual contributions to every eligible employee’s retirement account. Like the rest of the Cabell Huntington Hospital employees, the service employees were asked to begin paying affordable, and below market, health insurance premiums. Under the Hospital’s final proposal, the Hospital will contribute more than 90% of health care costs for employees and their dependents. The hospital has a duty to our patients and the community to provide quality healthcare 24 hours a day, every day and we will honor that commitment by continuing continue that care with minimal disruption. We have made arrangements for trained, screened and qualified service workers to assist in the event of a strike. Patients coming to Cabell Huntington Hospital or to Marshall Health are asked to use Medical Center Drive, which is the main entrance to the hospital, and use the parking garage. Patients needing access to the Emergency Department would use the entrance just off Hal Greer Boulevard.”

Tim Martin, Chief Operating Officer, Cabell Huntington Hospital

Joyce Gibson, secretary/treasurer of SEIU/1199, released the following statement on Tuesday:

“Late Monday evening, workers at Cabell Huntington Hospital were given a last, best, and final offer from management. Cabell has committed multiple unfair labor practice charges and continues to harass and threaten union members. Wednesday, November 3rd. This comes after months of negotiations with the executives at CHH, who have repeatedly made it clear that they value profits over workers and patients. This conflict comes after decades of successful contract negotiations with previous hospital administrations, but clearly these executives have decided that they will be prioritizing profits over care, staffing, retention, and dignity. They are paying contracted outside workers who are not invested in our community, rather than take care of their dedicated long-term employees. This is very unfortunate this hospital would refuse to invest into this community and their dedicated employees who have worked tirelessly through this pandemic taking care of you and your families, and now unable to take care of themselves.”

The union represents more than 1,000 workers at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

The strike comes after months of failed negotiations.

Despite the strike, hospital officials announced normal operations, saying “trained, screened, and qualified service workers, in both clinical and non-clinical positions, arrived to assist with daily hospital operations.”

The hospital released the following statement Wednesday evening:

“Cabell Huntington Hospital is committed to providing our patients and community with quality healthcare 24 hours a day, every day. We want to especially thank our dedicated caregivers and support staff who are providing outstanding care and preserving an environment conducive to the healing process.

“Patients coming to Cabell Huntington Hospital or to Marshall Health are asked to use Medical Center Drive, which is the main entrance to the hospital, and use the parking garage. Patients needing access to the Emergency Department should use the entrance just off Hal Greer Boulevard.”

SEIU officials tell WSAZ.com the strike isn’t just about finances. They say it has to do with health care, staffing and unfair labor practices.

On Monday, we reported that several patients were notified their procedures and surgeries are either being postponed or moved to another hospital ahead of the potential strike.

About 1,000 hospital service workers at Cabell Huntington Hospital begin strike Wednesday, Nov....
About 1,000 hospital service workers at Cabell Huntington Hospital begin strike Wednesday, Nov. 3.(WSAZ)

Hospital union workers announce strike plans

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