Hospital Workers In Huntington Strike Against Benefits Rollback
Union workers for Cabell Huntington Hospital went on strike Wednesday after contract negotiations fell through.
District 1199 of the Service Employee International Union announced that 1,000 clinical, service and maintenance workers voted to strike last month.
Since then, the union and the hospital have not been able to agree on a contract, which has now expired.
Union leaders say grievances against the hospital include an overall cut to benefits and regular disrespect to employees from management.
Yvonne Brooks, a union delegate, has worked with the hospital for 37 years. She says Cabell Huntington left employees with no choice but to strike.
“We're taking care of this community, we want to continue to take care of the community. And it's devastating to us to know that we've been pushed to the wall,” Brooks said.
Nurses are contractually unable to walk out, but many of them are supporting the strike as they can.
“We've had nurses that have been dropping off everything from firewood to food to water, just different supplies that we need,” said Amy Hayslett, an administrative organizer for SEIU District 1199. “But the best support that they can give them is just raising them up.”
Workers say the hospital is scaling back their once guaranteed health insurance coverage for past and present employees. This will result in raised health insurance costs for multiple generations of retired workers.
The union says hospital workers have not gone on strike since 1998. Cabell Huntington Hospital is one of the top employers in the Huntington area.
The hospital administration says the strike hasn’t impacted daily operations. The hospital has hired more temporary workers to replace those walking out.
“We are disappointed that the comprehensive offer made by the hospital to the members of SEIU District 1199 Service unit was not ratified [Tuesday]. Cabell Huntington Hospital has worked in good faith since August,” said Tim Martin, the hospital’s Chief Operating Officer. “We welcome any members of the Service unit who wish to come to work to do so.”