HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Nearly 1,000 union workers in the service and maintenance units at Cabell Huntington Hospital are set to go on strike if a contract deal isn’t reached by Nov. 2.
Service Employees International Union District 1199, which represents lab and X-ray technicians, as well as cleaning staff within those units, voted Wednesday to send a 10-day strike notice to hospital management.
The union is seeking wage increases, quality care, safe staffing and continued health insurance coverage.
“There are concessions around holiday times, wages and health insurance, even around non-economic issues that don’t cost them anything. This isn’t the year or the contract for that,” said Sherri McKinney, regional director with SEIU District 1199.
McKinney told MetroNews on Thursday the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on hospital workers and that they deserve to maintain job security while risking their lives every day.
“They risk getting COVID themselves and taking it home to their families and loved ones. They’re just not going to take it,” she said.
Service and maintenance staff play a key role in helping the rest of the hospital run smoothly, McKinney said.
“It’s people that work with those nurses day in and day out in a pandemic trying to keep the doors open and keep the place clean. They (the hospital) want to make all their money off the backs of them and we’re not going to have that happen,” she said.
SEIU 1199 has negotiated with Cabell Huntington Hospital since 1975.
McKinney said the last strike was in 1998.
The hospital has had its ups and downs financially over the years, but McKinney said they’re not currently hurting for money especially with federal pandemic relief funds rolling in.
“We’ve bargained with this hospital when they weren’t making money and workers chose to take wage freezes, but that’s not the case. They’re making record profits,” she said.
The union was required to notify the hospital of a potential strike. According to the National Labor Relations Act, labor organizations have to give health care institutions at least 10 days’ notice prior to walking off the job.
As of Thursday afternoon, Cabell Huntington Hospital did not immediately respond to MetroNews’ request for comment.
Both sides return to the bargaining table Tuesday and Wednesday.
Cabell Huntington Hospital is one of the largest employers in Huntington.