HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — The union strike against Cabell Huntington Hospital continues for the seventh day in a row, with no signs of stopping yet.
Negotiations began Monday between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 and the Cabell Huntington Hospital through federal mediators.
However, union officials say things have only gotten worse.
“We’re out every day, we’re maintaining solidarity on the picket line. The overall feeling is, although people are upset with the hospital, they’re ready to stay out one day longer, one day stronger,” says Sherri McKinney, regional director of SEIU District 1199.
McKinney says hundreds of people are out on the picket line at any given time during the day, holding signs and cheering at passing cars. There’s even a billboard driving around the Jewel City with the CEO and Board Chair of the hospital’s faces on it…and union officials say they even plan to add their phone numbers to it soon.
“Call Beth Hammers, call Kevin Yingling, they’re the people who are in control of this and they can make this go away today, where these workers can get back doing their jobs, taking care of this community like they have during this entire pandemic,” McKinney says.
Negotiations were called by a federal mediator Monday. A spokesperson for the hospital says Tuesday morning they presented a county to the proposal presented by the union Monday. However, those on the picket line say they are unhappy with the latest offer.
“They actually came back with a proposal that was more egregious than their last, best, and final offer. It was worse,” McKinney says.
According to the union, one major point of contention in the negotiations is the health insurances coverage of the workers.
“With what they’ve proposed in wage increases, and then what they want the health insurance to cost employees, overall if you take all the full-time and part-time employees, it would overall be a 9.86 percent wage decrease…Part-time workers in this hospital that are working for health insurance as well, it would be a 29.32 percent wage decrease,” McKinney says.
“I don’t understand where the hospital’s coming from with those type of offers. I mean, it’s obvious that they don’t have a problem with money because they’re paying for all these out-of-state workers to come in here and do our jobs. And they’re paying them triple and more… Why can’t you just leave our insurance alone?” says Yvonne Brooks, a rehab secretary at Cabell Huntington Hospital.
According to the union, the mediators have not said nor scheduled when the next round of negotiations will take place.
Additionally, the hospital says in a statement they will not be discussing the terms of any proposals to maintain the integrity of the negotiations, and they are following the guidance and recommendations of the federal mediator.