HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — After SEIU District 1199 voted to end their 29-day strike against Cabell Huntington Hospital by accepting the hospital’s latest offer Wednesday night, the time has now come to begin the process of both parties coming back together.
Union members say the vote was a heated one, with some members wanting to stay on the line and some wanting to get back to work. However, in the end, the union voted to accept the offer and now the time has come to pack up the picket line.
Hal Greer Boulevard, once filled with noise, chants, and honking car horns now falls silent after nearly a month on the picket line.
“We’re working out a plan with the hospital right now for days to get workers back in the building. Some people will enter as early as tomorrow and at the latest people will come in on Monday,” says Sherri McKinney, regional director of SEIU District 1199.
Many in the union say the decision was not an easy one.
“People have to take time to process what just happened; of course there were groups of people that would’ve been happier to stay out and there were groups of people that were ready to go back in. Overall once people have started processing we’re already getting calls again this morning about ‘hey, what do we need to do?'” McKinney says.
Union member Cassie Maynor describes the process in one word:
“Emotional. We’ve been out here for so long, I know that some people feel like they still can’t afford the healthcare, so I feel sorry for the people that really can’t afford it but then I’m also happy to go back to work.”
Now, the once-bustling picket line is being taken down piece by piece as the two parties begin the reconciliation process.
“Our staff is here today. We have workers that are coming to volunteer; people are coming and picking up their personal items and so we’ll be here a few more days. It doesn’t go up in a day and it sure can’t come down in a day,” McKinney says.
Jason Webb, owner of G.D. Ritzy’s across the street, says he’s seen this strike evolve from day one.
“I’m glad for ’em, you know? Nobody wants to be out of work and nobody wants to be going through this and everybody wants to be treated fairly and that’s a good thing when they’re back to work I think if they both agree on it anyway,” Webb says.
“All of us have missed our patients, we’ve missed our patient care, like I’ve said we’ve had so much community support from everybody, we felt bad being out here and not being in there taking care of everything,” Maynor says.
Union officials say you may still see some folks out along the boulevard over the next few days cleaning up.
They say right now department heads are meeting to try to figure out what scheduling will look like to get everyone back to work.
The new contract is effective through November 2024.