June Leffler Published

Hospital Workers in Huntington Plan to Strike Over Benefit Rollbacks


About 1,000 workers at Cabell-Huntington Hospital intend to go on strike next month, after a union vote this week in Huntington.

The workers include housekeepers, maintenance workers, phlebotomists and licensed practical nurses. They’re part of District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

If the hospital and union cannot agree on a new contract in the coming days, workers will strike on Nov. 3.

Union secretary and treasurer Joyce Gibson says it would be the first strike at the hospital since 1998.

Gibson says workers are facing a rollback of many of their benefits.

“They do have concessions on paid time off. They have concessions on health care,” she said. “And they have basically attacked their union security clause in the contract.”

Gibson says workers are having to quarantine at home, without pay, if they are exposed to COVID-19.

The pandemic has taken a toll on hospital staffing and finances. There is a national shortage of nurses, causing hospitals to pay top dollar to staff their beds. Hospitals have also had to forgo money-making elective procedures at times, to keep up with COVID-19 patients. But Gibson says that’s no excuse to rollback benefits for workers.

“They’ve been working tirelessly,” Gibson said. “We’re looking at retention. This is actually driving people away from the hospital when you come after major concessions.”

Gibson points out that hospitals have received federal and state funding to meet the financial strain of the pandemic.

Cabell-Huntington Hospital did not immediately respond to West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s request for comment. News station WOWK reports hospital administrators have said they want to continue “good faith negotiations in order to reach a fair and equitable agreement.”

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.