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Striking Workers Urge Huntington City Council To Support Blocked Resolution
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Huntington’s City Council chambers were filled Monday night with employees participating in two separate strikes at the Cabell Huntington Hospital and Special Metals. Members of the council considered a resolution that called for both organizations to come to the negotiating table in good faith.
The motion was blocked by Huntington’s legal team on grounds of impartiality.
The resolution in support of the strikers was introduced by Councilman Bob Bailey. He noted the importance to “get behind these people in these picket lines. Christmas is coming. […] They need Christmas presents for their children. So I’m only going to pray that you’ll do the right thing. And back these union people. These are our people.”
A federal mediator has called on the Cabell Huntington Hospital and SEIU to return to the negotiating table on Nov. 30.
Molly Frick, director of human resources for Cabell Huntington Hospital, issued a statement Monday. “We eagerly await confirmation to return to the bargaining table,” Frick said. “We presented our last offer to the SEIU District 1199 on Nov. 9. As of today, not only have we not received a counteroffer, we have not received any response. We recognize a strike is a serious matter that deserves earnest action.
She added: “Work stoppages at hospitals differ from those at industrial facilities. The very health and well-being of human lives are the responsibility of the entire team. We have heard from many union members that they’re ready to return to caring for patients and supporting operations. We encourage the SEIU to either respond to our offer or return to the bargaining table, so that our team members can return to work.”
The organizing director of SEIU District 1199, Sherri McKinney, argued in a statement that the Cabell Huntington Hospital isn’t truly acting in good faith, “when they have made an offer far less than what we have already had for decades and bargained for on Nov. 3.”
“It is our hope that the hospital will do what is just and fair and stop this strike in good faith during this holiday season for the Huntington Community at-large, but after the many false statements to the media and divisive tactics, they need to find another way of conducting business,” McKinney said.
Two union hospital employees came to speak before the council in support of Bailey’s resolution to support the striking workers.
Union worker Trish Burns shared with the city council how her sudden loss of health care has affected her 25-year-old son. “He’s a full-time college student. He has worked full time to pay for his education. Last week he was admitted to the hospital with no insurance because Cabell ripped my insurance away.”
Council member Tia Rambaugh called for her colleagues to take a position. “Ultimately, I think that governance and administration should not remain impartial in these situations, because this is our community,” Rambaugh said.
Despite her background in business, she argued that it was unethical to stay quiet on the sidelines. “You guys are our workers. We are your neighbors. And it’s important for us to make our opinions known so that administration in these businesses can potentially recognize that they’re not working in a silo, that we all have to work together, and that our opinions mean something.”
Councilman Patrick Jones was the last to speak on the resolution. With tears in his eyes, Jones argued it is not unreasonable to demand higher compensation to keep pace with inflation. “Their children, many of whom I see in the halls of our schools each day while I’m working, can enjoy this holiday season in the same manner with a feeling of security and peace that the families of officials in management at these institutions will surely enjoy,” Jones said.
Council members officially didn’t side with either the workers or the companies. It is the 53rd day since the Special Metals strike began, and it is the 20th day of the Cabell Huntington Hospital strike.
Jones swore that if there is not a deal made in the next two weeks, he will introduce another resolution to the city council.
Speakers from the city of Huntington, the Cabell County Commission and the Mason County Development Authority briefed members of the Joint Standing Committee on Finance Monday on development they are already seeing for the region from the NUCOR plant.