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Health care coverage axed for striking WVa hospital workers

Associated Press

Huntington — Health care coverage has been stopped for striking maintenance and service workers at a West Virginia hospital, a union said.

About 1,000 members of the the Service Employees International Union District 1999 went on strike last week at Cabell Huntington Hospital after their contract expired.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 union workers in the service and maintenance units at Cabell Huntington Hospital begin their strike on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, in Huntington, W.Va.

Union organizing director Sherri McKinney said in a statement that the coverage was cut off without notification to striking employees and union retirees, The Herald-Dispatch reported.

Hospital human resources director Molly Frick said in a statement that “union leadership was well aware that a strike would result in the cessation of pay and benefits. Any employee who wishes to return to work will have all benefits restored, including healthcare insurance.”

A Cabell County judge issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday that was sought by the hospital prohibiting the union from certain activities outside the hospital.

Frick said the activities include loud noises, including the use of bullhorns and loud music, that have disturbed hospital patients. It also prohibits strikers from honking horns and encouraging drivers to honk, blocking hospital entrances, interfering with traffic at the hospital or making threatening statements to anyone trying to enter or leave the hospital's campus.

Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson said anyone violating the order may be held in contempt of court.

The hospital’s most recent offer included 3% average annual wage increases, increased shift differentials, an enhanced uniform allowance and continued automatic annual contributions to eligible employees’ retirement accounts.

Service employees also were asked to begin paying health insurance premiums. Under the hospital’s latest offer, it would have contributed more than 90% of health care costs for employees and their dependents.