West Virginia hospital receives signed temporary restraining order limiting noise from pickets

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Cabell Huntington (W.Va.) Hospital said it received a signed temporary restraining order Nov. 17 that memorializes a previously issued ruling limiting activity of workers who have been on strike for two weeks.

Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Alfred Ferguson signed the temporary restraining order in response to an injunction complaint filed by the hospital.

Cabell Huntington asked the court to limit actions including loud music from the picket line; noise makers and bullhorns on the line; and excessive horn honking from the street outside the facility.

The temporary restraining order limits the number of striking workers at hospital entrances to eight or fewer during the day, and four or fewer overnight, but does not place restrictions on the number of striking workers on public sidewalks, according to the hospital and union. The order also prohibits:

  • Engaging in or encouraging use of bullhorns, air horns, loud music and honking
  • Using burn barrels near the Lung Health Center
  • Hindering the use of handicap curb cuts
  • Picketing, patrolling or gathering within 15 feet of the corner adjacent to the emergency department entrance
  • Interfering with traffic or hindering the free use of roads and streets
  • Preventing the hospital from delivering medical services
  • Trespassing on private hospital property
  • Any direct communication with patients, visitors, employees, vendors and neutral trade union members entering and exiting the hospital
  • Picketing within 20 feet of a reserve gate used by neutral trade union workers or communicating with those using the reserve gate (union can still have two observers at the gate)
  • Intimidating hospital employees, patients, neutral trade union members and the public by using vulgarities, obscenities or threats

Service Employees International Union District 1199 Organizing Director Sherri McKinney said the union had moved a burn barrel away from the Lung Health Center and had already limited bullhorns, air horns and loud music.

Union representatives also accuse the hospital of "making outrageous alleged claims against our members' conduct," and they contend the signed order is inconsistent with Mr. Ferguson's original Nov. 10 ruling. 

"We agreed with the judge on his terms and believed it was fair; however, this current TRO is not the same conditions we agreed to in court. We remain in compliance with the previous and current conditions laid out by the judge in the TRO, which is in force until we go to court again," a union statement says. 

In a separate statement issued by the hospital, Molly Frick, director of human resources for Cabell Huntington, praised the temporary restraining order and disputed the union's assertion of inconsistency.

"At the conclusion of the [Nov. 10] hearing, the judge ordered the hospital to submit a proposed order, and submit that order to the union for review," Ms. Frick said. "Though the parties attempted to reach an agreement on some of the terms that the union objected to, the court ultimately drafted its own order."

She added that the hospital is committed to providing an environment "that is conducive to the healing process, and will take the steps necessary for our visitors, staff and vendors to feel comfortable on our campus." 

The temporary restraining order comes as about 1,000 SEIU District 1199-represented maintenance and service workers have been on strike since Nov. 3. The order expires Nov. 21 unless extended.

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