West Virginia hospital suspends healthcare benefits from striking workers

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Cabell Huntington (W.Va.) Hospital has temporarily cut off healthcare benefits for striking union workers, CBS affiliate WOWK reported Nov. 10.

On Oct. 21, about 1,000 Service Employees International Union District 1199 union workers at the hospital announced plans to strike unless a labor deal was reached. An agreement was not reached as of Nov. 2, initiating the strike, which started Nov. 3.

Union officials told WOWK the move regarding healthcare benefits took effect Nov. 4, but some members were unaware of it until a member's prescriptions were rejected. 

Shawnda Garrett, an operating room sterile technician at Cabell Huntington, spoke about the importance of healthcare benefits for members and their families.

"We haven't asked for anything except what we deserve. Our benefits, our healthcare is so important. My husband is ill here, this is my husband and he's ill and he has to take a lot of medicines. And we need our healthcare," Ms. Garrett told the news station.

In a statement shared with Becker's Hospital Review, Molly Frick, director of human resources at the hospital, said, "We're disappointed the SEIU District 1199 leadership did not inform its members of the consequences of participating in a strike before holding a vote to authorize the strike and requiring members to participate in one. 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."

According to the latest strike updates on Cabell Huntington's website, the hospital and union resumed negotiations Nov. 8, and the union made a counteroffer. The hospital said it has provided its own counteroffer and is prepared to resume bargaining when a federal mediator requests it.

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