McDOWELL — "We're here until we get an agreement."
That is the observation of Priscilla Compton, vice president of United Steel Workers Local Union 14636, concerning a labor stoppage at McDowell ARH Hospital and other facilities in the ARH chain.
On Sunday morning, all union employees at each of the nine ARH locations throughout Kentucky and West Virginia went on strike, citing unfair labor practices and demanding that their benefits not be cut.
The United Steel Workers union represents approximately 60 percent of ARH's workforce, including licensed practical nurses, clerical staff, certified nurse aids, maintenance and housekeeping staff.
Both union employees and ARH administrators have agreed to resume contract negotiations today and both say they hope they can come to a reasonable solution.
"We just want a fair contract," said Compton. "I think both sides understand that we have to do what we have to do."
ARH President and CEO Jerry W. Haynes said, "ARH is hopeful that a resolution can be reached to resolve the issues and to end the strike."
Union employees at McDowell ARH were out in full force on Monday, drawing community support for their cause. Nearly every car and coal truck that passed by the hospital entrance blew their horns to show their support for union workers.
"We have had very good community support," Compton said. "Community members even come down to sit on the picket line with us."
Despite the loss of over half of its workforce, ARH says the strike will not hinder patient care in any way.
"Making patient care and safety our top priority, ARH has implemented our contingency plan and is operating all of its facilities," ARH spokeswoman Candace S. Elkins said. "ARH wants to assure our communities that residents will continue to receive quality patient care. We are committed to our mission and to advancing the medical services in the region."