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

HUNTINGTON — Cabell Huntington Hospital officials say union workers on the picket line continue to violate a judge’s temporary restraining order limiting many of the activities and actions in and around the hospital campus.

More than 900 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members in the service and maintenance units went on strike for the first time in 23 years after walking off the job Nov. 3.

“Sadly, the union and some of its supporters have chosen to ignore the temporary restraining order, and continue to violate the judge’s order,” Molly Frick, director of human resources at Cabell Huntington Hospital, said in a statement. “The hospital remains committed to providing its patients 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 goes a long way in addressing activities on the picket line that have been disruptive to our patients, visitors and staff.”

Cabell County Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson issued the temporary restraining order from the bench Nov. 10 after the hospital filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop some actions by the striking workers. It came at the same time striking workers found out their health care benefits had been cut off by the hospital.

The order prohibits those on the picket line from engaging in or encouraging loud and boisterous conduct, including the use of bullhorns, air horns, loud music and honking; using burn barrels near the Lung Health Center at 13th Avenue and Elm Street; blocking, obstructing or in any way 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; doing anything to prevent the hospital from the delivery of medical services to the public; trespassing on 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 in any way with those utilizing the reserve gate; and use of vulgarities, obscenities or threats to intimidate hospital employees, patients, neutral trade union members and members of the general public.

Frick said the hospital has not called law enforcement, but it could.

“The hospital has a number of avenues available to it, including seeking relief from the court and law enforcement, should either become necessary,” Frick said in an email responding to questions. “This is specifically set forth in the order.

“The order declares SEIU’s activities to be an impediment to the healing environment, which must be preserved for patients and their families. The order limits picketers to no more than eight during the day and no more than four overnight,” Frick’s statement said.

The union claims the judge signed an order inconsistent with transcripts of the hearing.

“The judge was handed an order to sign by CHH attorneys that was inconsistent with his original ruling,” the union response stated. “We agreed with the judge on his terms and believed it was fair; however, this current TRO (temporary restraining order) 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.”

The union says the hospital actions are scare tactics.

“The hospital’s executives are trying to scare and intimidate workers on the strike line, as well as patients and community by making outrageous alleged claims against our members’ conduct while constitutionally practicing their right to strike over labor disputes,” the union statement said. “The constant tactic of CHH executives is to silence anyone who raises issue with their unfair labor practices and bargaining contracts to detract from the reality that the CEO and CHH Board do not want to offer any transparency with their workers. They refuse to face their workers, not the union, to admit that the CEO and Board Chair Beth Hammers are taking away 10% of their wages, increasing health care costs, reducing benefits and ending health care for all hospital retirees. CHH is willing to stick its workers so far in poverty they can’t provide for their families. This is the real issue at hand, not a false TRO complaint by hospital hypocrites.”

Another hearing in the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 23, before Cabell County Circuit Judge Chris Chiles, according to the union.

Fred Pace is the business reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

Fred has been in the newspaper industry for 30+ years. He continues to be excited to bring readers news that only comes thru local journalism. “Being able to share the passion felt by entrepreneurs in our community with readers is exciting,” he said.

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