Candlelight vigil scheduled by Highlands ARH union members, strike vote passes

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (MTN) — Union members with Highlands ARH Regional Medical Center have voted overwhelmingly to authorize their bargaining committee to issue a strike notice, if needed.

According to a press release from Service Employees International Union District 1199 of WV/KY/OH, workers will gather tonight, June 30, 2020, for a candlelight vigil at 7:30 pm on the front lawn of the Highlands ARH Medical Center in Prestonsburg, Kentucky to express hope that an agreement can be reached with hospital executives and management.

Last week, workers with the hospital applauded a settlement regarding a dispute concerning Medicaid reimbursement rates. As reported, the settlement will provide $383M to rural hospitals across Kentucky. Specifically, Highlands ARH Regional Medical Center is expected to receive $5,028,667 (read press release here). From details that are available, checks could be issued to hospitals as soon as this week.

“As a worker who has been with Highlands ARH for over 20 years, I appreciate what this settlement means for our hospital in Prestonsburg and rural hospitals across Kentucky,” said Krinda Bailey, an emergency room worker and union member leader. “I urge hospital executives with ARH to invest this settlement in the workers at Highlands ARH who do everything they can on behalf of the people of our region.”

Joyce Gibson, the Regional Director with SEIU District 1199 in Kentucky states, “We have to protect good union jobs, in addition to quality care at the hospital. Workers need fair wages so that they can provide for their families, especially during this time of crisis. In terms of the provision of care at the hospital, the workforce there is irreplaceable and nobody wants high turnover. A fair contract is important, not only for these workers and their families but the entire area.”

Negotiations with management at the hospital will continue on Thursday, July 2nd, the release says.

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