The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


October 10, 2007

UMWA backs nurses strike ‘100 percent,’ president says

Striking nurses have been promised “100 percent support” by the United Mine Workers of America in their negotiations with the Appalachian Regional Healthcare chain, including a facility in Beckley.

“We will do anything we can to help them,” UMWA President Cecil Roberts pledged Wednesday.

For decades, many patients using ARH facilities have been union coal miners and their families, the UMWA leader pointed out.

“We want to be sure that they are getting the best care possible, and it’s clear to us that the best way to do that is for the hospitals to stop forcing these dedicated professionals to work mandatory overtime and instead hire more staff,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he found it offensive that management has resorted to the use of replacement works to fill in for picketing nurses.

“Let’s call them what they are — scabs,” he said.

“Many of these facilities still bear witness to their UMWA origins with photos of (legendary former president) John L. Lewis and other UMWA members on their wall. It is outrageous to John L.’s memory for scabs and hired security guards to be paraded in front of his image.”

Roberts called on ARH management to consider its roots and union heritage and strike an agreement that is acceptable to the nursing staff.

During this week’s interims session at the Capitol, about 76 red-and-white clad nurses rallied with a vow to stay off the job until their terms are met, and Roberts applauded their stand.

“The strike by nurses at the ARH in Kentucky and West Virginia is a clear signal to hospital management that these health care professionals are willing to stand up for better patient care for the communities they serve,” he said.

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