Kentucky and West Virginia nurses on strike say the dispute with Appalachian Regional Healthcare is about unfair labor practices, but hospital officials insist it's about money.
We explain the difference between the two and what it means for nursing jobs at ARH hospitals.
The National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, defines an economic strike as one involving issues like wages, hours, and working conditions.
“These are classic economic issues which accompany a strike of this kind,” Rick King said.
An unfair labor practices strike involves a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, such as refusing to bargain in good faith or trying to intimidate union employees.
“It's our contention that the company provoked the strike and that they never intended to reach an agreement. The company is trying to break the union,” Pat Tanner said.
Kentucky and West Virginia Nurses' Associations officials took their claim to the NLRB, which now has the final say on which type it is.
The decision could affect ARH nurses' jobs. If it's economic, ARH has the right to keep its permanent replacements on the payroll. If it's about unfair labor practices, striking nurses have the right to get their old jobs back even if it means letting permanent replacements go.
“I think the thing I've worried about least is whether or not this is an economic strike. There's no question in my mind that it is and if it were to be tested that it would be sustained,” King said.
“We believe it is unfair labor practices that's the cause of the strike, and that is what we are about to prove,” Tanner said.
Union officials say they plan to meet with an NLRB investigator next week to try to prove their claim.
Officials don't know how long the process could take.
We will continue to follow the latest on the strike as the two sides meet again Wednesday in Lexington.