About six hundred nurses on strike in Kentucky and West Virginia will vote Tuesday on the latest contract proposal from Appalachian Regional Healthcare. Union leaders, though, do not expect it will be approved.
No matter the outcome of Tuesday's vote, the two sides have another struggle ahead in agreeing on back-to-work conditions.
If you thought ending the strike would mean a return to normalcy for union nurses and ARH officials, think again.
“It's another battle, but we'll make it,” says Wilma Jones of Kentucky Nurses Association.
Both sides are now proposing strike settlement agreements, or back-to-work conditions once the strike is over. ARH wants the nurses to acknowledge the strike is economic and wants both sides to drop all unfair labor practice charges. ARH may or may not offer strikers their old jobs back.
“It's an outrageous, dirty insult to all of us,” says Jones.
“One, there's nothing outrageous about it. Two, those are the kinds of issues that are typically cleared up in a strike settlement agreement, so the parties end whatever litigation there might be,” says James Smith.
Union leaders want ARH to terminate its consultants from Yessin, a group strikers say is notorious for breaking unions and they want striking nurses to have their old jobs back immediately.
“If we ever get a contract that we can agree to and sign off on, walk back in there the way we come out, all together,” says Jones.
Officials say they'll probably have to agree on a new contract *before* they can work out a back-to-work settlement.
“It's much more likely to have a contract and not have a strike settlement agreement than the other way around,” says Jim Smith.
If Tuesday's vote goes the way union leaders expect, they won't have either one.
ARH officials say the proposed settlement agreements should have no impact on tomorrow's contract vote because they are two separate issues.