On Friday, September 18 members of Local Union 4921 voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new 5-year collective bargaining agreement with New River Healthcare Association (New River or Association). The Contract includes additional paid time off, two floating holidays, and a $2.00-an-hour wage increase over the life of the agreement, among other gains.
“This contract represents a lot of hard work on the part of the bargaining team and all the members of Local Union 4921, stated District 17 Vice President Carter. That solidarity and teamwork is also apparent in the member’s work at New River. They are dedicated healthcare providers and an extremely important part of the communities they serve, he noted. They are truly great ambassadors for the UMWA and have been since they were first organized in 1995.”
The Association serves three counties at seven locations in southeastern West Virginia. These facilities provide medical, dental, rehabilitation, children’s health, black lung, and a host of other services to members in the surrounding communities. “New River is a fantastic healthcare system, stated Local Union President Brenda Halsey. It is a community-oriented organization, the people who work here have deep roots in the community and they care about the patients they serve like family,” She said. A lot of the new patients we see are referrals from other patients. It’s like a club and once they come in and get comfortable they stay.”
The sheer volume of activity can sometimes be challenging as Doris Connie knows all too well. “I am one of 10 communications specialists at New River,” Doris noted. We answer hundreds of telephone calls each day. Everything from scheduling appointments to taking a few minutes just to talk with the caller and hopefully make their day a little better. We are the first contact many people have with New River and it’s nice to be able to help them get to where they need to be.”
The Breathing Center at New River’s Scarbro location is the first stop for many people who receive testing for black lung and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Many of the people we see here for lung problems are patient referrals,” said X-ray Technician Lisa Craddock. Sometimes they just aren’t comfortable traveling to a hospital to get x-rays and testing. We offer a more convenient location and a sense of community that often eases some of their fears,” she stated. The work is really rewarding and it is great to be able to help people when you can.”
The Breathing Center also works with patients to apply for state black lung benefits and while they cannot process federal claims, they do assist miners with the disease begin the filing procedure. While miner claims are pending they are provided pulmonary rehabilitation at the facility.
“The members of Local Union 4921 provide so many essential services to the community, said President Roberts. “They represent what is the very best of the Union. No one can question the difficult life and death circumstances these workers deal with every day,” he stated. Yet they not only face each situation with compassion and love, they manage to bring some comfort to the people they serve. They are very special people.”