On Monday, September 14, Local 170 members at Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital brought their demands for better working conditions to the public’s attention.

There was a picket outside the facility from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with workers joining throughout the day. We sent out a press release the previous week in which we summarized the workers concerns and demands for action. One union member explained:

“Bateman Hospital management is failing to address the ongoing severe staffing shortage. They are failing to adequately fill vacancies. The hospital’s management always blames ‘Charleston’ for their shortcomings, but we know better. This is completely unacceptable. We have problems with cleanliness and upkeep in and around the facility, and management seems completely unaccountable. Sometimes the grass is even too high to walk in. They fix each problem with a Band-Aid, rather than addressing the real issue.”

Workers called attention to the problems they see every day, many of which have direct implications to the facility’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They voiced their concerns about the safety of all those in the facility, not just our fellow union members.

Our members there have tried working with management to address problems of staffing, safety, bullying, harassment, favoritism, etc., but DHHR and Bateman management have failed to listen.

The reluctance of Bateman leadership to work with our members to address the facilities’ problems had to be addressed through action. Workers chanted and had cars honking as they passed throughout the day. This was so effective that several administrative workers tried to move their offices to get away from the noise.

After the picket, the management began addressing some of the workers’ concerns, namely superficial issues like minor repairs and painting rooms and hallways. This was not enough, and the whole state had a rude awakening when news came of the COVID-19 outbreak in October.

Local 170 members tried to warn everyone where the facility was headed. Our members voiced their concerns about the COVID-19 problems that were bound to surface if nothing was done. The whole state now knows DHHR and Bateman management should have listened to the workers.

The picket and outbreak were covered in a few articles and local TV spots. Here are some highlights: