Hopkins Hospital strike averted after O'Malley intervenes

A four-day strike by service workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital that had been scheduled to start Friday was averted after Gov. Martin O'Malley asked both sides to take a one-week cooling-off period.

The 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East labor union, which represents 2,000 Hopkins workers, gave the hospital a strike notice last week after talks broke down, mostly over the issue of pay raises.

"1199 SEIU has agreed not to strike at this time — I appreciate both sides' willingness to continue negotiating in good faith," O'Malley said in a statement.

The governor's office said it will not play any further role in brokering an agreement, saying it only got involved because O'Malley felt averting a strike was in the state's best interest.

Still, union leaders hope pressure from the governor could lead to more favorable negotiations with Hopkins.

"The governor seems to think that the cooling-off period is necessary, and maybe that will result in positive dialogue," said John Reid, executive vice president of the Maryland-D.C. region of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

Reid said the union could decide to strike again.

Hopkins officials said they would still like to come to some sort of compromise with the union.

"We are hopeful that both parties will be back at the bargaining table soon and an agreement can be reached," the hospital said in a statement.

The strike would have been the second in two months for the union, which held a three-day walkout in April.

The union, which represents janitors, housekeepers and other service workers, seeks a $15 minimum wage for workers with at least 15 years of experience in the second year of a proposed four-year contract. Workers currently start at $10.71 to $27.88 per hour, depending on their job, and the union proposed that every Hopkins worker earn at least $14 an hour by the end of the contract.

Hopkins management offered to pay all workers with 15 years of experience $15 an hour by 2018, with every hospital worker making $12.25 an hour by the end of the contract, according to a breakdown provided by the union.



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