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Washington Hospital union workers authorize strike as negotiations continue

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 10:00 a.m.

More than 400 service workers at Washington Hospital voted to authorize a strike but will stay on the job as contract talks continue.

The SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania union said its members on Monday night “voted by an overwhelming majority to strike, if they cannot reach a fair contract agreement.”

Officials at the 274-bed hospital declined to comment. The nonprofit hospital employs 1,812 people, including those in the union.

Hospital officials and union negotiators have negotiated since early January on a contract to replace one that expires Thursday.

SEIU members work in dietary, housekeeping and other service positions. They planned to hold an information rally at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Alpine Club Lanes in Washington.

The union says the hospital's contract proposals would put health insurance out of reach for many hospital workers, cut wages for dietary and housekeeping workers by $4 a hour, and reduce protections for employees on medical leave.

Karen Gownley, a union spokeswoman, said members would need to vote again before they could walk off the job.

“We do not want to go on strike and will continue negotiating as long as possible,” she said.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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