The proposal would allow them to return to work for 90 days while negotiations between the striking nurses and ARH officials continue.
The vote to accept the governors' proposal came just days after a federal court of appeals in Cincinnati ruled in favor of the nurses against ARH concerning a two-year dispute over how ARH tried to change the nurses' scheduling and cut hourly wages by 10 percent.
According to a press release from the Kentucky and West Virginia Nurses Association, the three-judge panel affirmed an order on Tuesday that directed ARH officials to schedule nurses as required by its contract with the Kentucky and West Virginia Nurses' Association and to pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay.
Pat Tanner, spokesperson for the KWNA, said in a telephone interview that the news of the judges' decision brought "excitement" for the striking nurses.
"Some of the nurses have said that the news was like New Year's Eve," said Tanner. "It came at just the right time."
Tanner said they are expecting the nurses to receive the ordered back pay within weeks and that the nurses who have quit and found other jobs since the strike will also be involved in the settlement.
"We are going to make every effort to locate as many of these people as possible to see that they receive their money," Tanner said.
The money ordered to be paid back to the nurses stems from the loss of pay of the four hours included in the "36/40" agreement of the old contract.
ICU nurse Sandy Bennett of Harlan ARH said the nurses were notified of the loss of the four hours' pay in November 2005 and the cut began to show up on their pay checks the following month.
Bennett said the news was very exciting and that the nurses were hoping to receive their money before Christmas - "because we all need it."
"I think this has been a long time coming," said Bennett. "We have been awarded it three times and still haven't received it yet. Maybe this time will be different."
According to the press release, the nurses won the case three times before - once before an impartial arbitrator, once before a federal district judge in Lexington and now before three judges of the court of appeals. All three ruled that ARH management breached its contract with the nurses.
Tanner and Bennett both said the judges' decision has been the most exciting news the nurses have had since they have been on the picket line.
In the midst of the news of the judges' ruling, the KWNA also announced that the nurses had unanimously agreed to accept Thursday's proposal by Manchin and Beshear.
The proposal, which is a renewal of Manchin's previous proposal from last month that the nurses return to work for 90 days under the old contract while the negotiations over the new contract were still up in the air, would also allow for other stipulations. It also requires that both parties limit their negotiation teams to no more than five people, and it calls for removal of third parties from both sides.
Although ARH officials could not be reached for comment late Thursday evening, the proposal was rejected by them almost a month ago.
Harlan ARH Chief Executive Officer Paul Miles said during an interview last week that Manchin's first proposal was not acceptable to ARH officials and that a governor could not "order" any type of proposal to go into effect.
Miles had said during that interview that the "old contract would not be a reality again."
Bennett said that all the nurses are eager to "get back to work" but will not agree to anything less than what they feel they deserve.
The latest contract proposal from ARH on Monday was rejected by the nurses in a 455-5 vote, with many of the nurses saying the contract was worse than the one ARH officials had originally offered.