Nurses strike in third day at University of Illinois Hospital, second UIC strike begins

A strike by University of Illinois Hospital nurses in Chicago is entering its third day, and another strike by members of SEIU Local 73 at University of Illinois at Chicago, which includes UI Health, began Sept. 14.

The strike by members of the Illinois Nurses Association began Sept. 12 with more than 800 nurses participating, The Chicago Tribune reported. It is expected to last seven days.

The Illinois Nurses Association has been in negotiations with the hospital, and the three-year contract between both sides has expired.

The Illinois Nurses Association announced Sept. 2 that about 1,300 members would begin a seven-day strike Sept. 12 unless there is a breakthrough in contract negotiations. However, the University of Illinois board of trustees filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 to prevent certain critical care nurses from striking in the event of a walkout. A Cook County judge ruled Sept. 11 that 525 critical care nurses could not strike because it would jeopardize patient safety, according to the Tribune. The order applies to about 114 nurses at any given time, Michael Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics, said in a statement Sept. 12.

The hospital has engaged an agency to onboard more than 600 nurses and healthcare professionals from external sources during the strike, said Mr. Zenn.

Mr. Zenn said the hospital also went on ambulance bypass, so ambulances were not bringing new patients to the hospital. Additionally, the hospital declined transfer requests from other hospitals, canceled elective procedures and surgeries, and was working with nearby hospitals in the event University of Illinois Hospital patients require a transfer, he said. Outpatient clinics are open during regular hours.

Staffing has been a key issue in negotiations between the hospital and Illinois Nurses Association. The union advocates for limiting the number of patients assigned to each nurse, while the hospital supports a patient acuity-based staffing model. The union also seeks increased access to personal protective equipment and a pay raise, according to NBC 5 Chicago. CBS 2 News reported Sept. 14 that no new negotiations were scheduled.

Amid the Illinois Nurses Association strike, members of SEIU Local 73 at University of Illinois at Chicago, which includes UI Health, have also begun to strike.

SEIU Local 73 represents 4,000 clerical, service and maintenance, technical, and professional workers across the campus and in the hospital. The union said in a news release that its members walked off the job Sept. 14, demanding that administrators “respect us, protect us and pay us.” 

“UIC strikers are leading the fight to protect all workers in the name of their colleagues who have become sick and even died because of coronavirus. Throughout the pandemic, UIC workers have gone to extraordinary measures, often risking their own health without the personal protective equipment they need to care for patients and serve students,” SEIU Local 73 said. “Workers are striking for increased health and safety measures, higher wages and economic security so on the other side of the health crisis they can thrive.”

In a statement Sept. 11, Mr. Zenn; Michael Amiridis, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago; Robert Barish, MD, vice chancellor for health affairs; and John Coronado, vice chancellor for administrative services, said the current UIC and UI Health contract proposals for SEIU members “ensure that their compensation remains competitive with peer institutions, complies with all applicable laws and exceeds the City of Chicago minimum wage requirement.” Regarding PPE, they said INA and SEIU healthcare providers at UI Health have been provided guidance to use CDC-recommended equipment and, in many cases, the university has implemented recommendations that go beyond CDC guidelines. They also said they “continue to monitor the guidelines and our supplies to ensure that we are well prepared to care for patients and staff today and in the future.”

UIC’s current contracts with SEIU bargaining units expired between August and December last year. 


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Second union slated to strike at University of Illinois Chicago
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