2,200 U of Chicago nurses strike: 6 things to know

The University of Chicago Medical Center witnessed its first strike Sept. 20 as 2,200 nurses walked off the job.

Six things to know:

1. The strike was organized by National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, which has raised concerns about staffing and pay at the hospital. UCMC was unable to avoid the strike as negotiations between the organization and the 618-bed hospital collapsed Sept. 18. 

2. The nurses called a one-day strike, but will be locked out of work until Sept. 25 due to contracts UCMC made with temporary nurses who will be filling in for the striking employees, according to the Chicago Tribune.

3. In a video statement, Sharon O'Keefe, president of UCMC, said the hospital used a federal mediator in an effort to reach an agreement with the union. She said progress was being made on staffing issues, as UCMC agreed to add more than 30 new full-time positions.

4. However, incentive pay continued to be a sticking point. "Unfortunately, discussions broke down over the issue of incentive pay, which we proposed maintaining for all current nurses who benefit from that pay practice," Ms. O'Keefe said. "The union ended negotiations [Sept. 18] around 7 p.m., with no agreement, and no plans to reconvene before the planned walk out."

5. U of Chicago moved patients and closed units in anticipation of the strike. The hospital also is asking ambulances to transport patients to other hospitals. Ms. O'Keefe said that after the strike, the hospital will reopen nursing units and restore services that were scaled back or suspended. UCMC anticipates heading back to the negotiating table with the union, she said.

6. When the union first voted to authorize the strike, one of its members who works in UCMC's burn intensive care unit said: "We take no joy in leaving the bedside to walk the strike line, but if that is what it takes to get UCMC to address the chronic patient care issues that keep us from providing the highest quality of care to our patients, then we have no choice but to strike."

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