Chicago hospital averts strike with new labor deal

Registered nurses at Community First Medical Center in Chicago have reached a tentative agreement on their first union contract, according to an Oct. 26 announcement from the union that represents them.

The two-year labor deal averts a three-day strike that was scheduled to start Oct. 29.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have reached this agreement, and we know that it will help us recruit and retain experienced nurses," Kathy Haff, a registered nurse in the emergency department at Community First and a member of the union, said in a news release. "This was a long fight. We are so proud of how all the nurses came together to win so many important protections that will help us provide the safe patient care people in our community deserve."

Contract highlights, according to National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, include the creation of nurse-run committees to boost advocacy for patients and to address staffing, workplace safety and other issues, as well as restrictions to prevent nurses from going to units for which they lack the training or clinical expertise to provide patient care.

The union said the agreement also includes wage increases of 17 percent, on average, over the contract term, expanded tuition reimbursement and paid education leave for nurses, and increased investments in supplies and equipment.

In a statement shared with Becker's, hospital board Chairman Edward Green praised the agreement.

"Over the past few months in particular, our new management team and the union representatives came together to craft a contract that will help Community First offer great care to our patients, recruit additional nurses, and compensate our existing nurses for their incredible work during the COVID pandemic," said Mr. Green. "The nurse-led committees we have created will further enhance collaboration and our efforts to provide excellent patient care."

Mr. Green also said the hospital and union intend to work together "to obtain fair and equitable funding for Community First down in Springfield. Community First receives the lowest, total funding per Medicaid patient of any safety-net hospital in Chicago."    

Nurses at Community First unionized in 2019. They are slated to vote on the tentative agreement later in October.

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