Chicago hospital workers begin strike

Members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois began an open-ended strike July 31 over what they allege are substandard wages and the urgent need for safe staffing at Chicago-based Loretto Hospital.

The union represents about 200 workers, according to a statement shared with Becker's earlier this month on behalf of SEIU Healthcare Illinois. Loretto Hospital is a nonprofit community-based organization located on Chicago's West Side. 

The union members' contract expired June 30, and they had an extension until July 25, according to the statement. The union and hospital have been negotiating a new labor contract since May. On July 19, healthcare workers at Loretto Hospital delivered a 10-day strike notice to the hospital.

"Loretto is facing a significant staffing crisis," the union said in a July 31 news release shared with Becker's, which cited high vacancy and turnover rates. 

The news release also said the hospital is lagging behind other facilities on wages, despite receiving funding from the state to address recruitment and retention.

During negotiations, workers seek to address staffing, wages, and Juneteenth as a permanent holiday, the union said.

Loretto, in a prepared statement shared with Becker's, said the hospital has submitted many proposals to address the union's demands for more competitive wages, recruitment and retention, short staffing and an additional holiday.  

"Unfortunately, after bargaining all weekend and until nearly midnight last night, Loretto Hospital was not able to reach an equitable and sustainable agreement," the hospital said, adding that the strike is "solely because the SEIU wants impractical first year wage increases. The strike will be about money, not patient safety." 

The hospital also said SEIU's demands surpass the hospital's current economic reality and eliminate the ability to provide wage equity for all union and non-union hospital employees.

"Our non-union employees have not received salary increases in three years," Loretto said, noting that some employees voluntarily took a pay cut to prevent layoffs.

Loretto said there are contingency plans that allow the hospital to continue to operate and meet patient care requirements during the strike.

Striking employees include patient transporters, patient care technicians, emergency room technicians, mental health and behavioral health workers, respiratory and radiology technicians, housekeeping workers, and others, according to the union.

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