Chicago nurses placed on leave after delivering dead flowers to management

Five nurses at Chicago-based Cook County Health remained on paid administrative leave Nov. 10 after participating in what they called a Halloween-themed union march at the health system's John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.

The nurses and about 15 other National Nurses United members, went to nursing management offices on the fifth floor of the hospital Oct. 28 escorted by security, the health system and union confirmed to Becker's. They brought with them posters, dead flowers, a plastic rat and plastic bloody skeleton.

The group delivered the flowers to a nursing manager's office before hospital police asked the group to leave due to its size, Rhodelyn Bedford, a registered nurse at Stroger's critical care burn unit, told the Chicago Tribune. After the incident, which took place on the first day of contract negotiations, Cook County Health sent letters to five nurses in the group notifying them they were on paid administrative leave, pending the health system's investigation.

According to the Tribune, the letter says the group "made threats against one or more CCH employees in a number of ways," citing Cook County Health personnel rules about fighting or disruptive behavior, employee abuse or harassment and intimidating or coercing another employee. The letter indicates that violations of the personnel rules substantiated during the investigation may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Cook County Health shared a statement but did not comment in detail about the matter.

"As a matter of policy, we do not respond to individual personnel matters," begins a statement from Cook County Health that was shared with Becker's. "What I can tell you is that we take our obligation to provide a workplace free of harassment or intimidation very seriously and will hold employees accountable for actions that violate our personnel rules and rules of conduct. Our personnel process affords employees an opportunity to provide evidence and explain their version of events before determining the appropriate course of action."

But National Nurses United contends the health system is making disciplinary threats against nurses who are advocating for patient care improvements, including better staffing. One nurse testified before the Cook County Board that the group of workers were celebrating the opening of bargaining and went to the administration wing Oct. 28 to discuss their concerns with directors.

"They had positive interactions and brought posters and a bouquet of dead flowers with a plastic rat in it to symbolize the poor relationship we have. Now they are being threatened with termination for this activity," the nurse, Falguni Dave, RN, said. "This must stop now."

National Nurses United represents 1,350 Cook County Health nurses.


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