Chicago hospital workers announce #StrikeforBlackLives

The bargaining committee for 180 workers negotiating a new contract at Loretto Hospital in Chicago has announced a strike for July 20, according to their union SEIU Healthcare Illinois.

The service workers — which include patient care techs, ER techs and mental health staff, and dietary and housekeeping staff — have been in negotiations with hospital management since December.

They decided to call a strike because Loretto management failed to bargain in good faith on issues affecting the safety and well-being of workers and patients — including staffing and wages, according to the union. Workers plan to walk off their jobs unless an agreement is reached.

"Loretto workers and the West Side residents they provide care for faced multiple crises before the pandemic struck, leaving both the predominantly Black essential workforce and the Black and brown communities served by the hospital particularly vulnerable to the illness, death and economic predations of COVID-19," SEIU Healthcare Illinois said in a news release. "When workers began their contract negotiations with management in December, they lifted up the key issues of poverty wages and staffing with an awareness of how both take a toll on Black lives, safety and wellness."

The strike would coincide with #StrikeforBlackLives, a national day of action where U.S. workers will strike for racial and economic justice.

Hospital spokesperson Mark Walker told the Chicago Sun-Times: "We are actively negotiating with the union in hopes of coming to a deal. We feel we have offered favorable terms to them, especially in light of the current economic environment, which has impacted healthcare and hospitals — just like other industries."

The newspaper said Mr. Walker also disputed allegations of understaffing but told the publication there has been a "significant increase" in people calling in sick during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"So we are also continually hiring for positions in order to backfill and provide additional coverage," Mr. Walker said.

Loretto Hospital is a safety-net facility in Chicago's Austin community with more than 600 employees.


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