Strike averted with new contract for Chicago Loretto Hospital workers

By | July 21, 2020

Dive Brief:

  • Service workers at Chicago’s Loretto Hospital reached a tentative agreement with management Friday on a new contract, averting a strike planned to start Monday. The agreement raises the minimum starting wage to at least $ 15 an hour for all hospital employees represented by SEIU Illinois.
  • Those employees include patient care technicians, emergency room technicians, mental health staff and dietary and housekeeping staff, who’ve been bargaining with hospital management for a new contract since December.
  • The “Strike For Black Lives” was planned in response to “management’s failure to bargain in good faith on critical issues impacting the safety and well-being of both workers and patients — including poverty level wages and short staffing,” the union alleged.

Dive Insight:

Loretto is a 122-bed safety net hospital in Chicago’s Far West Side, a predominantly Black and Latino area. Service workers voted to authorize a strike July 9, but instead of striking will now “celebrate their contract victory and show their solidarity for workers across the city and country calling for the resources, wages and workplace protections needed to protect Black lives on the job and in our communities,” the union said.

With the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers nearly two months ago and the unrest that followed, the nation’s labor unions have become more closely allied with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Their collaborations culminate this Monday with the Strike for Black Lives, a nationwide one-day work stoppage by unionized workers intended to continue the push to eliminate systemic racism, organized by the Service Employees International Union.

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SEIU Illinois cheered reaching an agreement with Loretto Hospital late last week after more than seven months of negotiations.

There was a lot to celebrate for the workers represented by the union, which are among the lowest-paid employees at the hospital. They received raises ranging from $ 1.25 to $ 3 per hour and all will receive premium pay on any day their departments are short-staffed. They also received promises of more stable work schedules and protections for any employees who are immigrants.

Other victories in the contract include improved staffing provisions and Fair Work Week provisions providing hospital employees greater stability with their work schedules, according to the union.

The Loretto pact highlights enhanced union activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to work stoppages and unionization efforts. Even physicians and the American Medical Association have lended their support to the Black Lives Matter and labor movements.

“Loretto workers witness the impact of poverty on community health every day on the job,” the union said. “Their fight for a fair contract, and their willingness to go on strike, was motivated by the desire to have the resources they need in order to provide quality care for their patients — without becoming victims of poverty and poverty-related health conditions themselves.”

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