September 28, 2020

SEIU Local 73 workers join U of I Hospital nurses on picket line as negotiations set to continue Tuesday

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CHICAGO — Striking Chicago nurses received tremendous support on the third day of a planned seven-day walkout before heading back to the bargaining table Tuesday morning.

About 4,000 members of Service Employees International Union Local 73 joined University of Illinois Hospital nurses on the picket line Monday morning.

“When bedside nurses are coming out of the hospital, it’s saying there’s something wrong,” ICU nurse Eileen Fajardo-Furlin said.

At least 800 nurses walked off the job Saturday, fighting for more money and better PPE — along with a smaller patient load.

“UIC didn’t think it was coming. But we’re here. Let them hear you,” Executive Vice President of SEIU Local 73 Jeffery Howard said.

SEIU represents clerical workers, maintenance workers, lab techs, medical techs and other professionals at the hospital, Chicago campus and in Champaign-Urbana. The union has been without a contract for about a year.

Union President Dian Palmer says talks broke down Sunday night, and the two sides remain far apart on pay and staffing levels. Next round of talks is set for Tuesday.

The three-year Illinois Nurses Association contract expired a week ago. Talks with UI Health broke down at 1 a.m. Saturday.

“They cannot bother to offer us a 4.5% raise in the next four years, that’s peanuts,” one striking worker said.

The board of trust went to court to stop nurses from striking. A judge Friday granted a restraining order that’s keeping 500 critical care nurses on the job.

“This is the year of the nurse and this is what we’re going through. And after what we went through, to give us a hard time with negotiations because we want to be safe? Come on,” Fajardo-Furlin said.

The strike comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, with nurses saying they are not properly protected, and need more PPE.

“We’re going to make it clear that UIC can’t hold up health care workers as heroes while holding policies that threaten their safety, our safety, and the safety of our patients,” Palmer said.

Officials from the University released a statement opposing the current work stoppage.

“While we fully respect our employees’ right to strike, we believe that this work stoppage is not in the best interest of the campus community,” University officials said.

This is the University of Illinois at Chicago’s first nurses strike. Negotiations have been ongoing since May, but the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.

The next round of talks with both unions is scheduled for Tuesday at 11:00 a.m.