Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) Local 6300 at UIUC Stands in Solidarity with Illinois Nurses Association (INA) Nurses at the UI Chicago (UIC) Hospital
September 17, 2017
Nurses at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Hospital, represented by the Illinois Nurses Association (INA), just secured a new contract on September 13, 2017, after negotiating for the last few months. They had been fighting for fairer compensation and reasonable work hours and assignments, that would ensure that they are able to perform optimally and provide higher quality patient care. The UIC Hospital initially refused to give the nurses the full wage increase they proposed, while at the same time investing $100 million in software to ensure patients pay more promptly. The hospital administration refused to even negotiate safer nurse to patient ratios proposed by the INA nurses, and proposed to place them in departments outside their area of expertise. As strongly emphasized by the nurses, both of these matters have a significant bearing on patient health, safety and well being.
The previous contract between the INA nurses and the UIC Hospital expired on August 14, but was extended until September 7. Since an agreement had not been reached with the administration even after mediation, the nurses planned to strike on September 13 for 24 hours. The UI Hospital management first tried to interfere with the strike vote by asking the UIC Security & Police to harass the nurses trying to conduct the polls. This kind of anti-union activity is not unexpected from this administration, and we must stand against it. Still, the nurses voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike. Next, the U of I Board of Trustees asked for a restraining order that would prevent the nurses in certain areas from taking part in the strike. They argued that if these nurses were to go on strike, they couldn’t find substitutes for these nurses with the same level of special expertise, and that this would endanger patient health. Sadly, this restraining order was granted. It is quite ironic, in the words of the INA nurses themselves, “that in court, (the hospital) says its nurses are indispensable, but at the bargaining table, they treat them with disrespect”. The hospital administration can not selectively care about patient safety and well-being when convenient to their agenda, and choose to disregard it when it is not. In the end, the nurses did not go strike, but it took the threat of a strike to negotiate a new contract.
We at the Graduate Employees’ Organisation (GEO) Local 6300 are in the middle of negotiating a new contract with the University of Illinois. Through bargaining so far, we have been told in various ways that our work is not valued, that it is too difficult for the University to give us our work appointments on time, that we should be agreeable to letting the University administration unilaterally set our wages, that giving more flexible leave to the graduate employee parents is “operationally challenging” and that we are not even privy to a discussion before our health insurance is changed! We understand the importance of showing these U of I administrations that we will resist these attacks upon our contracts. Thus, we stand in full solidarity with the nurses at the UI Chicago Hospital, and congratulate them in winning the fight for a better contract that creates a safe work environment leading to the best possible health care for our communities.