Cook County Health staff and nurses are back at work after double strikes in the Chicago public health system and other facilities in the county.
At the first, which was supported by SEIU Local 73, around 2,000 members left their jobs due to contractual demands for higher pay and cheaper benefits. Many of these members were employed directly by the health system, for example as care coordinators, medical assistants, medical technicians and employees in the catering industry.
SEIU Local 73 announced on Tuesday that it had reached preliminary agreements with the county “on most issues” that would end the 18-day strike.
The group said it secured claims related to general salary increases and hazard compensation, among other things, but that issues related to a higher wage floor and anniversary raise practices will move to arbitration.
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“It was never about going to work, it was about the conditions in which we worked,” said Sylvia Kizer, in-house technician at Stroger Hospital, in a statement. “We have built solidarity throughout the district, job titles, educational levels and have become a family. I can walk around with my head held high. This is a movement, not a moment, and we will never be the same. “
According to the Chicago Tribune, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said during a press briefing that the agreements resulted in a $ 5.8 million increase for the county. She also said she was “disappointed” with the union leadership’s decision to extend the strike by 18 days, as the majority of these agreements were “essentially the same” as what the county had offered two weeks earlier.
“Unfortunately, I think this has damaged relationships and it will take time to fix them,” she said during the call.
Cook County Health nurses, meanwhile, carried out a one-day strike on June 24 that similarly revolved around contract negotiations.
According to the National Nurses Organizing Committee (a subsidiary of National Nurses United), the strike was crucial to a four-year employment contract announced on July 3. The union said Cook County Health has agreed to hire 300 additional nurses, roll out stronger infectious disease controls, and pass wage increases to help retain staff over 18 months.
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“This was a highly competitive contract, but we are very pleased with what we have been able to achieve for our patients,” said Tasha Mosley-Brown, a registered nurse at Stroger Hospital, in a statement. “This victory shows once again that when carers stand together and act together, we can make changes that improve our hospitals and serve our communities.”
Cook County Health, which runs Cook County’s Stroger Hospital and Provident Hospital along with pharmacies, outpatient health centers and public health departments, said ahead of the nursing strike that it was forced to make non-urgent and voluntary appointments due to the demonstration. It also reached out to qualified agency nurses to assist priority units.
Both strikes were tempered by the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which ordered hundreds of nurses and workers to remain in their posts during the demonstrations because “there is a clear and present threat to the health and safety of the public.”