U. of C. labor organizations demand recognition at May Day rally

A crowd of several hundred walks north on S. Maryland Ave. through the University of Chicago’s medical complex protesting labor practices at the University while other protestors unfurl a ‘Patients Over Profits’ banner from the complex’s parking structure, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. -Marc Monaghan

Staff Writer

Registered nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center, the U. of C. Labor Council, a coalition of campus groups including the unrecognized Graduate Students United (GSU) union, and South Side community organizations marched to the Main Quad to protest labor relations at the U. of C. and announce the creation of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) on May 1, International Workers’ Day.

Around 150 people rallied outside Levi’s Hall, 5801 S. Ellis Ave., the main U. of C. administration building. Speakers representing different unions listed their demands — recognition for all elected unions, recruitment and retainment of experienced registered nurses and fully staff the Medical Center and work with the community organizations to stop prevent displacement of residents in Hyde Park and Woodlawn — and delivered them to President Robert Zimmer’s office.

Ald.-elect Jeanette Taylor (20th), who began her public life as a community activist, spoke. “I think we too often forget that it’s the everyday folks —the folks who run the trains, the buses, our grad students, and our teachers — that make Chicago what it is,” she said. “Where we stand has a history of displacing Black, low-income and working families. So the University of Chicago, it’s no surprise that they’re doing the same thing over and over and over and over again.”

“On May 20, when I get across that stage at 11 o’clock, I’ll raise my hand and say, ‘I will work for the working people in the 20th Ward in the city of Chicago,’” said Taylor.

After she was introduced during a May Day rally on the University of Chicago’s main quadrangle, 20th Ward Alderman-elect Jeanette Taylor said, “I got to get used to that Alderman-elect stuff, because I am just a sister who wants the city to respect the 99%.” Continuing, Taylor added, “First and foremost, I am always humbled and grateful to be amongst the working people who make Chicago work. I think we too often forget that it’s the everyday folks, the folks who run the trains, the buses, our grad students our teachers, everyday folks that make Chicago what it is. And I think that on April 2nd you all sent a clear message about how that’s going to change and how you all are going to respect working people.” -Marc Monaghan

Other speakers were associated with the U. of C. “As nurses, we are dedicated to the health of our patients. We know the strength of our communities and the economic stability of our patients are critical determinants of health,” said John Hieronymus with NNOC/NNU, which is attempting to organize nurses at the Medical Center. “It is for the health and well-being of our patients that we are demanding the University recognize the workers’ democratically elected unions and approve fair contracts that provide safe staffing for our patients.”

GSU president Claudio Gonzales said, “We have seen the University is willing to put profits before students, patients, and the community. But our work is critical to the success of this university, and we deserve a seat at the table. We will not stop organizing until we win.”

Service Employees International Union Local 1, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 743, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, Bakery Confectionery Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, Flood’s Hall, Tenants United, Chicago Jobs with Justice and Greater Chicago Industrial Workers of the World sponsored the event in conjunction with GSU and NNU.

The demonstration was largely peaceful, though some protesters unaffiliated with the U. of C. or the above-listed unions got into a brief altercation with students counter-protesting “the rise of Marxism on this campus.”