By AARON GETTINGER
The National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) announced Tuesday that nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) will hold a one-day strike on Sept. 20, with 10 days’ notice as required by law.
In addition to the Hyde Park UCMC campus, NNOC/NNU officials confirmed that the strike will also affect the locations in South Loop, 1101 S, Canal St., Suite 201-202; the South Shore Senior Center, 7101 S. Exchange Ave.; and the Orland Park facility.
In a statement, the union referenced nurses’ complaints about short staffing, forced on-call hours and nurses having to work outside of their areas of expertise. They say nurses have filed over 1,500 reports on the deleterious effect that the UCMC’s staffing has on patient care, that they are made to work overtime after 12-hour shifts and that nurses with pediatric trauma expertise are required to be on-call for 24 hours a week in addition to their regular shifts.
“Often we have patients who have come in for a procedure and the hospital does not have enough staff to treat the patients in a timely manner,” said nurse Talisa Hardin, who is on the bargaining committee, in the statement. “Neither the hospital nor the patient wants to postpone the procedure, so the patient is forced into a long wait and the nurses are forced to work overtime, increasing the risk for an adverse outcome.”
In a statement published online, UCMC Chief Nursing Officer Debra Albert said the administration did not want a strike and had done everything it could to prevent one.
“The union says this strike is for you and for patients. But the union has had little time for talking all summer, focusing its efforts on strikes, picketing, press events and walkouts,” she wrote. “It is important for you to understand that the Union chose to call this strike. UCMC from the start sought dialogue that could have avoided it.”
Albert questioned the NNOC/NNU’s stated desire for a contract, noting progress made in Sept. 6 bargaining negotiations and that the union bargaining team will depart for a four-day “Global Nurses Solidarity Assembly” in San Francisco this weekend.
“UCMC made significant movement on wage and benefit issues Friday (increasing wage offers, removing spousal surcharge proposals, guaranteed UCMC payment of 75% or more of health care premiums for all full-time nurses) to try to jumpstart negotiations,” Albert wrote. “It asked NNOC/NNU to meet us halfway. Instead, NNOC/NNU ended negotiations with no movement, no response and no new proposals.”
The NNOC/NNU statement, however, also claimed the administration did not engage in good-faith negotiations.
“We have offered the hospital a staffing proposal that would allow us to provide the highest quality of care to our patients, but management not only rejected our proposal, but failed to offer a counterproposal,” said nurse Johnny Webb in the statement. “We hope this strike sends a clear message to UCMC: We are not backing down and we will continue to fight and advocate for our patients.”
The UCMC administration has said that it will contract outside nurses to work for five days during and after the strike, during which time all NNOC/NNU-represented nurses will not be permitted to work. The administration said this was because the replacement nurses had to have five days of guaranteed work to replace the strikers, with no ability to accommodate union nurses who cross picket lines.
Albert wrote that there are eight more scheduled bargaining dates in September and October.