Day two in a three-day strike being held by employees at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago continued Thursday as close to 200 demonstrators demanding a new contract held a rally outside the building where a meeting of the institution’s Board of Trustees was taking place.
Around 480 members of the Service Employees International Union Local 73 at UIC began a three-day strike Wednesday.
Union members participating in the protest include Medical Technologists, IT Specialists, social workers and employees with the hospital’s Division of Specialized Care for Children, as well as other support staff. In all, the hospital has a workforce of around 3,200.
As SEIU spokesman Adam Rosen explained, striking members include “anyone at the hospital that affects medicine, who is not a doctor or a nurse,” although some affected do include a number of nurses not belonging to the Illinois Nurses Association, of which around 90 percent of nurses employed at the hospital are members.
At the heart of the disagreement, according to Rosen, has been the hospital’s refusal thus far to increase the rate of pay to levels comparable to similar types of medical institutions for some 36 different jobs the union represents at UIC.
“Right now, most of these professionals on strike haven’t received a wage increase in six or seven years - if not longer,” Rosen said. “The majority of them are very much underpaid compared to the same types of job classifications at other university hospitals throughout the state.”
Talks between the two sides over a new contract have been ongoing for about 14 months, with negotiations breaking down over a failure to come to an agreement over wage increases.
Rosen said attempts at a compromise failed once again earlier this week when the hospital failed to provide a counter offer to the union’s latest proposal. He said only three out of the 36 positions represented by SEIU* were offered pay raises at the level that union members would deem acceptable, while others were presented with a retroactive increase of 3 percent.
“Basically, it was a way to buy off some and tell off the rest,” Rosen said. “We heard that proposal twice and the bargaining committee said 'no'. It’s equity for all of us, not just some of us.”
The strike is scheduled to end Friday evening.
UIC spokesman Mark Rosati said over the past 14 months, there have been 33 negotiating sessions with the union, the last seven of which with a federal mediator. He added that they have been able to reach agreements on a number of topics, but it has been the economic issues that have been the largest sticking point.
“We’re hoping to get to the table soon to come reach an agreement,” Rosati said. “We want an agreement that’s fair to our employees, but at the same time financially responsible for the university and those it serves.”
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.