CHICAGO — Some 200 hospital workers and supporters held a rally outside Mt. Sinai Hospital here March 20 to press demands for higher wages, more staffing and to support nurses who are trying to organize a union. Workers came from hospitals across the city and region.
Many Mt. Sinai workers joined the protest during their lunch breaks, including maintenance worker John Holman. “We are disrespected, underpaid, and mistreated,” he told the Militant. “Maintenance and service workers are in the SEIU [Service Employees International Union], but the nurses are not. All the workers at the hospital need to come together. Our contract comes up in two weeks and we want a pay raise.”
“In the hospital you call a code blue when a patient’s life is in danger,” Kim Smith, a patient care technician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, told the crowd. “We’re calling a code blue. The misplaced priorities of the hospitals are putting us in danger. We’re doing the work of two or three people because of short staffing.”
“Hospital workers face a crisis every two weeks when we get paid and can’t meet our bills,” said Tonya Carter, who makes $13.53 an hour working in admitting at Mt. Sinai. “They recently cut our schedules by five hours each pay period, and I was already on the edge.” Carter said she had to give up her apartment and move in with a relative.
Joe Novak, a surgical trauma nurse with five years at Mt. Sinai, said that he’s part of the effort to unionize. “The health care institutions pit workers against each other,” he said. “We’re working together to build this union.”