Nurses on strike in Joliet: ‘We can set an example’

By Dan Fein
July 27, 2020
Striking Illinois nurses picket AMITA Health Center July 12 for better conditions, more staff.
Militant/Dan FeinStriking Illinois nurses picket AMITA Health Center July 12 for better conditions, more staff.

JOLIET, Ill. — Chanting, “What do we want? Safe staffing! When do we want it? Now!” some 200 striking nurses, their families and supporters rallied outside the AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center here July 12. The action was preceded by a caravan of over 100 cars and motorcycles that circled the struck hospital.

The action occurred a day after the nurses voted 393-154 to reject the hospital’s latest contract offer.

The 720 members of the Illinois Nurses Association began their strike July 4 over bosses’ demands for a wage freeze over the three-year contract, elimination of sick pay and no increase in staffing. They had been working without a contract since May 9.

While the latest company offer backed off ending sick pay and would give a 2% wage increase for the last two years of the contract, it refuses to meet the strikers’ main demand.

“The proposed company contract addresses sick time but not our core demand for more staffing,” Sarah Corless, a nurse at AMITA for four years, told the Militant. “They just promise to do more hiring, but nothing in writing.”

Striker Laura Basco, with five years at AMITA, said, “We can be an example to other nurses who have the same problem with understaffing. The hospital only cares about money.”

Sharon Marasco, a nurse for 22 years, commented, “We feel closer bonds among ourselves by walking the picket line together. At work we are too busy to get to know one another.”

The nurses have been winning solidarity from other unions in the area, including from the International Association of Fire Fighters and electrical workers who have walked the picket lines.

“It’s great to see the support we have from the people in the community,” striking nurse Ami Ormet said after the rally. “We are fighting for them as well as ourselves.”

Messages of support can be sent to Illinois Nurses Association, 910 W. Van Buren St., Room 502, Chicago, IL 60607.