Nurses in Joliet ratify contract, plan return to work

By Dan Fein
August 3, 2020

CHICAGO — Striking nurses at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet voted July 20 to accept the bosses’ latest contract offer and end their strike, which began July 4. The vote was 57.2% in favor and 42.8% against. A similar contract offer had been voted down July 11. The Illinois Nurses Association represents 720 nurses at the hospital.

The biggest reason nurses walked out was to win better staffing with a higher ratio of nurses to patients. A sticker worn on many strikers’ face masks read, “No safe staffing — no contract.” They wanted a limit on the maximum number of patients assigned to each nurse at any one time.

Although the hospital backed off its original demand to eliminate sick pay and to impose a three-year wage freeze, the new contract only promises to address the staffing issue later. The new contract calls for a $500 bonus the first year for full-time and $250 for part-time nurses, and a 2% raise in the second and third years of the contract.

“We will return to work united, all of us wearing our blue strike T-shirts and our heads held high,” Pat Meade, one of the leaders of the strike, told the Militant.

The bosses kept the hospital running during the strike by bringing in scabs.

“Although I was saddened by the vote, our strike was worth it,” Rosa Marquez, a striking nurse with 20 years seniority, said the day after the new contract was approved. The strike received “community support. The hospital could have spent the $5 million per week they spent on scabs on hiring more nurses.”

She added, “As some nurses crossed the picket line, there was the danger of losing the union. We are the only union-organized AMITA hospital, and a victory here would certainly spur union-organizing efforts at other hospitals.”

The fight will continue, she said. “The lack of adequate staffing means unsafe conditions for patients and burnout for nurses. We are tired of it.”