On the Picket Line

Chicago nursing home workers win pay raise after 12-day strike

By Naomi Craine
December 21, 2020

CHICAGO — After nearly two weeks on strike, 700 members of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois ratified a contract with Infinity Healthcare Management that includes an immediate raise of at least $1 an hour. The strike involved certified nursing assistants, housekeepers, kitchen workers and others at 11 nursing homes in Chicago and the region. 

“The main issue is the short staffing. We also need a pay raise,” Donna Hundley, a striker at the Momence Meadows Nursing Center, an hour south of here, told Militant correspondents on the picket line Nov. 28. “We come to work every day and risk our health.” Strikers demanded additional protective gear and hazard pay. Like nursing homes across the country, most of Infinity’s facilities have had COVID-19 outbreaks. 

“We have been getting a lot of support from other workers in the area,” Hundley said. 

According to a summary issued by the union, the contract includes new pay scales that start at a minimum of $15.50 an hour for certified nursing assistants at all of the homes. The minimum rates for other job classifications vary, to as little as $11.10 an hour in some nursing homes outside the city. All strikers will get a raise of $1 an hour, or to the new scale, whichever is greater.

There is also a ratification bonus of $500 for full-time and $200 for part-time workers, and an additional 60 cents an hour in raises over the 2 1/2 year contract. 

Those working in areas where residents have, or are suspected of having, COVID-19 will receive an extra $2.50 an hour in hazard pay. The strikers also won an additional five paid sick days for COVID-related illness. 

“I was happy everyone came together and did it together,” Diamond Wright, who works at the South Point Nursing Center here, said in a phone interview Dec. 6. “Unfortunately, I just get the $1, and I’ve been there seven years. And I’m not too happy with the $500 bonus. 

“I talked with a supervisor about going back to work and I can feel there’s tension,” she said. “I think they’ll be stricter. It looks like we’ll be continuing this fight.”