On the Picket Line

Chicago hospital workers strike over wages, increased staffing

By Dan Fein
August 14, 2023

CHICAGO — Some 200 Loretto Hospital workers went on strike here July 31 at 7 a.m. to demand higher wages and more staffing. The strikers also want Juneteenth as a holiday.

“We are trying to get safe conditions for our patients by hiring more workers,” Patricia Key told this Militant worker-correspondent. “The low pay leads to high turnover and short staffing.”

The workers, members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, include patient transporters, care technicians, emergency room techs, mental and behavioral health workers, respirator and radiology techs, housekeepers and others.

Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare, spoke at a news conference an hour into the strike. “We have a crisis of Loretto’s making,” he said. “There is a 60% turnover rate due to the low pay and short staffing. Workers do overtime to make ends meet.”

Carla Haskins, a worker with five years at Loretto, also spoke. “We care about our patients,” she said. “The pay is low so many of us work overtime or double shifts to pay bills.”

Loretto is a safety-net hospital in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Austin on Chicago’s West Side.

Marcos Love, a mental health specialist, said, “Other jobs I’ve had have been nonunion. I am proud to be part of a union where we can voice our opinion. Then if necessary, we can do something about conditions, like this strike.”

The hospital has hired scabs from a temporary agency. Picket lines are up from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day and solidarity is welcomed.