During this past week, in response to a scheduled nurses strike, the University of Illinois Hospital (UIH) filed a lawsuit that would hopefully halt the strike. With nurses on the street instead of caring for patients, the hospital is concerned for the wellbeing and health of the public. At the heart of the strike is the struggle and dispute over contract negotiations and staffing needs. The Illinois Nurses Association supports the rights of over a thousand nurses currently employed by the University of Illinois Hospital. Nurses affiliated with this organization were employed under a three-year-contract that just ended on August 24 but was extended for an additional two weeks. The two parties have not come to an agreement in regard to updated contract terms.
Throughout the scope of their jobs, the nurses are dealing with certain issues that have not been addressed or handled by their employer. Such grievances include the accessibility to needed safety equipment, supplies, and adequate staffing. The UIH fears, however, that if the nurses should be allowed to strike, then the twelve units where the nurses work will suffer indefinitely. These essential units include the COVID unit, the ER, ICU, labor and delivery, the bone marrow transplant unit, among others. There is nobody to replace the nurses while they would be on strike.
Despite the obvious risks associated with a striking nursing staff, there are other departments that are considering the option to strike due to contract disagreements. Employees from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 73 include clerical workers, professional and technical staff, as well as service and maintenance employees. Staffing is the main issue behind the disputes, especially during the pandemic. In terms of the nursing negotiations, they would like to see specific rules in place concerning the number of patients a nurse may care for at one given time and during the course of their shift. As essential healthcare workers during the pandemic, the UIH nurses want their employer to recognize the sacrifices they have made to help others. They are looking for a little help in return.