Loretto Hos­pi­tal work­ers set strike date of July 20

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY STE­FANO ES­POS­ITO, STAFF RE­PORTER ses­pos­ito@sun­times.com | @sle­spos­ito

About 200 work­ers at Loretto Hos­pi­tal on the West Side said Thurs­day they plan to go on strike July 20, cit­ing a break­down in ne­go­ti­a­tions with man­age­ment.

“We are not a pri­or­ity to man­age­ment, and that is our big­gest thing,” said Welling­ton Thomas, a lead emer­gency room tech, who has been work­ing at Loretto for about 14 years and says he makes $19 an hour.

The em­ploy­ees — in­clud­ing cri­sis work­ers, var­i­ous clerks and peo­ple who work in food ser­vices — say they can’t sur­vive on the wages they make, and the hos­pi­tal is se­ri­ously un­der­staffed.

“Some peo­ple are work­ing over­time. Un­for­tu­nately, the prob­lem is, some­times some peo­ple might have an­other job, like my­self, and they’d rather work over­time over there be­cause they get paid more,” said Thomas, who works part-time as an EMT. Ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gan in De­cem­ber. “Over these months, work­ers did their ab­so­lute best to get man­age­ment to lis­ten and ad­dress their needs and con­cerns,” said Greg Kel­ley, pres­i­dent of SEIU Health­care Illi­nois and In­di­ana. “In­stead of lis­ten­ing to and ad­dress­ing these con­cerns, man­age­ment has failed to bar­gain in good faith.”

The hos­pi­tal, which serves mostly African Amer­i­can and His­panic clients, has seen an in­flux of coronaviru­s pa­tients dur­ing the pan­demic, mak­ing de­cent wages and bet­ter staffing lev­els all the more crit­i­cal, work­ers say.

Mark Walker, a hos­pi­tal spokesman, said: “We are ac­tively ne­go­ti­at­ing with the union in hopes of com­ing to a deal. We feel we have of­fered fa­vor­able terms to them, es­pe­cially in light of the cur­rent eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment, which has im­pacted health­care and hos­pi­tals — just like other in­dus­tries.”

Walker dis­puted the work­ers’ claims the hos­pi­tal is un­der­staffed but did say there has been a “sig­nif­i­cant in­crease” in peo­ple call­ing in sick dur­ing the pan­demic.

“So we are also con­tin­u­ally hir­ing for po­si­tions in or­der to back­fill and pro­vide ad­di­tional cov­er­age,” Walker said.

SUN-TIMES FILE

Loretto Hos­pi­tal

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