UIC nurses strike gains manpower: 'We deserve a better life'

On Monday, more than a thousand people including clerical, technical and maintenance workers began striking in unison with UIC nurses.

It was the third day of a planned 7-day strike by University of Illinois Hospital nurses, and today they have more manpower. 

More than 1,300 other staff members joined the nurses on the picketline.

“We deserve a better life,” said Dian Palmer, president of SEIU Local 73.

After more than 800 nurses walked off the job Saturday morning when contract negotiations between the hospital and Illinois Nurses Association hit a stalemate.

Now, workers with the SEIU Local 73 march in unison. 

The union represents technical, clerical, maintenance and other employees at the hospital.

“We have been at the table with UIC for over 15 months, fighting to get a fair contract and unfortunately what we see at the bargaining table is disrespect and disregard,” said Alicia Uwumarogie from SEIU Local 73. 

Among the union’s concerns are am adequate pay increase.

“They’re proposing right now about 4% over 5 years and that’s not enough. A lot of our people are well below the minimum wage,” said Joseph Richert, SEIU secretary-treasurer. 
In addition , the workers say their jobs aren’t safe and they don’t have enough protective equipment.
"We have so many co-workers who have contracted COVID-19 and this administration has failed miserably in protecting us," said Joe Iosbaker, a SEIU Local 73 member. 

A statement from the head of the school and hospital system says in part: “We greatly value and respect our SEIU colleagues and the critical roles they play in our campus community, which is why we have worked hard to seek a fair and fiscally sound agreement."

But many disagree.

“UIC has said that we are heroes during the pandemic, we came in because we were essential workers. We want to be treated as such,” Uwumarogie said.

In case of a strike, the hospital has been bringing on temporary healthcare support staff.