Nurses Return to University of Chicago Medical Center After Strike

Nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center returned to work early Tuesday after their first-ever strike - but that doesn't mean an end to their battle with the hospital. 

More than 2,200 nurses at three hospitals in Hyde Park and four other outpatient clinics went back to work Tuesday morning, with the first shift beginning at 7 a.m. 

The nurses walked off the job Friday in an effort to move the needle on contract negotiations.

“Our goal is to heighten awareness of staffing,” nurse Rukiya Griffin said Thursday ahead of the strike. “Ratios are at an all-time low.”

The nurses' contract expired on April 1, with union members voting to authorize the strike late last month as negotiations appeared to break down.

"The nurses of the University of Chicago Medical Center are out here today to show solidarity as we strike for the first time in about 30 years for our patients, for our community, for safe staffing," Talisa Hardin, a nurse in the hospital's burn unit, said at a news conference in front of the picket line on Friday.

"We hope University of Chicago gets the message and they come to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith so that we can have a contract that is good for us all," she continued, adding, "It's really hard to come here and give your all day in and day out and not feel appreciated and that's pretty much how we're all feeling. So as we feel unappreciated by the medical center, we're finding strength in each other, and it's beautiful."

The nurses said they had planned only a one-day strike, but the hospital said it would lock striking employees out for multiple days because in order to obtain replacement nurses, the medical center had to offer them a work guarantee.

They return to work Tuesday without a contract in place, and with negotiations expected to continue. Both sides have agreed to return to the bargaining table on Monday. 

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