Workers at 40 Chicago-area nursing homes announced Monday they have set a May 8 strike date over wages as many of the facilities are treating patients suffering from the coronavirus.
Members of the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 10,000 workers at 100 nursing homes, most in the Chicago area, are negotiating with the Illinois Association of Healthcare Facilities to replace a contract that expires April 30.
Shaba Andrich of the union’s nursing home division said many of the workers are making little more than Chicago’s minimum wage of $13 an hour while taking care of society’s most vulnerable members, adding they are seeking at least $15 an hour and hazard pay for working during the pandemic. The workers are also demanding improved staffing, better training and more personal protective equipment.
“They were already struggling to take care of their families,” Andrich said. ”We’re asking nursing homes to step up and do what’s right.”
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The strike threat comes a day after Illinois officials announced a jump to 625 deaths from the coronavirus of people who live or work at long-term care facilities. The Illinois Department of Public Health says the state has about 1,200 long-term care facilities. As of Friday, at least 278 facilities had 4,298 cases of residents and workers testing positive for COVID-19.
The association representing nursing home operators say they have offered an 11% pay hike, stable employee health insurance contributions, earlier access to sick time during the pandemic and creation of a training fund among other contract enhancements.
Bob Molitor, the CEO of The Alden Network of nursing homes, says the homes’ offer is fair and equitable.
"We sincerely hope the union is not using this once-in-a-lifetime crisis to incite a walk-out and put our seniors at even greater risk,” he said in a letter to state lawmakers.