Loretto Hospital workers set strike for July 20

Workers have reached an impasse with management in negotiations that began in December.

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Loretto Hospital.

Loretto Hospital

Sun-Times file

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.

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