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3,700 support staff join nurses on strike at University of Illinois Hospital

The workers, members of SEIU Local 73, want better pay and better COVID-19 protections.

Members of Illinois Nurses Association march outside University of Illinois Hospital on the first day of the strike Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2020. Nurses at University of Illinois Hospital are fighting for safe patient limits, which will limit the number of patients assigned to a nurse. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Members of the Illinois Nurses Association march outside University of Illinois Hospital on the first day of the strike Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2020. Nurses at University of Illinois Hospital are fighting for safe patient limits, which will limit the number of patients assigned to a nurse. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital who’ve been on strike since the weekend were joined Monday by about 3,700 other hospital support staff who are calling for better pay and COVID-19 protections.

The workers — all members of Service Employees International Union Local 73 who are employed by the University of Illinois at Chicago — went on strike at 6 a.m.

They include parking attendants, cashiers, custodians, lab animal caretakers, emergency medical technicians and physical therapists — all seeking pay raises along with better personal protective equipment and virus testing.

“They’re on strike indefinitely, until they get a fair contract,” said SEIU spokesman Adrian Rojas.

The SEIU members joined hundreds of nurses at the Near West Side hospital who kicked off a seven-day strike Saturday.

The nurses, represented by the Illinois Nurses Association, are seeking a contract that includes limits on the number of patients under each nurse’s care and better personal protection equipment.

UIC Chancellor Michael D. Amiridis and hospital CEO Michael Zenn released a statement Monday saying they were “disappointed” in the decision to strike.

“While we fully respect our employees’ right to strike, we believe that this work stoppage is not in the best interest of the campus community,” they said.

Further negotiations were scheduled for Tuesday.

Striking nurses and SEIU members held a rally Monday outside the hospital, 1740 W. Taylor St., that was attended by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who offered remarks in support of the strikers.

“I am somebody. Respect me. Protect me,” Jackson said, the crowd echoing his words.

A Cook County judge last week limited the number of nurses and other workers who could strike so the hospital could continue essential operations.