Nurses reach tentative deal at Community First Medical Center

Negotiators for the National Nurses United union and the Northwest Side hospital settled on a two-year agreement that provides for wage increases and a commitment for more safety equipment.

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Unionized nurses protest outside Community First Medical Center in February 2021.

Unionized nurses protest outside Community First Medical Center in February.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Unionized nurses at Community First Medical Center on Chicago’s Northwest Side have reached a tentative agreement on a two-year contract, averting a three-day strike that was to begin Friday.

The National Nurses United union said the agreement includes wage hikes averaging 17% over the contract’s term, which members said will help with recruitment and retention. It also calls for nurse-run committees to address patient care and staffing issues and for increased hospital expenditures for safety equipment. Community First is at 5645 W. Addison St.

The agreement covers about 250 nurses, the union said. Members are due to vote on the contract later this week.

In a statement, hospital board Chairman Edward Green offered congratulations on the agreement, saying it will “help Community First offer great care for our patients, recruit additional nurses and compensate our existing nurses for their incredible work during the COVID pandemic.”

Green said the union will join the hospital to lobby for more state funds. “Community First receives the lowest total funding per Medicaid patient of any safety net hospital in Chicago,” he said.

The nurses unionized in 2019 and this would be their first contract. Staff had staged public demonstrations calling attention to a lack of personal protective equipment and the pandemic-related deaths of three staff members. The union called a one-day strike in July.

The hospital had said the lack of such equipment months ago was common throughout health care and that a federal probe found it was not culpable in the employees’ deaths. It said two of the staff members were part-timers who had jobs elsewhere.

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