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Lawsuit seeks halt to planned strike of University of Illinois Hospital nurses

The suit claims that if nurses working in 12 of the hospital’s units are allowed to strike Saturday it “would constitute a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the public.”

University of Illinois Hospital
University of Illinois Hospital
University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees filed a lawsuit seeking to stop nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital from going on strike this weekend, claiming a work stoppage would pose a danger to the public.

Earlier this month, nurses at the hospital announced they will begin a seven-day strike at 7 a.m. Saturday after contract negotiations broke down between nurses and the hospital over the number of patients under the care of each nurse.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court names the Illinois Nurses Association, which represents the nurses, as defendants, and seeks a temporary restraining order against the proposed work stoppage.

The nurses association decried the suit, saying that the university “created the context for the strike” by “engaging in delay tactics throughout negotiations.”

“If UIH is serious about nurses being irreplaceable, it should drop the lawsuit and return to the negotiating table and bargain in good faith,” INA spokesperson Chris Martin said in a statement.

According to the suit, 12 of the hospital’s units provide unique and critical services to patients, and if nurses working in those units are allowed to strike, it “would constitute a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the public.”

The units include the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, The Center for Women’s Health, hematology oncology clinic and labor and delivery unit, the suit sates.

The suit claims UI Health negotiators presented a letter to union representatives on Sept. 2 — the day after the strike was announced — asking the proposed strike to not include nurses scheduled to work in those units, but the request was turned down.

The lawsuit also alleges the union’s strike date notice came too late for UI Health to hire nurses from a staffing agency to work in those units or to safely transfer patients to other facilities.

“Even under non-pandemic circumstances, there would be negative patient outcomes if the nurses in the relevant units were permitted to strike,” the suit states.