Northwestern Memorial Hospital health care workers called on the hospital Tuesday to raise their wages to a minimum of $15 per hour.
“I don’t feel it’s appropriate for my members and my co-workers not to be able to make a livable wage,” said Kimberly Smith, a patient care technician at Northwestern Memorial and member of the SEIU executive board. “So here we are as hospital workers letting [Northwestern] know that we want $15 an hour.”
Smith joined roughly 30 other Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois in the “Fight For $15” movement at the demonstration across the street from the downtown hospital.
The minimum wage in Chicago expected to rise to $10.50 on Friday.
The lowest starting wage at the hospital is $11.50, meaning, several members of SEIU will start working at the hospital for a just dollar over the minimum wage, according to Smith.
One hundred seventy-five of the 1160 of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois members, which include patient escorts and custodians, make under $15 per hour at Northwestern Memorial, according to the SEIU research team.
“I believe anybody should make a livable wage,” said Lakeena Whitfield, a patient care technician at Northwestern Memorial. Whitfield used to make $11.81 per hour as an environmental service worker at the hospital. She said she went back to school to become a patient care technician in order to make her current wage of $18.91.
“I am standing up for everybody – the ones that are starting off as new employees and the older ones that are not quite in their tier yet,” she said. “I believe if we fight for one another we will make progress and things can change.”
Adriana Alvarez, a McDonald’s Employee and single parent, spoke to the crowd in support, saying it’s unfair that she has to decide whether to put food on the table or pay a bill.
“We share the same struggle,” Alvarez told the group. “We work for employers who make millions and billions of dollars in profit and we don’t get any of it. It’s time we start seeing some of the benefits. We have to keep fighting and we will win.”
Northwestern Memorial’s banking statements reveal that its revenue after the second quarter ending Feb. 29 was $2.1 billion, according those at the rally.
SEIU communications specialist, Scott Vogel said he is optimistic that Northwestern will respond to their plea.
“Hopefully [Northwestern] will recognize that it’s a win-win for everyone,” Vogel said. “A higher wage will incentivize workers to stay in their jobs and work harder….We think Northwestern has a lot to gain by being an industry leader and setting a high criteria for other institutions to take care of their workers.”
Officials with Northwestern Memorial weren’t immediately available for comment.