Nursing home workers plan May 8 strike at 40 sites, including in Aurora, Barrington and Des Plaines
Nursing home workers have authorized a May 8 strike date at 40 facilities in Chicago and the suburbs, putting pressure on operators to resolve a contract dispute amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers represented by the SEIU Healthcare Illinois union are seeking higher wages and safety measures as COVID-19 ravages nursing homes. Workers are in contract talks with the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities to replace a pact due to expire Friday.
The union announced the possible walkout three days after the state released new tallies showing coronavirus deaths tied to long-term care facilities more than doubled to 625 from 286 a week ago.
In the suburbs, workers have delivered strike notices to management at Alden of Waterford in Aurora, Alden Estates of Barrington, Alden Des Plaines, Aperion Care Midlothian and Symphony at Aria in Hillside.
"Nursing home workers are facing a life-or-death crisis and owners have failed to address this crisis responsibly -- despite workers and residents' families and the public calling upon them to do just that. That is why workers have called a strike. And that is why they are ready to strike for their lives," SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Greg Kelley said in a statement Monday.
Union negotiators are calling for a one-year contract that would provide at least $15 an hour for all workers and a $16-an-hour wage for certified nursing assistants. They're also pushing for a 50% hazard pay bonus during the pandemic and an additional 80 hours of paid leave for COVID-19 or related illnesses.
Bob Molitor, CEO of The Alden Network and a board member of the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities, criticized union leadership in a written statement to ABC 7 Chicago.
"It is extremely troubling that SEIU union leadership would ask front line nursing home employees to abandon elderly and infirm residents during a pandemic and our residents' greatest hour of need. A substantial 11% pay raise will bring the vast majority of our union workers above $15 an hour, but SEIU instead wants to use a crisis as a negotiating tactic," Molitor said.
It's unclear when or if the two sides will resume talks. SEIU represents more than 12,000 workers at more than 130 nursing homes.