Hundreds of Chicago hospital workers walk off job

May 30, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Dozens of UIC medical employees picketed outside the hospital in the 1700-block of West Harrison. A total of 500 of them are on strike. They are asking for more money.

Vicky Morgan-Spraggins has worked as a med tech at UIC Medical Center in Chicago for 31 years running blood samples and other tests on patients. She says, without a raise in six years, she is getting paid 30 percent less than people at other city hospitals with her same position.

"They went up on the state tax-- no income coming in," said said Morgan-Spraggins. "They went up on the parking-- no income coming in. They went up on the health care-- no income coming in. But everything is going out, nothing is coming, so every time something goes out, you have nothing to replace it."

The Service Employees International Union represents about 500 UIC medical employees under 52 job categories, basically anyone who is not a nurse or a doctor.

Employees are not only in Chicago but scattered across the state. Wednesday is day one of a three-day strike. Union leaders walked away after the last offer.

"They are only willing to bring medical technologists and occupational therapists up to market value," said SEIU Vice President Phil Martini. "So we have nurse consultants, social workers, IT technicians, which comprise most of the rest of the bargaining unit, which they simply want to ignore and give them 3 percent."

A UIC spokesperson says patients won't be affected by the strike, since it is only three days, and that the university is committed to getting back to negotiations.

"I think that the offer we have on the table is fair," said Mark Rosati, UIC's associate chancellor for public affairs. "It takes into account the position of the university, the demands on the us, and the needs of the patients, the taxpayers, but also our valued employees."

In a statement released Tuesday, UIC said, "UIC is committed to negotiating in good faith to reach an agreement that is fair to our employees and financially responsible to students, families, patients, and taxpayers. UIC has participated in 33 negotiating sessions over 13 months and we are ready to return to the table."

Morgan-Spraggins says that UIC is pinching pennies when it comes to the service employees.

"Management are getting raises, also they have their cronies and other people that they like, they will get raises too," Morgan-Spraggins said.

Both sides say there should be little to no impact on patient care.

The union says it timed the strike so workers would be back to work in time for dialysis sessions scheduled for next week.

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