Loretto Hospital healthcare workers go on strike after failed negotiations

ByEvelyn Holmes and Jasmine Minor WLS logo
Monday, July 31, 2023
West Side hospital workers go on strike after failed negotiations
Loretto Hospital workers went on strike Monday on Chicago's West Side.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Workers at Loretto Hospital on Chicago's West Side went on strike Monday morning.

Workers have been on the picket line since 7 a.m. and they said they will be out as long as it takes. Staff members are demanding a raise, an increase in staffing and what they call better working conditions.

"We've had great workers here who left because the wages are so low," Loretto Hospital employee Lynda Robinson.

Loretto Hospital has rejected a counter-offer from union workers, refusing again to raise minimum pay. Hundreds of workers have been rallying after failed negotiations.

"When is this craziness going to stop?" Loretto Hospital employee Carla Haskins said. "When are you going to start caring about your employees that stay here?"

Union workers there called the bargaining meeting on Monday "pointless," but they did get a copy of a letter sent from the Illinois healthcare and family services director to the CEO of Loretto Hospital, saying that the $10 million of state funding Loretto received can only be used for workforce recruitment, retention and development and nothing else.

"We might take out the trash, but you're not going to treat us like trash," said SEIU Local 1 President Genie Kastrup.

"They basically said they have no more additional money to put into the pot," said SEIU Illinois Vice President Anne Igoe. "The West Side of Chicago, this is a busy emergency room. To say that an emergency room worker should make $20-plus is not impractical."

A copy of an email shared with ABC7 confirmed that Loretto Hospital has to allocate the $10 million in state funding to workers. The union has proposed a three-year deal less than $3 million.

Meanwhile, Loretto Hospital said it has a contingency plan in place, including temporary workers to keep the hospital running.

"Loretto has already paid $1.5 million dollars for temporary workers when they could have just used that money to fund this contract," Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said.

Now the divide, is real. The hospital said in a statement that the strike "is solely because the SEIU wants impractical first-year wage increases," claiming it's about "money, not patient safety."

"There are some people going across the picket lines, going in making upwards of $150 an hour," said 47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin.

Workers disagree.

"We want to go inside and take care of our patients," said Wellington Thomas, an ER tech.

They say they love their patients and their jobs. But, mothers like Jessita Davis say they love paying their bills, too.

"I can't pay my bills because I'm not getting paid enough, so I have to do double shifts to make ends meet," Davis said. "I still come to work, though, because I have to take care of my kids."

At a news conference in front of the hospital's ER, workers were flanked by several elected officials.

"I'm standing here with them in support and solidarity and to have their back when their employer don't," 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro said.

"And now I'm here after session is over, after they've gotten all of the state dollars to cover their salaries, they ain't got enough money for the workers," State Representative and Labor Committee Chairman Marcus Evans, said. "That's crazy."

ABC7 did ask Loretto Hospital where that $10 million is being allocated, but they did not immediately have a response. The union said there has not been another bargaining meeting set up yet.