Thousands of registered nurses, social workers and others employed by Cook County plan to strike as early as Thursday if a contract agreement isn’t reached beforehand.
National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents about 1,250 nurses at two-hospital Cook County Health, provided notice for a one-day strike to take place on Thursday. They say the public health network is understaffed, leading surgeries to be canceled and experienced workers to leave the system.
The Illinois Labor Relations Board on Tuesday “identified nearly 380 nursing positions that—if allowed to strike—would cause a clear and present danger to the public,” Cook County Health said in a statement, noting that it plans to file a petition for a court-ordered injunction.
“Like other healthcare organizations, CCH is in continual recruitment of nurses,” the health system’s statement says. “We have onboarded nearly 800 nurses over the past year to provide critical patient care services in our hospitals and health centers as well as in the community to administer COVID-19 vaccines.”
Separately, SEIU Local 73 wants Cook County to agree to “meaningful wage increases, proposals that respect equal pay for equal work, and agree to affordable health insurance,” the union said in a Tuesday statement. SEIU Local 73, which represents nearly 2,500 county workers, could strike starting Friday morning. The last scheduled bargaining session is set to take place on Wednesday.
In response to workers pushing back against an increase in employee contributions for health care, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement last week that "we have not asked employees for an increase in six years, even though our costs have increased. This is needed in this round of bargaining.”
The workers plan to strike at Stroger and Provident Hospitals, 69 W. Washington, Cook County Jail and County highway maintenance facilities, according to SEIU Local 73.