More than 700 nurses went on strike July 4 at Amita St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill., over staffing concerns and alleged unfair labor practices, according to the Illinois Nurses Association. It is unclear how long the strike will last.
Nurses are picketing outside the hospital after Amita canceled a bargaining session earlier this week in which the union wanted to discuss "proposals to address the staffing crisis at the hospital," an INA news release said. Nurses have been without a contract since May 9 and INA accused the hospital of intimidation and threats of termination to prevent nurses from striking. The union in a June 23 press release noted that it had it filed four unfair labor complaints against the hospital.
In an emailed statement, Amita said it presented the union with a final offer on July 3, touching on such key issues as retention on extended illness benefits, wage increases for years two and three of the contract, and tuition reimbursement.
"Amita Health made the difficult decision to forgo merit increases for all our valued associates for fiscal year 2021 as we deal with the economic strain from the pandemic, which we believe it is a more just alternative to the furloughs and layoffs many healthcare providers have seen as a result of the pandemic," the statement noted, adding that the hospital's bargaining team is ready to continue negotiations with INA.
The nurses' union says the hospital is "routinely violating" its own staffing guidelines on how many patients a nurse can safely be assigned without putting patients at risk. The union has proposed the use of charge nurses to help nurses with too many patients.
"Amita is prepared to spend millions of dollars fighting the nurses' union but refuses to invest in hiring enough nurses to provide safe care for the patients," Pat Meade, a union nurse who has been involved in negotiations, said in a prepared statement.
Amita St. Joseph Medical Center is part of Amita Health, a faith-based hospital system in Illinois with 19 hospitals, more than 230 locations and 900 providers, more than 26,000 associated and 7,000 physician partners.