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Healthcare Workers on the Move at UIC

by Joe Iosbaker |
October 1, 1999
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picket against proposed privatization of clinics. It's so small I can't see it
Workers at UIC Medical Center picket against proposed privatization of clinics. (Fight Back! News)

Chicago, IL - The bosses at UIC Medical Center have a new weapon in their arsenal: privatization.

For years, management here has been cutting jobs, increasing workload, and tightening the screws on all of us. Their aim has been to make more profits for the salaries of the top doctors and administrators, and to ensure good rates of return for the Health Management Organizations (HMOs) and other healthcare corporations.

The workers here have fought them every inch of the way, and even won a few battles. Now the bosses are bringing in a heavier weapon. They have announced plans to privatize the Outpatient Clinics at the University of Chicago.

This is an attack against all hospital workers. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) represents the housekeepers, LPNs, station clerks, and medtechs who work in the Clinics. All stand to lose their jobs, as do the Registered Nurses (RNs) represented by the Illinois Nurses Association.

UIC Workers Plan to Fight Back

Earlier this year, housekeepers were targeted with job cuts. Militant action defeated that threat. More force needs to be brought to bear on the University to stop this new assault. As Local 73 chief steward Louis Diaz put it, "All workers are threatened by this attack. We have to unite - nurses, housekeepers, and clerks - to say no to job cuts, and no to privatization."

Workers at UIC are planning a militant struggle to defeat this privatization plan. The fight will include pickets, rallies, petitions, pressuring politicians, and gathering community support. This will be a struggle for the future of UIC Hospital and Clinics.

Privatization Will Mean Union-Busting

Privatization will wipe out contracts with unions, like the INA and SEIU Local 73. It will mean that Civil Service jobs will be eliminated, along with job security, pensions and other benefits.

Also, if the Clinics are separated from the UIC Hospital, then the hospital is more likely to fail. It already faces future cuts from the federal government and from the HMOs, which are demanding lower operating costs from hospitals and other providers. Like a hot air balloon cut from its basket, the Clinics would soar while the Hospital plummeted to the ground.

The root cause of this is the profit motive, putting the interests of people after the moneyed interests. In the privatization scheme, ownership would be transferred from the State of Illinois to a "nonprofit" corporation made up of the top doctors. Mark Meadows, a housekeeper and Local 73 member summed up the reason for the move, "Before HMOs took over medicine, the doctors made most of the profits. Now the doctors are looking to get theirs back."

Tracy McClendon, a clerk in the hospital, is getting involved in fighting against the threats because, "Working people have to refuse to go along with these moves. They aren't in our interests, or the interests of the people of Chicago. They only serve the handful of rich men that make the decisions."