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Chicago Nurses Win Best Contract Ever

by Joe Iosbaker |
May 12, 2000
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Chicago, IL - At 2:30 in the morning, May 9, the Illinois Nurses Association (INA) negotiations team at the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital finally broke the back of the anti-Union employer negotiating committee, forcing them to settle the contract.

The next day, Carole Miserendino, Chief Nursing Officer and a key member of management's negotiations committee was called into the new hospital director's office and given a week to pack her bags and hit the road. Next to go was the head of the Human Resources, Carole Koch, another member of management's team who announced she would leave by the end of June.

The final head to roll was the sweetest for the Union's negotiation committee. Terry Wheat, the most hated, anti-union member of management's team resigned after being passed over for promotion. She was told that workers at UIC Hospital and Clinics would not tolerate her anti-union management style. "We have worked 3 years to rid ourselves of the hateful, dishonest tactics of Terry Wheat," said, Rodney Telomen, member of the INA's negotiations committee. Not only did the INA have a contract victory, with Wheat's announcement, the entire management negotiations committee, who the INA had to look at across the table for nine long months of bargaining, would be seen no more. Good riddance!

Since August of 1999, 800 registered nurses, members of the Illinois Nurses Association, had been fighting for a fair contract, against privatization, and for respect. The Nurses Committee had vowed to outlast management, and they did. With firm support from their sisters and brothers in SEIU Local 73, the nurses held rallies, pickets, signed petitions and whatever else was necessary to convince management to settle for a fair contract, including beginning strike preparations.

Their hard work paid off. The nurses ratified a three year contract in late May. The contract calls for substantial increases in pay - 9.5% over three years, a $1000 cash bonus for long-term nurses, and increases in payments for working evenings and nights. The contract also restricts mandatory overtime, allows nurses to work flexible hours, and contains some protection in the event of privatization.

In the course of the contract fight, top management at the University grew tired of the fight and brought in a new Director of the Hospital, John DeNardo, who has a reputation of working with Unions. While DeNardo has taken some good steps, including sacking his negotiation's team, he has only done so because the Hospital workers have stood up and demanded respect and dignity.

Hospital workers will have to keep up the fight. One tactic of management is, if you can't beat them, join them. When they are confronted with a group of militant workers, management suddenly tries to buddy up to the Union and suck us into a partnership. This is not because they care about what workers think, it's an attempt to lull us to sleep.

Top management at the UIC Hospital and Clinics still has the same agenda, gutting patient care and privatization. UIC workers will be keeping their eyes wide open, waiting for management's next move.

This summer, service workers, including housekeepers, transporters, and food service workers, represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 73, will begin negotiations against the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Since this fight has always been about justice for our patients, the people of the State of Illinois, and UIC's employees, the INA will support SEIU in its negotiations," Telomen stated.