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Bosses to Cut 140 Jobs in Chicago

by Joe Iosbaker |
January 1, 2001
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Chicago, IL — The wind chill was 2 degrees below zero when University of Illinois at Chicago (U.I.C.) workers started picketing on Dec. 6. After 45 minutes of marching in the blowing snow, they knew they had sent a strong message. "We're fighting for our jobs!" said Shirley McIntosh, shouting to be heard over the snowstorm.

McIntosh, a steward with Service Employees International Union (S.E.I.U.) Local 73, is one of the 140 workers who do the billing and collections for the U.I.C. Medical Center. If the top management gets their way, they will replace McIntosh and others with non-union workers, without civil service benefits.

Members of Local 73, nurses from the Illinois Nurses Association, and supporters from Jobs With Justice made up the 60 frosty fighters. Their chants included, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Privatizing has to go!" Rodney Telomen, co-chair of the I.N.A., had ice on his beard and mustache after picketing in the wind, cold, and snow.

Contracting Out? Or Corruption?

Union workers and nurses at U.I.C. have faced privatizing and contracting out for a number of years. This time around, the attack has a new twist.

The outside agency set to take over the jobs is not really an outside company at all. The "company", called Wolcott, Wood and Taylor (named for the streets facing the clinics and hospital), was created by the University's Board of Trustees. They gave it the money to start up, backing a $5.5 million loan. Then they provided office space for W.W.T. on campus.

The workers being replaced are Black and Latino, mostly women, with many years of service to U.I.C. But the bosses of Wolcott, Wood and Taylor are top U.I.C. officials, who will continue to draw their high salaries. The Illinois Nurses Association's Rodney Telomen asked, "If there were problems with billing services at U.I.C., why were workers deprived of employment because of management's failure? Vice-chancellor Chip Rice presides over W.W.T., while getting an enormous raise to over $325,000. What's up with that?"

U.I.C.: Profits Above People

Why is this happening now? Sirlena Perry knows. She is an assistant chief steward for Local 73 at U.I.C., and one of the marchers. "The HMO s and insurance companies are the real problem. But people are waking up to it!"

More and more, workers can see that the healthcare corporations make huge profits. So much that they make the public hospitals dance to their tune. They cut into hospitals profits, and then the bosses pass the stress on to workers and patients. Workers are joining with patients, including senior citizens and others, to say that people should be put before profits.

Glenda Searcy, a Local 73 steward and another leader of the threatened workers, said, "We've worked very hard for U.I.C., and now we're being threatened like this. We demand respect and job security."