Hospital Workers Disrupt Traffic to Protest Illinois Hospital Association’s Poverty Wage & Anti-Union Agenda

  

CHICAGO – Hospital workers took over the lobby of the building that houses the Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) offices and then briefly blocked traffic on the Adams Bridge in downtown Chicago today.  They chanted “IHA, don’t care about our pay,” “IHA, your secret’s out,” and “hey, IHA: $15 and a union today!”

 

They attempted to deliver a letter demanding the IHA direct their member hospitals to implement a $15 minimum wage and allow their workers to participate in labor unions, free from intimidation and retaliation.

 

Prior to those disruptions, workers held a press conference to share stories about how the IHA’s agenda was causing them harm.

Jackie Smith is a patient care technician at Franciscan St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields, which is a non-union hospital. While the hospital system she works for recorded $318 million in profits last year, Jackie struggles on $13.50 an hour. She is pregnant and expecting a baby girl in two weeks. She can’t afford the healthcare her hospital offers so she instead relies on Medicaid.

“When I tell people I work at a hospital, but can’t afford the healthcare there, they can’t believe it. Thank God Medicaid is there.” Jackie says.

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MaBrigida Garcia also works at a non-union hospital. She earns just $12.65 an hour preventing infections as an environmental services (EVS) worker in the Intensive Care Unit of Presence Resurrection Hospital. “I know my work is important because cross contamination could cost people their lives,” she told the crowd through a Spanish-language interrupter. While Mrs. Garcia struggles on low-wages, the hospital system she works for made $1.6 billion in profits last year. The Chicago City Council also voted this year to provide Presence with $5.5 million in tax subsidies.

“I am speaking here today so that my children can have a better life and so I can give them a better future,” she said.

MaBrigida’s fight for union rights is not just about higher wages, it’s about fighting race and sex discrimination as well.  She says her male counterparts make more money for doing the exact same work and that her supervisors treat her “worse than trash” simply because English is not her first language.

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Workers were joined by 10th Ward Alderman Sue Garza, Democratic nominee for Cook County Commissioner (1st District) Brandon Johnson, and Democratic nominee for State Representative (4th District) Delia Ramirez.

Ramirez noted that she ran for office because women of color – who are overworked and underpaid – were severely underrepresented. “The truth is that far too many women of color are paid poverty wages because ‘our work’ as ‘caregivers’ is simply not valued nor respected. That must change,” she said. “The hospital industry can afford it. Hospital workers are worth it.”

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After several workers from union hospitals in Chicago noted how their wages and conditions were better than their counterparts at non-union hospitals, a Modesto California hospital worker –  Kimon Christopher – told what it was like in a region where the entire hospital industry is unionized.  He noted that EVS workers at his hospital started at $25 an hour, more than double the wage of MaBrigida Garcia’s.

Hospital workers ended their march with the chant: “We’ll be back!”

More photos the event can be found here:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/v0c6dn28k3x7ltr/AAB_oD3t9knPPby5hV1HUBUga?dl=0

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