Media Statement: Regarding SEIU Strike

Statement from Michael D. Amiridis, Chancellor, University of Illinois Chicago; and Michael Zenn, CEO, University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics

We are disappointed that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 -- with four bargaining units representing 4,000 Clerical, Technical, Service & Maintenance, and Professional employees across the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) campus and at UI Health -- has announced a strike starting Monday, September 14.

SEIU Local 73 represents 183 job titles at UIC, ranging from accountants, parking services agents and cashiers to lab animal caretakers, emergency medical technicians and physical therapists across the Chicago campus and at UI Health, as well as the regional campuses, and UIC Specialized Care for Children.

We have been negotiating to reach fair and fiscally responsible multiyear contract agreements with the four separate units for many months (ranging from ten months to over 14 months depending on the contract date). In March, SEIU requested a bargaining hiatus due to COVID-19; at UIC’s urging, we resumed negotiations in May.  Since early summer, we have met multiple times with each unit, including lengthy negotiations with each this week. Despite good progress, and many bargaining sessions under the guidance of a federal mediator, we were not able to reach an agreement with the SEIU.

To date, we have reached tentative agreement on almost all non-economic issues, and it has only been in recent weeks that the parties began to discuss economic proposals in earnest. UIC has proposed that salary increases for SEIU employees align with the campus wage program (announced annually by the University President for non-union employees), plus existing annual “step” salary increases for all bargaining units except Professional; these annual increases generally exceed the rate of inflation. There is guaranteed money for each member for each year of the contract, despite the challenging economic realities laid bare by the COVID pandemic.  Our fair and reasonable offers are summarized here: https://seiunegotiations.uic.edu/

We greatly value and respect our SEIU colleagues and the critical roles they play in our campus community, which is why we have worked hard to seek a fair and fiscally sound agreement. It was important to us to retain and pay all staff throughout the pandemic, even those whose roles were partially or fully diminished while some routine operations were suspended.

In the meantime, UIC has prepared contingency plans in the event of a strike, including:

  • UIC sought and secured an injunction in the Circuit Court of Cook County, preventing urgently needed members of the SEIU Local 73 from participating in the strike. This injunction applies only to a small number of SEIU workers that were narrowly identified because a work stoppage would create a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the public.
  • We have been safely onboarding temporary healthcare support staff from outside agencies to ensure all campus operations run smoothly during the duration of the strike. For any out-of-state workers, we are exceeding the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) requirements for travel of essential workers by requiring COVID testing of any worker from a designated hotspot state before they begin working in our facilities.

While we fully respect our employees’ right to strike, we believe that this work stoppage is not in the best interest of the campus community. We remain committed to addressing key issues and believe much can be resolved through further dialogue. We are scheduled to resume bargaining on Tuesday, and we hope the SEIU will join us in negotiations as often as possible to work toward a new agreement and to end this strike.

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ADDITIONAL DETAILS:

Temporary Restraining Order

The Circuit Court of Cook County granted UIC’s request to enter a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent specific, urgently needed members of the SEIU Local 73 from participating in the strike. This injunction applies only to a small number of Technical, Professional and Clerical bargaining unit positions that were narrowly identified because a work stoppage would create a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the public. These positions include:

  • Technical: Respiratory Therapists, Respiratory Technicians, Hemodialysis Technologists/Technicians, Histotechnologists and/or technicians, Medical Laboratory Technicians/Technologists, Phlebotomists, Pharmacy Technicians,  Transporters, Mental Health Counselors and Medical Radiographers.
  • Professional: Medical Technologists
  • Clerical: Police Telecommunicators

PPE

  • From the beginning of the pandemic, we have followed the latest guidelines from local and national public health officials, which have changed dramatically and rapidly over the last few months.
  • All SEIU health care providers at UI Health haven been provided guidance to use personal protective equipment as recommended by the CDC and in many cases we have implemented recommendations that go beyond the CDC guidelines:
    • On March 27, we were one of the first hospitals in Chicago to implement universal masking of all patients and staff, with fit-tested N95 masks available to staff interacting with COVID or suspected COVID patients.
    • On April 22, we made non-fit tested KN95 masks available to all staff.
    • On June 29, we also began providing face shields for all employees.
  • Campus-based SEIU member employees who do not work at the Hospital are provided appropriate PPE based on their job duties, including gloves and face coverings.
  • We continue to monitor the guidelines and our supplies to ensure that we are well prepared to care for patients and staff today and in the future. This includes partnering with the INA and the SEIU to request additional support from our elected officials to ensure supply chain availability of needed PPE—in particular, N95 masks.
  • All employees must complete an online health check daily before arriving on campus. We have advised all ill employees to stay home and do not report to work. University Health Services triages all employee illness reports, responds to employees with questions, schedules any necessary testing, provides any necessary contact tracing within the University, advises on change of work status, and communicates with employees and supervisors.