Loretto’s unionized workers on strike demand safe staffing and better wages | Francia Garcia Hernandez

Frontline healthcare workers at Loretto Hospital reached a tentative agreement with Loretto’s management after an 11-day strike at the West Side safety-net hospital. The tentative agreement addresses several of the 200 unionized workers’ demands, including better wages and a Juneteenth paid holiday, SEIU Healthcare Illinois said in a statement. 

A vote by union members on the contract is still to come. 

“This contract isn’t just a win for us – this is a win for all of Austin,” said Carla Haskins, a Loretto patient care tech. 

The tentative agreement includes several wages increases that could reduce understaffing and turnover at the Central Avenue hospital. Hospital workers have decried long hours and safety risks due to the hospital’s reported 25 to 35% vacancy rates in some departments and a 60% turnover rate. 

Negotiated wage increases include a raise in minimum wages for all titles, across the board wage increases and wage increases based on seniority, SEIU Healthcare Illinois said in a statement. 

Before workers hit the picket line, Loretto management refused to increase first-year wages and offered annual raises of about 2-3 percent across the board, below inflation, union reps said. 

“Today’s hard fought victory is a testament to the collective power of working people to uplift entire communities. Frontline Loretto Hospital workers refused to settle for poor care and unsafe staffing, because the Austin community deserves better,” said Greg Kelley, SEIU president. “This contract is a win for the entire West Side of Chicago.”

The announcement comes after 200 workers – went on strike July 31. Since then, other labor movements, including the Chicago Teachers Union, community leaders and a plethora of elected officials supported the workers. 

Three days ago, Cong. Danny Davis (7th) urged both parties to come back to the table and resolve their disagreements.