Since Independence Day, they have been gathering outside AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center Joliet, holding such signs as, “Safe Staffing Saves Lives” and imploring supporters to honk if they love nurses.
Today marks two weeks since approximately 720 nurses working at the venerable Joliet-based facility walked off the job and began striking. They remain at odds with hospital management about a number of issues, including staffing levels.
The strike, according to representatives with the Illinois Nurses Association, came as efforts to hammer out a new three-year contract for the Joliet nurses remained at a stalemate July 4.
“The nurses have spoken loud and clear,” Pat Meade, a registered nurse and lead union negotiator, said in a news release. “They are demanding staffing improvements with guarantees.”
Nurses working at AMITA’s Joliet facility were working without a contract for nearly two months before the strike was called. The group’s last contract expired May 9, and INA representatives have been negotiating on behalf of the nurses since the agreement lapsed.
Since the strike was first called at the beginning of the month, AMITA management has presented the INA with a proposal, but it was rejected a week ago.
“This latest offer did not go far enough,” Meade said in the statement. “The staffing crisis in this hospital needs real solutions.”
Staffing — particularly nurse-to-patient ratios — has been one of the major sticking points throughout the negotiation stalemate. Other issues INA representatives have raised with AMITA officials include asks for better wages and protection against management retaliation.
As the strike continues, the INA has been chronicling life on the picket line via the organization’s Facebook page.
On day 14, a post read, “Our St. Joseph Medical Center #nurses and supporters continue to show up and tell AMITA Health ‘PATIENTS BEFORE PROFIT$!’ One day longer, one day stronger! #UnionStrong.”
An AMITA spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the company’s stance on the negotiations process.