Welcome (back) to the Red Star Strike Update, a semi-regular issue that will be produced throughout the SEIU Local 73 workers’ strike. Each issue will provide a recap of recent events, contract bargaining updates, and information about how to be active in the coming days. This first issue will provide background on the strikes, including INA’s seven-day strike last week.
Strikes are the sledgehammer in the toolbox of the working class. It is imperative that CDSA show solidarity with SEIU 73 as they continue to strike for safety and fair wages.
On September 12th, nurses at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC), represented by the Illinois Nurses Association (INA) started a seven-day strike. They were joined on September 14th by UIC staff in Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73. Despite a judge’s ruling that forced roughly 10% of the workers to cross their own picket lines and return to work, nearly 4,000 workers were on strike at once, fighting for adequate staffing, universal PPE, and fair wages.
CDSA members have been walking the picket lines every day and turning out to actions in support of the workers, including a march on the chancellor’s office and a rally downtown. But in the negotiating room, UIC administrators refused to agree to the demands of the workers. INA, which set an end date for their strike, returned to work on September 19th without a contract, but Local 73 remains on strike without any substantial concessions from the administration.
The Local 73 workers have started their second week on strike and need support from the community. Visit the picket lines at 1740 W Taylor Ave between 7 am and 6 pm and walk the picket lines with the workers to keep up morale and lend support where it is needed. If you haven’t been to a picket line before, here are a few tips to help you know what to expect.
To stay up to date on picket lines and actions, text SOLIDARITY to 77222. If you can commit to being a picket captain—a go-to person for DSA members visiting the picket line—fill out this form. No experience is required!
If you can’t make it out to the picket line or you want to help the workers another way, we revived our joint Bread for Ed and Med gofundme with Jobs With Justice (JWJ) to feed the striking workers. On Friday, CDSA and JWJ used this fund to send food trucks to the picket lines and have plans to distribute food this week.
Finally, the unions are always in need of signal boosting their actions on social media. Follow SEIU Local 73 and INA on Twitter, use the hashtags #StrikeForOurLives, #FairContractNowUIC, #ProtectAllWorkers, and use this solidarity facebook frame.
UIC has responded inadequately to the pandemic, initially instructing workers not to wear masks. In the months following, they have not provided enough PPE for their employees, leading to five deaths of nurses and family members from COVID-19. In addition to stagnation of wages and understaffing, these safety concerns led more than 90% of the workers to vote for a strike. Though many UIC nurses went on strike in 2018 and graduate students went on strike in 2019, this strike is the largest in UIC history.
The workers’ fight at UIC is a fight against for-profit healthcare. The hospital made nearly $800 million in net patient revenue in 2019, but UIC workers are remarkably underpaid. These workers are primarily low-wage, BIPOC women, and often the sole breadwinner of the house. Because of a legal loophole, they are not subject to the Chicago minimum wage, and therefore many workers make around $12 an hour. But UIC was able to find the money for highly paid scabs, attempting to undermine the unions’ bargaining strength.
We stand in solidarity with our striking comrades and hope you consider donating and/or joining the picket lines.
The Red Star Bulletin was conceived by Ramsin Canon and is a project of the Political Education & Policy Committee. This update was drafted by CDSA members. Special contributions were made by Brent Glass, Charlotte Kissinger, Alan Maass, Devin Schiff, Emilie Shireman, and Sveta Stoytcheva. Graphics were contributed by Patrick O’Connell. If you would like to contribute to the Red Star Bulletin or have any feedback, email email@example.com.