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 second issue celebrates the victory of the workers and shares how they achieved it.
Strikes are the sledgehammer in the toolbox of the working class. We are grateful to all of the CDSA that showed solidarity with INA and SEIU 73 workers when they struck for fair wages and safety.
WHAT THEY WON
The unions won substantial concessions from UIC, but a few notable wins include:
Understaffing is one of the most common tactics employers use to overwork their employees and save their own bottom line. At a hospital, understaffing puts an undue burden on the workers and puts patients’ lives in danger. In the new contracts, INA and SEIU Local 73 won UIC commitments to fill open vacancies and hire at least 160 more full-time nurses to achieve an adequate patient-to-staff ratio.
Both INA and Local 73’s new contracts secure pay raises. UIC used a legal loophole to pay workers sometimes as low as $10 an hour, but SEIU’s new contract stipulates that all employees in Chicago will adhere to the Chicago minimum wage of $15 an hour.
Over 300 UIC employees contracted COVID-19, and five employees and family members have died from the virus. The new contracts guarantee PPE for all employees, including universal N95 masks and upgrades to improve ventilation.
HOW THEY WON IT
The strike was able to win because of the pressure workers put on the administration to come to the table. It wasn’t easy, and they had to deal with no small amount of union-busting, but a few of the notable tactics include:
Disrupted the operations of the school and hospital
The workers held picket lines for 10 days. Even with the injunction that kept a substantial number of workers from striking, the picket lines were electric. They kept morale up and let the administration and community know that they were ready to stay on strike until a deal was made. The workers also directly confronted the people responsible for the strike, including the chancellor and Governor Pritzker.
This strike brought out incredible shows of working-class solidarity. UPS workers with Teamsters Local 705 refused to deliver packages to the hospital, using a right they have won in their contract, allowing them to refuse to cross picket lines. Also, workers with Teamsters 325 and IBEW 364 shut down the construction site adjacent to the school in solidarity with the striking workers, putting even more pressure on the administration.
The workers also received solidarity from other nurses, urging them to not take positions as temporary strikebreakers. Groups within UIC showed solidarity with one another, including the UIC faculty union and UIC Students for a Democratic Society. And outside of UIC, we saw solidarity actions and statements from BLM Chicago, Jobs With Justice, and of course, our group of incredible CDSA picket captains who were with the workers every day showing their support.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
If the workers ratify their contracts, they will have won an incredible fight, but the work doesn’t stop there. The contract is an important part of the process. Still, a union needs to have militant rank and file leaders who will keep management accountable to the contract, and periodically they may need our help to do it.
You can help Local 73 members right now! Around 800 employees at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds were informed that their positions will be terminated at the beginning of December. The union is asking the community to stand with them and tell Clerk Karen Yarbrough to respect the workers who have spent decades of service to Cook County by signing this petition.
This strike will go down as the largest strike in UIC history. The workers fought and won against an administration that enriches its wealthy administrators through our for-profit healthcare system, skyrocketing tuition and paying workers far less than they deserve. Their victory will be felt in hospitals, universities, and nonprofit organizations all over the country and will stand as an example of the working-class unity built in Chicago, a group that we as socialists can be proud to be a part of.
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, Devin Schiff, and Emilie Shireman. Graphics were contributed by Patrick O’Connell. If you would like to contribute to the Red Star Bulletin or have any feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org.