HealthCare Workers’ Actions Help Patients

Monday, Sep 30, 2019, 7:16 am. In These Times


How Have Health Workers Won Improvements to Patient Care? Strikes.

BY Suzanne Gordon

On September 20, 2,200 nurses represented by the National Nurses United (NNU) went on a one-day strike at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The Chicago nurses were protesting unsafe working conditions and forced overtime—and had been in contract negotiations with the hospital for months. The Medical Center has just spent $269 million on a hospital expansion that it, insists, represents an “ investment to improve our community’s health.”

In response to the strike, the Medical Center’s top officials went on a P.R. offensive, accusing  striking nurses of engaging in “shameless behavior,” and insisting they are recklessly endangering their patients.

Nothing could be further from the truth, says Astria Johnson, an Emergency Room nurse who has worked for the hospital for 10 years. “This strike is about providing safe patient care. I can’t do that when I am assigned four patients, two of whom are intensive care (ICU) patients and two of whom are very sick. Someone may be on a ventilator to breathe for them.  Someone may be septic and require intravenous antibiotics and require constant monitoring.  Some people are getting their first diagnosis in the ER and I can’t educate them about their disease or medication.”

In response to the strike, management locked nurses out of the hospital for four days. The nurses went back to work Wednesday morning, and bargaining is expected to continue now that they’re back on the job.


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