Lockout at UIC Hospital

March 23, 2009

CHICAGO—Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 were locked out of their jobs March 20 when they attempted to wear union T-shirts to work at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) Hospital.

Workers in the Department of Patient Access at UIC Hospital have recently been under pressure to speed up work. UIC management has demanded an increase in patient registrations from five per hour to eight per hour. Already, up to 50 percent of these workers have repetitive stress injuries.

In response, all workers showed up March 20 with T-shirts that read "Patient Quality, Not Registration Quantity." Management then locked out the incoming shift, insisting that they change clothes. This is a violation of Local 73's contract. After union intervention, workers were allowed to cover their shirts and come to work, and were paid for any lost time.

Conditions in the workplace are intolerable. The temperature in the office is kept between 80 and 90 degrees in all seasons. Management offices have air-conditioning units, while work areas have none. "These are plantation conditions--it's a modern sweatshop," said Jeff Dexter, SEIU division director.

Workers also want respect on the job. "Any time we say anything, they say we don't want our jobs," said Yolanda Carter.

A spirited rally was held at noon to support the Patient Access workers. Up to 30 workers and supporters marched in front of the building, chanting "UIC, unfair to labor" and "Shame on you, UIC!"

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