Loretto Hospital Workers Strike for Fair Pay, Safe Conditions

Loretto Hospital Workers Strike for Fair Pay, Safe Conditions

Roughly 200 frontline workers at Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave., went on strike this week, citing poor pay, staffing issues, and worker safety concerns. Workers include patient care technicians, mental health staff, and frontline service staff. In the first days of the strike, local and state politicians, as well as faith leaders and organizers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare joined the picket lines.

“There are so many of us at Loretto Hospital who work so hard,” Ebony Childs, a patient care technician who has worked at Loretto Hospital for nearly two decades, said at a press conference Tuesday. “We are burnt out. We are tired. But we still come in. For the community. We want to see them safe and getting better care at Loretto Hospital.”

Strikers outside of Loretto Hospital march in a line, holding signs and wearing purple shirts.
Loretto Hospital strike day two. This photo and the above provided by SEIU.

Located in the Austin neighborhood, the 177-bed Loretto Hospital is one of the state’s busiest, treating many patients enrolled in Medicaid or who don’t have insurance. The publicly funded hospital has job vacancy rates ranging from 25% to 35% in various positions and an annual staff turnover of 60%, according to SEIU.

After a year of workers raising alarms about the need for pay to combat short staffing and improve patient outcomes, hospital management has yet to make an offer that meets workers’ demands for industry pay standards. Yet, the hospital recently received approval for $8 million in funding from the state of Illinois specifically for “workforce recruitment, retention, and development.”

At a press conference leading up to the strike, Carla Haskins, a nursing assistant at Loretto Hospital for the past five years, said, “Loretto is refusing to raise their wages to a living wage like Sinai and other hospitals pay, despite the fact that the low wages mean we have a 60% staff turnover rate.”

Haskins added that she works six to seven days a week and still lives paycheck to paycheck. “I struggle to take care of my family. It just doesn’t add up,” she said.

On the picket line this week, workers marched with signs that read: “Low Wages = Short Staffing, Low Wages = 60% Turnover, Low Wages = Worker Injuries” and “Public $ Private Decisions.”

At the same rally, State Representative Lakesia Collins said, “The state did not give them money to hire temporary workers. We gave them money to address the needs for short staffing, to protect workers and to make sure the patients here in this community can get the care that they deserve.”

Alderman Jason Ervin, 28th ward, lives in the Austin neighborhood and represents the area where Loretto Hospital is located. “We stand here in solidarity with the workers to get not only what they deserve, but what the residents of the West Side deserve, which is quality healthcare,” he said at a press conference.

On Tuesday, State Senator Willie Preston stood before the crowd. “I started off like you. I started off as a janitor,” he said. “Loretto, listen to these workers.”