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More than 4,000 University of Illinois Hospital workers go on strike in second walkout in less than a week

More than 4,000 University of Illinois Hospital workers go on strike in second walkout in less than a week

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More than 4,000 workers at the University of Illinois Hospital and its medical schools went on strike Monday morning after failing to reach a contract with the hospital.

They include clerical, technical, and building and maintenance employees from the hospital and the university’s four medical schools in Chicago, Peoria, Rockford and Champaign. The union representing the workers, Service Employees International Union Local 73, said they have been without a contract for more than a year.

The union said they are asking for safer working conditions, adequate staffing and wage increases.

The strike is the second at the hospital in less than a week. On Saturday, more than 800 nurses at the hospital and its clinics went on strike after failing to reach a agreement. About 1,300 nurses were initially supposed to participate, but a Cook County judge ruled Friday that some nurses in critical care units could not strike because it would endanger patients' safety.

The Illinois Nurses Association, which represents the nurses, said that strike could last seven days. As of Monday, the union and the hospital had not reached an agreement.

Michael Zenn, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics, said in a statement the hospital was working with an agency to onboard more than 500 temporary nurses and other health care support staff to provide care for patients. Zenn said that of the 523 agency staff brought to the hospital, 32 are from states with a high number of coronavirus cases, and none have tested positive.

He said the hospital is requiring any workers from a designated COVID-19 hot spot to get tested before beginning work.

The hospital went on ambulance bypass last week, meaning that ambulances were being asked to take new patients to other hospitals. Zenn said the hospital was not taking patient transfers from other hospitals, canceled elective procedures and surgeries, and was working with other hospitals in case it needed to transfer patients.

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