On Wednesday evening the Illinois Nurses Association announced that the nurses of Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center voted to authorize a strike 529 to 89. The current nurses contract is set to expire on Saturday. A federal mediator has even been brought in to participate in the negotiations that are expected to take place the rest of the week. The earliest that the nurses would go on strike is May 22nd. According to the Illinois Nurses Association website the last nurses strike at Saint Joseph Medical Center lasted for 61 days in the winter of 1993 while negotiating their first contract as a union.
A statement from the hospital president Robert Erickson was released.
“We are disheartened that INA members have voted to authorize a strike, even though the current bargaining contract is not expired and contract negotiations are still in progress. By voting to authorize a strike, INA members have given up their right to the INA to decide when and whether to strike, regardless of what offers PSJMC presents. As we continue negotiations, it is important for INA members to keep in mind that if the INA does call for a strike, it will place a major strain on hospital operations, jeopardizing the health and safety of the local community.
Additionally, if a strike occurs, PSJMC would be forced to consider diverting patients needing emergency care, cancelling elective medical and surgical procedures and adjusting non-nursing staff to deal with patient volume. In addition, to maintain essential care for patients, PSJMC will need to contract with agency nursing staff, whose contracts typically require a minimum commitment of five days or longer, adding a financial burden onto the INA members on strike and PSJMC. We are hopeful that INA members and the INA will join us in agreeing to a collective bargaining agreement in a way that does not jeopardize the health and safety of the community.”