Joliet Nurses Ratify Contract After Year Long Struggle

Nurses at St. Joseph in Joliet, Illinois voted 77% in favor of ratifying the tentative agreement that
their bargaining team reached with Ascension Healthcare.

On Monday May 20th and Tuesday May 21st the 500 nurses of Ascension St. Joseph voted on the contract their union had been bargaining for over a year. Of the 81% of union members who voted in the election, 77% voted to ratify and 23% voted to reject. The agreement enshrines that nurses will only work in their areas of expertise. It also honors the most senior nurses at the hospital with additional paid time off and contains a lump sum payment for all nurses. 

The agreement was reached after months of Ascension’s refusal to bargain and three short-term strikes by the nurses citing a long list of Unfair Labor Practices charges. In the end, it was the threat of a fourth strike, in concert with nurses at Ascension Genesys in Flint, Michigan that brought the employer to the table to get the deal done. On Saturday, May 11, the Joliet nurses received an offer that the bargaining committee felt the members needed a chance to look over and vote on. 

Nurses ratified this contract because Ascension finally agreed to respect our right to turn down unsafe staffing assignments,” said Pat Meade, a nurse and longtime union activist at St. Joseph Medical Center. “We won some things that were vital to the functioning of this hospital but there is much more that needs to be improved and we will keep pushing for that.” 

While the contract campaign has come to a close, the union continues to pursue its class action wage theft lawsuit, multiple NLRB charges and demand that Ascension adhere to state mandated staffing guidelines. Nurses are currently facing the fallout of last week’s cyberattack on Ascension and the recent loss of their hospitals’ urologists that calls into question their status as a Level 2 Trauma Center. The members of St. Joe’s Nurses Association come out of this contract campaign united and ready to continue organizing to protect their licenses, their patients and their community.