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Latest News - April 2015

April 8, 2015
Nurses' union accuses U. of C. of violating labor law
By: Alejandra Cancino

National Nurses United alleges University of Chicago Medicine is bargaining in bad faith, and has had hospital security follow nurses who are part of the negotiating team and restrict them from parts of the hospital to keep them from talking with fellow nurses.

"We call that surveillance," said Jan Rodolfo, Midwest director of National Nurses United, which represents 1,500 nurses. "We feel like we are reaching a strike point."

The union and hospital have been in contract negotiations since August. The nurses have been working without a contract since it expired at the end of October. In January, the nurses authorized the bargaining team to issue a strike notice, if necessary.

The union, which filed its allegations with the National Labor Relations Board last week, also claimed the hospital is assigning supervisors, who are not union members, to take over duties of nurses who are in charge of units.

The university said in a statement that it has been negotiating in good faith since August. The union, it added, filed similar charges against the hospital during previous negotiations and that it is confident the NLRB will find the new charges meritless after an investigation.

Debi Albert, chief nursing officer at University of Chicago Medicine, said in a blog post the union is "more interested" in persuading nurses to strike than in allowing them to have a "balanced view" of the negotiations.

Albert also said she has met with nurses to share specifics of the hospital's proposals; a move the union contends violates federal labor law. The union claims she is engaging in "direct dealing" with nurses about terms and conditions of employment.

Albert said in the blog post that she met with nurses because she feels a responsibility to give nurses information they aren't getting from the union.

The union says negotiations have focused on noneconomic issues such as staffing levels and overnight shifts. For example, the union wants additional nurses hired to care for patients during breaks. It also wants the hospital to end its practice of having rotating nurses work night and day shifts. The hospital wants rotating nurses to pick up more night shifts.

The hospital also wants nurses in charge of units to become supervisors without patients. The union counters that the proposal would in effect eliminate a position.



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