Chicago Service Workers Strike Following Months of Contract Negotiations

June 28, 2021

On Friday, about 2,500 employees of Cook County, Illinois—more than half of them housekeepers and other staff members working in the county’s hospitals and clinics—went on strike to demand better pay and health care premiums, WLS-TV reports.

Most of the county employees are members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73. Union employees told WGN-TV that contract bargaining had been going on for months with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle until negotiations were canceled last Wednesday.  Union leaders say the county is not offering its employees fair compensation for working during a pandemic, even though the federal government is offering funds for this purpose.

Dian Palmer, president of Local 73, told WLS-TV that the county and Preckwinkle “could come to the table with meaningful wage increases, proposals that respect equal pay for equal work, and agree to affordable health insurance.”

Cook County employees are prepared to walk the picket lines until they receive better wages and health care premiums, “which they’re trying to double for many workers at the county who have worked throughout the entire pandemic,” said Joyce Klein, a social worker at Stroger Hospital in Chicago.

Sylvia Kizer, a housekeeper at Stroger Hospital, told WLS-TV that the striking workers are asking the county to fairly reimburse them for their efforts during the pandemic. “I’m not asking [the country] to give me something I want, I’m asking [it] to  give me and my co-workers something we worked for,” Kizer said.

Preckwinkle told WLS-TV that she is “hopeful the strike will conclude quickly and we can get back to bargaining.”

It is unclear how long the strike could last as there are no bargaining sessions scheduled, according to the union.