Unionized nurses from the University of Chicago Medical Center protested Wednesday because their employer stopped making contributions into their retirement funds because of the Covid pandemic.
"Due to the loss that they suffered, they feel that they need to shore up their bottom line," said Elaine Mister, an emergency room nurse. "I don't think that it's necessary, because I think anytime that you take something away from someone, you actually devalue them."
She said the union contract achieved last year links retirement contributions to other unionized workers, who opted out of guaranteed contributions.
Mister expressed concern that the action would negate the UCMC's ability to attract and retain nurses and for what it would mean for her colleagues' retirement plans.
"Those nurses who are older are going to re-think when they're going to retire, and those nurses who are younger, who have a little bit more time to think about their returns and have more time to contribute to their retirements, they're going to lose a substantial amount of compounding pay, almost up to $12,000 a year," she said.
Mister said the union — National Nurses United/National Nurses Organizing Committee — has asked the UCMC for a meeting to discuss the decision.
"Corporations and hospitals got hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus bailouts. Our nurses, this is all they have," she said.
The hospital released a statement saying that the "protest is not really about anything that the University of Chicago Medical Center has or has not done.
"It is part of a nationally directed publicity effort in which NNOC/NNU is protesting at more than 200 locations in 16 states to support its calls for nationalization of PPE supplies and more federal funding for pandemic responses."
Nurses from Cook County Health, the Jackson Park Hospital, Community First Medical Center and the Jesse Brown VA also protested on Aug. 5.