Chicago nurses score contract victory

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Group of nurses smiling and holding raised fists

UChicago Medicine RNs avert strike

By Lucy Diavolo

National Nurse magazine - April | May | June 2024 Issue

Registered nurses at UChicago Medicine in Chicago, Ill., voted overwhelmingly in March to approve a new four-year agreement that addresses numerous patient safety concerns. In February the nurses voted 97 percent in favor of authorizing their nurse bargaining committee to call a one-day strike if management did not address their chronic staffing concerns.

National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) represents 2,800 nurses at UChicago Medicine. From January 2020 through November 2023, UChicago saw 40 percent of its nurses leave the system. The nurses had been in contract negotiations with the hospital since September 2023. Their contract expired in November 2023.

“We are so proud of what we have been able to accomplish for our patients with this new contract,” said Pam Valentine, a registered nurse in the post-anesthesia care unit. “This contract includes numerous provisions that we believe will translate into better recruitment and retention of experienced nurses who are critical in providing the highest quality of care to our patients. In addition, we have new processes in place to address the chronic understaffing that has led to many nurses leaving UChicago.”

Highlights of the contract include: 

  • A commitment that charge nurses will not be assigned a patient load in nearly a dozen new units

  • Language that limits floating nurses out of units where a charge nurse is responsible for a patient assignment

  • Dedicated meal- and relief-break nurse in the adult emergency department

  • A new step-by-step process for addressing staffing concerns and an option to resolve through federal mediation 

  • Significant wage increases across the board, from 20 percent up to 40 percent over the life of the contract

  • No changes to retirement benefits for the life of the contract and health care premiums remain at current percentage.

“This contract shows what nurses can achieve for our community when we stand in solidarity to demand that UChicago make the changes necessary to ensure each and every patient is getting the care they need and deserve,” said Brigitt Manson, a registered nurse in the pediatric unit and the chief nurse representative. “We are grateful for the community’s support throughout this process. We were determined to do everything we could for our patients, even if that meant going on strike. However, we are so glad we reached an agreement so we could stay at the bedside, where we want to be, caring for our patients.” 

Lucy Diavolo is a communications specialist at National Nurses United.