Cook County Health RNs overwhelmingly approve four-year labor contract with substantial gains to address chronic short staffing and improve patient care
Registered nurses at Cook County Health voted overwhelmingly this week to ratify a new four-year contract that includes substantial gains to address chronic short staffing. These gains will improve patient care and the recruitment and retention of nurses, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU).
The vote was tallied late Friday night. The agreement was reached after nine months of negotiations and a one-day strike held by nurses on June 24, 2021.
“This was a hard-fought contract, but we are very pleased with what we have been able to accomplish for our patients,” said Tasha Mosley-Brown, a registered nurse at Stroger Hospital. “This win shows once again, that if nurses stand together and act collectively, we can create the change that improves our hospitals and serves our communities. We would never have chosen to go out on strike, but it is clear that our strike showed our resolve and led to an agreement that will now translate into improved patient care.”
Highlights of the new contract include:
300 registered nurse positions to be filled
Cook County Health has agreed to hire 300 additional registered nurses within the next 18 months to address the chronic short staffing throughout the system. This number includes an additional 125 newly added positions. Registered nurses will work in conjunction with management to determine where these additional 125 nurses will be assigned.
Increased patient care support nurses to critical units
The new contract includes a provision that augments patient care support nursing staff in several units including critical care, mother and baby, Cermak Health Services, and Provident Hospital. These nurses are vitally important to provide optimal patient care during meal breaks, emergencies, and other events. In all, 19 new patient care support positions will be added.
Infectious disease control gains
Cook County Health has agreed to convene an infectious disease task force in the event of an infectious disease emergency. This task force will consist of both registered nurses and managers who will meet regularly to make recommendations on how to best provide safe patient care and to create a safe work environment for nurses and other health care workers.
The contract includes compensation gains that will help in the retention and recruitment of experienced nurses. Wage increases will range from 12 percent to 31 percent over the life of the contract.
“This contract is a huge victory for our patients and our community,” said Consuelo Vargas, an emergency room nurse at Stroger Hospital. “The contract recognizes nurses for their expertise and it is centered on improving patient safety.”
NNOC/NNU represents 1,250 nurses throughout the Cook County Health system.
National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with more than 170,000 members nationwide. NNU plays a leadership role in safeguarding the health and safety of RNs and their patients and has won landmark legislation in the areas of staffing, safe patient handling, infectious disease, and workplace violence prevention.