UCMC nurses finalize new four-year labor contract

The National Nurses Union and University of Chicago Medical Center reached a wage agreement for nurses.

By Sonia Schlesinger

Nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) ratified a new four-year labor contract on May 5. The nurses, represented in contract negotiations by National Nurses United (NNU), have been working without a contract since October. The new contract will raise wages by 9.5 percent over the next four years, with three to four percent annual increases, depending on a nurse’s amount of experience, according to the Chicago Tribune.

NNU and the UCMC debated the terms of the contract for over eight months, and eventually reached a deal for a new contract at the end of April. The nurses had been planning to strike on April 30, but cancelled the strike when the deal was reached. Kenneth Polonsky, UCMC vice president for medical affairs, called the new agreement “good for the nurses, the Medical, Center, and for our patients,” in the e-mail he sent out to the University after the contract’s conditions were finalized.

In addition to the wage increase, the contract will provide new support nurses to care for patients on the other nurses’ breaks. It also eliminates rotating shifts, which force day-shift nurses to work night shifts and vice versa. According to the Tribune, the nurses will have permanent day or night shifts by November.

NNU helped the nurses to obtain most of what they had hoped for in the negotiations, and a significant portion of the nurses voted to ratify the contract, an NNU press release reported. As Debi Albert, chief nursing officer at the UCMC, told the Tribune, the new contract is “truly a positive step for all of us, as we continue to advance the profession of nursing.”