U of C hospital workers face contract decision

Unionized workers at the University of Chicago hospitals will finish voting today on a contract that labor leaders have declined to support because of concerns over benefits and subcontracting issues.

The 1,400 members of Teamsters Local 743 work as clerical, service and maintenance workers at the hospitals.

“Without our members, this hospital wouldn’t be the world-class institution that it is," says J Burger, a union spokesman. "And we’ve been consistently telling management that now is the time to value the employees that are here keeping the ship afloat, not devalue them.”

If the union votes down the contract, he says, negotiators will seek to return to the table with the hospital.

Hospital spokesman John Easton says he's not able to discuss details of the contract and negotiations.

“We remain committed to reaching a fair and equitable solution for our staff,” he says. “All of our employees are extremely important to us, we maintain productive relationships with multiple labor unions.”

Burger says union leaders were dissatisfied with the new contract's provisions on raises, mandatory overtime and scheduling.

But subcontracting was a deal-breaker,

“We have a clear and simple proposal for job protection," says Burger. "We want to stop the hospital from subcontracting out our work. We feel that the members that are here know the job—they know the hospital, they know the hospital system, and in many cases they know the hospital’s patients—and they’re here to do that job."

Workers began voting on the hospital's final contract proposal Wednesday.