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Cook nurses threaten strike

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Daily Herald
by Mike Comerford

The union representing virtually all registered nurses employed by Cook County will be taking a strike authorization vote this week.
With the results, to be announced Thursday, the National Nurses Organizing Committee predicts it will gain the support of almost 1,800 local nurses to call a strike if negotiations with the county breakdown.
The union is calling for more staff and higher wages.
“We want more hands-on care and … pay more like what other registered nurses get,” said Fernando Losada, a union spokesman and a national director for organizing.
Still, no strike deadline has been set and Cook County nurses do not have a recent history of striking.
Jonathan Rothstein, one of the county’s attorneys overseeing the negotiations, said Monday that “many, many issues remain on the table,” and added that the county is bargaining in go od faith.
Locally, if a strike is called, the suburban impact would be felt at the county’s Rolling Meadows clinic and regional office, which employs about 45 registered nurses, according to the union. But union nurses also go to homes and social welfare facilities throughout the suburbs. Most uninsured patients in the Cook County area are sent to county facilities, the union said.
A nurses union representative said even if a strike occurs, the union would make sure staffing is a available for the most acute cases.
The San Francisco-based nursing union won the right to represent Cook County registered nurses in May, when nurses ousted the Illinois Nurses Association.
The new union has been negotiating with the county since September. The last contract for county nurses expired in November, 2004.
Union officials contend that C ook County nurses make a median salary of about $50,000, while the area overall median is closer to $62,600 a year. Rothstein said he could not confirm those figures.

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