125 union building staff are to strike at the University of Chicago Medical Centre

University of Chicago Medical Centre (UCMC) workers protest after voting in favour of taking strike action on Thursday

One hundred and twenty five union building staff at the University of Chicago Medical Centre (UCMC) are to strike next week amid protracted contract negotiations and to protest what workers are calling labour law violations.

The hospital’s building trades and supply chain workers, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, announced on Thursday that they ‘overwhelmingly’ authorised an indefinite strike to begin on Sunday evening, 14th July if an agreement with the medical centre’s leadership isn’t reached.
In the 4th July strike announcement, the union said workers have been bargaining for a new contract with the university for more than six months, with key sticking points being wage increases to keep pace with inflation, improved benefits and cheaper health insurance.
The workers’ last contract, according to SEIU, expired in early February.
Charles Matthews, who’s been an operating engineer at the hospital for more than 20 years said: ‘Since the start of bargaining, we’ve made changes and compromises on our contract proposals but UCMC’s wage proposal does not match inflation rates or the cost of living.
‘In today’s economy, we are falling behind, and our jobs are not able to sustain us anymore.
‘It’s a shame we don’t have affordable health insurance when we work for a major hospital.’
The staff preparing to strike include engineers, carpenters, painters, equipment mechanics, grounds labourers and materials specialists, who are responsible for taking in and distributing shipments throughout the hospital.
Justin Babitsch, a painter said: ‘We keep UChicago Med properly running and we deserve affordable health insurance for ourselves and our families.
‘Management’s final proposal amounts to a pay cut for us.
‘The meagre raises they offered are negated by the cost of our health care coverage.
‘For any hospital to treat its workers this way is deplorable.’
Workers also alleged that throughout bargaining over the past few months, UCMC management has at several points violated labour law.
These allegations, which were filed as Unfair Labour Practice charges with the National Labour Relations Board late last month, include UCMC surveillance of union activity, cancelling bargaining in retaliation for concerted activity and a failure to provide information relevant to bargaining.
The strike vote comes after months of organising activity and operational cuts at the hospital.
In February, hospital administrators announced they were cutting about 180 jobs, or about 2 per cent of the medical centre 13,000-person workforce, citing a need to ‘operate more efficiently’.
These layoffs, an SEIU spokesperson said, were primarily management-level staff.
In the months since, a strike was narrowly avoided when more than 2,800 nurses at the hospital ratified a new four-year contract with administrators, and another 1,000 resident physicians and fellows overwhelmingly voted to unionise.
Meanwhile, Starbucks baristas at the Beechmont & Five Mile Starbucks in Anerson Township, Ohio have filed a petition for a union election.
Steven Applegate, who has worked for Starbucks for two years said: ‘Unionising is our stand for fair treatment and respect.
‘The Starbucks I once admired has changed, and not for the better.
‘Returning has been a whole new experience, revealing a company that no longer embodies the principles it once stood for.
‘By coming together, we aim to restore the values we believed in, ensuring that every worker is heard, respected and treated fairly.’
Workers at the Beechmont & Five Mile location have signed a letter with eight other Starbucks locations across the country, explaining their complaints for the company’s CEO, Laxman Narasimhan.
Demands include better pay, appropriate staffing, consistent scheduling and more.
The Starbucks Workers United Union said: ‘Consistently, schedules are not meeting partners’ financial needs or availability needs.
‘When we don’t get enough hours, we have to work multiple jobs which causes further scheduling issues and puts significant stress on partners.
‘World class benefits’ don’t matter if you don’t get scheduled enough hours to qualify for them.
‘At the same time, we are seeing more and more promotional days, and we are not seeing the increased staffing to match it.
Partners are doing the work of multiple people and not being compensated for it.
‘This causes burnout which leads to partners quitting and higher turnover which in turn causes more burnout.’
Starbucks Workers United is a worker-led unionising effort run by Starbucks partners who also work regular shifts.
The union effort originated in Buffalo, New York where the first US Starbucks unionised in 2021.
Starbucks Workers United represents more than 460 Starbucks locations, covering more than 10,500 workers, according to the union.
The press release said: ‘The historic organising campaign hinges on peer-to-peer organising led by workers, for workers – and has won election after election in stores nationwide.
‘This would be the second local Starbucks location to unionise after the Downtown location at 401 Vine St. became the first in June 2022.’

  • Uber and Lyft drivers are fighting to get a question on the November ballot that would allow them to form and join unions.

Uber and Lyft drivers and stakeholders gathered on Beacon Hill on Tuesday to commemorate turning in the final 2,000 signatures they need to get their question on the November ballot.
The ballot question is backed by labour groups and would allow drivers to unionise.
One union leader says organising labour is essential for keeping Uber and Lyft drivers safe and to make sure their wages are fair.
Michael Vartabedian, assistant directing business representative at District 15-IAMAW said: ‘Underpaid, dangerous job, sometimes attacked by the customers or the people getting in the car, all the expenses of the business are really on the workers.
‘And all Uber and Lyft does is collect the money.’
In western Massachusetts, most drivers pick up riders in Springfield and the surrounding areas.
Driver John Garcia from Longmeadow says he is not able to see his driving destination until the passenger is already in the car.
‘It’s a safety issue that we have in western Mass,’ said Garcia.
‘Having a union is having an equal opportunity like the other employees in the state of Massachusetts have.’
Garcia says a union could also help western Massachusetts drivers have more job security, as they are not contracted by rideshare companies.
Once Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin verifies the newly-submitted signatures, the question of allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionise will officially be on the November ballot.