Roughly 6,000 unionized frontline workers at 64 nursing home facilities in the Chicago area — including Oak Park Oasis, 625 N. Harlem Ave., and Berkeley Nursing & Rehab Center, 6909 W. North Ave. — have reached a deal with the owners of those facilities, averting a strike that was planned for May 8.

On May 7, SEIU Healthcare, the union representing the workers, released a statement that it had reached a two-year contract agreement with the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities, the body representing the owners in contract negotiations.

The agreement will touch more than 10,000 frontline union employees, including receptionists, cooks and certified nursing assistants, at more than 100 nursing homes, the SEIU stated.

In its statement, the SEIU said that the workers “won significant contract gains,” including “higher baseline wages bringing all workers above $15 an hour and establishing greater parity in wages across geographic areas,” hazard pay for all workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, “additional fully paid sick days for COVID-19 testing, illness or quarantine,” and “provisions ensuring that employees are not required to work without adequate” personal protective equipment.

On April 27, the workers delivered strike notices to roughly 40 Chicago area facilities, including Oak Park Oasis and Berkeley Nursing & Rehab Care, after they voted overwhelmingly for a strike authorization, said Greg Kelley, he president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, during a videoconference on April 29.

 In a few days, workers at around 20 more nursing homes had threatened to join the demonstration.

“All of the major contract gains will help safeguard the health and safety of workers and the residents for which they care — at a time when both are vulnerable to the risks associated with COVID-19,” SEIU officials said in the statement.

“While residents are at increased risk of the virus due to age and compromised health, workers face increased negative impacts from coronavirus due to their history of poverty wages, lack of paid time off and the underlying health conditions that often accompany poverty. Additionally, a majority of workers are African-American, and a disproportionate number of African-American lives have been claimed by COVID-19.”

In its statement, the SEIU also explained that the tentative agreement “was overwhelmingly supported by members of the bargaining committee, but must be ratified by the larger group of members who will be impacted by its terms.”

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