Joliet nurses weigh latest offer from AMITA during strike

No vote expected until Friday at the earliest

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Nurses and AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center Joliet continued contract talks through Thursday amid a strike.

Union negotiator and nurse Pat Meade said Thursday morning the union had received a response from AMITA on their latest proposal.

The nurses union spent much of Thursday awaiting a response to clarifications and questions they had on AMITA's proposal. Meade said she didn't anticipate the 720 union members to vote on whether or not to accept it until Friday at the earliest.

She added that the union negotiators have given concessions to AMITA and that they hope their employer can meet them halfway. The nurses have said they want AMITA to increase nurse staffing at the hospital to what the union considers safe levels.

"It's getting better," Meade said Thursday but added, "We have given up so much."

Nurses continued to stand on the picket line Thursday. Jeanine Johnson, another nurse, said she was "disappointed" management was "dead set on putting things their way."

"It might be the best we can get from them right now," she said.

Johnson added she's been affected by overstaffing in her intensive care unit. She said a nurse in her unit should be caring for no more than two patients, although at times she's had more which makes it "almost impossible" to do an adequate job.

"We end up feeling like we're not doing the best that we can for our patients," Johnson said.

While a lockout the hospital imposed ended at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Meade said fewer than 50 nurses crossed the picket line as of Thursday afternoon.

AMITA has hired replacement nurses for the strike, housing out-of-state nurses at hotels and bringing them to the hospital in buses. Advertisements for replacement nurses listed pay at $65 an hour while AMITA would provide hotel rooms and flights to Illinois for those who travel from out of state.

Meade has said the outside nurses are paid more than those they're replacing. She added Thursday that even the nurses who returned to work won't be making $65 an hour.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.