Howard Brown medical workers could go on strike for second time this year


Approximately 350 medical and retail employees associated with Howard Brown Health voted in favor of the strike, the second such strike at Howard Brown in less than a year.

The strike vote was held Friday among 366 members of Howard Brown Health Workers United. Votes were counted Tuesday morning.

This vote resulted in support for the strike by 96% of Howard Brown’s non-registered nurse employees, including nurses and employees of Brown Elephant Resale Stores, whose proceeds are donated to Howard Brown. Ta. The strikers will be represented by the Illinois Nurses Association, the state’s largest nurses’ union.

Registered nurses at Howard Brown Health have a separate union, also represented by the Illinois Nurses Association.

A Howard Brown Health Department spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune that union members indicated the strike would last two days. However, the union has not yet given Howard Brown a formal strike notice, according to Claire Gilbersen, an events specialist at Howard Brown and a member of the union’s bargaining committee. Once the notice is served, he will not be allowed to strike for at least 10 days.

INA organizer Ronnie Peterson said: “We will see how management reacts to the strike vote and the results of the walkout vote, but we hope that management will take some action on this matter.” ” “We don’t want to go on strike, but we will go on strike if necessary to get a fair contract.”

Howard Brown Health, a federally qualified health center that receives federal funding to assist low-income patients, currently operates 11 clinics in Chicago and provides a variety of social services to residents. We provide services. With deep roots in Uptown and Northalsted, the Howard Brown Clinic specializes in treating LGBTQ patients and people living with HIV.

Members of Howard Brown Health Workers United are currently fighting for their first contract since the union was formed 14 months ago. Negotiations have been active for more than a year.

Howard Brown management agreed to about 80% of the contract terms proposed by union members, a spokesperson said in a statement. Howard Brown said he expected a strike to occur and that he would develop alternative care plans for his patients.

“We hope to conclude the agreement as soon as possible so we can focus on our shared mission of caring for our communities,” the spokesperson said. “Throughout this process, we have been honest about the limitations of our resources as we face financial challenges.”

In recent negotiations, Howard Brown has proposed an hourly wage that matches the city’s minimum wage, making it difficult for some workers to afford housing, Gilbertsen said. Management then increased its offer for hourly workers to $19.23 an hour, a 17% increase for some retail employees.

Gilbertsen said the union’s Pay Transparency Survey found that some workers at the Howard Brown clinic on the South Side are paid up to $5,000 less annually than those at the North Side clinic. It was also revealed that

“Behind this is racial inequality,” Gilbersen said. “That’s why we strive to give a voice to everyone who has an issue.”

Gilbertsen said the action would support contract demands that include guaranteed full-time employment opportunities for Brown Elephant retail store employees if a strike occurs. Union members are also seeking cost-of-living salary adjustments and the opportunity to cover gender-affirming health care in employee health insurance.

Gender-affirming care refers to all forms of care that support transgender and non-binary people to express their gender identity. Gender-affirming care is often social, such as respecting a transgender person’s pronouns. Medical settings may include access to testosterone and estrogen, gender-affirming surgery, and psychiatric counseling.

During negotiations, management offered to give her two weeks of paid leave after gender reassignment surgery. A Howard Brown Health spokesperson also told the Tribune on Tuesday that discussions include “expanding medical benefits for all employees.”

As the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ-focused health care provider, Howard Brown provides gender-affirming health care to many Chicagoans, but its health plans allow employees to pay the same costs. In many cases, this is not possible, Gilbertsen said.

Gilbertsen said some employees, especially those in retail stores at Brown Elephant stores, are opting out of employee health plans entirely because deductibles are prohibitively high compared to part-time wages. It is said that it is out.

“What we offer to the community, we have to be able to offer to our employees,” Gilbertsen said.

Mr. Gilbertsen said there was a “huge rift” between management and union members, many of whom had recently returned to Howard Brown after more than 400 workers went on strike for three days in January. Ta.

The Tribune previously reported that Howard Brown management proposed an entire company buyout at the end of 2022, citing a $12 million budget shortfall, and then slashed its workforce by 16%.

Sixty-one union members were included in the series of 64 layoffs that began on the day of the strike in January. The union rejected the takeover offer and filed several unfair labor practice claims with the National Labor Relations Board, some of which were found to have merit.

Following the NLRB’s July ruling, Howard Brown reinstated 61 laid-off union employees without back pay. Ms. Gilbertsen, one of those who chose to reinstate her, said that even with an apologetic reception from her management, she still felt the trauma of what she saw as punishment for union organizing. He said that it did not go away.

“I faced direct retaliation for speaking out about the union,” Gilbertsen said. She was tasked with a performance improvement plan just before the layoffs, which included a recommendation to “put limits on what she could say about union activities because it would be offensive to some people.” she said.

A bargaining session between Howard Brown Health staff and unionized workers was held Tuesday. Howard Brown declined to file any counterproposals Tuesday after being notified of the strike vote.

The union plans to host a rally outside Howard Brown Health Halsted on Thursday night to raise money for the strike fund. The rally will also protest a fundraiser taking place inside Howard Brown’s newest home, the $53 million Halstead Medical Clinic.

Mr Gilbertsen said striking workers would do so without pay. Unionized workers are prepared to picket, but their ability to continue the strike will depend on how much the strike fund grows in the coming days.



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