Howard Brown health care workers kick off two-day strike, seek better pay and benefits

By Chicago 4 Min Read

More than 30 Howard Brown Health workers showed up on the picket line Tuesday at the Englewood clinic to kick off a two-day strike seeking better pay and working conditions.

More than 300 members of the Howard Brown Health Care Workers United are expected to show up at the picket line today, organizer Sarah Hurd said.

“It is unfortunate that our leadership does not want to come to the table and bargain with us in a fair way over a fair contract,” said Louis Spraggins, a partner services coordinator at Howard Brown’s Englewood clinic, 641 W. 63rd St.

Demands from the union include a raise of the minimum hourly wage of $21 from $16.07, affordable health insurance, rights for the union to be at the table for decision-making, layoff protections and notices, overtime pay for shifts longer than eight hours, remote work options and negotiations before the changes of job duties. Of those in the union who voted, 96% voted to strike.

Howard Brown has brought proposals, including a new minimum wage of $19.23 for retail employees, a 5.4% increase for base wages this year, a $1,200 contract signing bonus and expanded benefits for part-time staff, including two weeks paid leave for gender-affirming care, one new holiday and three to five weeks vacation, a spokesperson said in a statement Nov. 3.

“In the same way that our patients rely on us, we must provide our staff with the tools they need to best serve our community,” said Katie Metos, vice president of external relations at Howard Brown Health, in a statement. “Whether or not our staff choose to join the picket line this week, we will be ready on Thursday to come together and continue to serve our community in the ways that we know no one else can.”

The next bargaining session is Nov. 21. The union put Howard Brown’s most recent contract offer to vote starting Tuesday. The vote will conclude on Sunday.

Spraggins said one of the reasons he, and many others, joined the strike was because leadership changed appointment times from 40 minutes to 20 minutes, which greatly affected patient care.

Spraggins, whose job includes sexual health counseling and contact tracing for sexually transmitted infections, said he also wants to see better benefits for employees.

This is the second strike by unionized workers at the LGBTQ+ focused Chicago health care facilities this year. In January, workers held a three-day strike, during which 440 workers protested the organization’s decision to lay off 61 union workers in the midst of contract negotiations. 

These layoffs, which the union filed a claim regarding with the National Labor Relations Board, were found to have merit or partial merit. As a result, all 61 workers were offered their positions back, with 24 taking the offer.

The union has around 366 members and includes nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, case managers and Brown Elephant employees and organizers are expecting to see everyone on the picket lines, Peterson said.

The locations for the strike are 4025 N. Sheridan Rd., 3501 N. Halsted St. and 641 W. 63rd St. Tuesday and Wednesday. The union will hold a rally at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Howard Brown’s Halsted clinic.

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