Claims of insufficient personal protective equipment and paid time off for coronavirus-related illnesses have led workers at 40 Illinois nursing homes to announce plans to strike May 8. 

Members of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois announced Monday that the workers delivered strike notices to management at the 40 facilities, most of them in the Chicago area. The workers allege that operators haven’t provided enhanced safety protocols, appropriate hazard pay or sufficient base compensation for frontline workers during the pandemic. 

They also claim owners have “refused” to increase staffing levels or protect workers’ healthcare coverage and haven’t been transparent about COVID-19 cases within their facilities. The number of facilities receiving strike notices is expected to grow in the coming days, union leaders said.

The targeted operators, meanwhile, accused the union of trying to exploit historic circumstances to “incite a walk-out and put our seniors at even greater risk.” The Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities sits opposite SEIU at the negotiation table.

Workers are calling for a short-term, one-year contract that would set a wage floor of $15 per hour for all workers and $16 per hour for certified nursing assistants. They’re also seeking a 50% hazard pay bonus during the crisis and an additional 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19 or related illnesses. 

“The workers also call on their employers to provide adequate PPE and safety training and ask that employers assist workers in gaining access to testing and any emergency benefits being made available to essential workers,” the union stated in a release. 

Association officials said they have offered an 11% one-year pay hike, creation of a training fund, stable contributions to employee health insurance, easier access to sick days and more paid sick time during the pandemic. The offer would cover certified nursing assistants, dietary personnel and laundry, housekeeping and activity employees.

The workers’ current contract is set to expire Friday (May 1).