Hospital workers launch protests for higher wages, say they can't afford health care
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Hospital and health care workers are launching union drives and protests across the country to demand higher wages and improved working conditions. 

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) chapter covering Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas told The Guardian that it is putting together a campaign to organize workers advocating to extend a $15 minimum wage beyond Chicago.

The group said there are roughly 50,000 low-wage hospital workers in the Chicago metropolitan area, with about 10,000 of those workers represented by the union.

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“We’re trying to make sure every hospital worker across the city has a voice when it comes to making decisions in the workplace,” LeChrisha Pearson, a certified nursing assistant at Chicago’s Mount Sinai hospital, told The Guardian. “It’s just starting, but it’s a campaign that needs to expand throughout the healthcare system as a whole.”

Four unionized hospitals in the Chicago area will take part in the protest, advocating for new union contracts to address issues such as low pay, poor working conditions, unaffordable health care and inequities in hospital funding.

“We work in the health care field, but we can’t afford the health care ourselves. It’s ridiculous. When we look at the staffing issues, they can work us, knowing we’re short-staffed, but they don’t care,” said Kimberly Smith, a patient care technician at Northwestern Memorial hospital.

The protests are taking place as workers across the country demonstrate for pay bumps and improved working conditions, among other changes.

Hospital workers in Las Vegas are protesting against proposed cuts in their latest union contract with Valley Hospital Medical Center, which is owned by one of the largest hospital chains in the U.S.