An Illinois nursing home operator could be without its regular workforce for a prolonged period after about 700 workers walked off on the job after contract negotiations stalled. 

Workers at 11 nursing homes operated by Infinity Healthcare Management began the strike Monday morning, SEIU Healthcare announced. The employees are seeking a $2 per hour minimum wage increase and COVID hazard pay for all employees working at a facility with positive residents without attendance requirements. They’re also seeking wage equity among its facilities within the state. 

The workers have been working without a contract since June, according to the union. Temporary workers have been hired to cover staff shifts during the strike.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that the owner of the 11 facilities had left town, leaving union officials unsure of when negotiations for a new contract will resume.

“They care about the safety of themselves and the residents, and that’s what this fight is about. It’s about making sure that workers have what they need to work one job – not two – so they don’t they don’t worry about what it means to cross contaminate,” said Erica Bland- Durosinmi, the union’s executive vice president. 

Dozens of Illinois operators averted strikes at 64 nursing homes in early May after they increased wages by 24% in a deal with SEIU Healthcare. One operator noted that it was the largest worker wage increase in its history.

This article appeared in the McKnight’s Business Daily, a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.