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‘Together, we can demand improvements’: Stanford Health Care’s residents vote to join union


 

Stanford Health Care’s resident physicians voted May 2 in favor of joining the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR-SEIU), part of a growing trend in unionization within the medical profession.

More than 81% of the health system’s resident physicians voted to join the union; the decision garnered 835 yes votes and 214 no votes, according to a CIR-SEIU announcement. The largest housestaff union in the United States and a local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), CIR-SEIU represents more than 20,000 resident physicians and fellows.

“With its successful representation with the Committee of Interns and Residents, Stanford housestaff now join the strong community of allied unions and fellow health care workers such as the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA), an independent union of Stanford nurses,” according to CIR-SEIU.

“We are organizing not only for a new economic contract that enables all potential housestaff and their families to afford living in the Bay Area but also for a new social contract that redefines how we are valued by the hospital system,” Ben Solomon, MD, PhD, a third-year resident physician in pediatrics at Stanford Medicine and a member of CIR-SEIU, said in an interview.

“This includes advocating for more humane working hours, reasonable parental leave, and childcare support, as well as resources to combat burnout in young physicians,” he added.

Lisa Kim, a spokesperson for Stanford Health Care, told this news organization that “a majority of residents and fellows at Stanford Health Care voted in favor of unionization. Of 1,478 total residents and fellows, 835 voted in favor. CIR/SEIU will be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative for all residents and fellows. Stanford Health Care does not plan to contest the election results.”

“As we begin the collective bargaining process, our goal remains unchanged: providing our residents and fellows with a world-class training experience. We will bring this same focus to negotiations as we strive to support their development as physician leaders,” she added.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) must certify the election results before they are considered final, per CIR-SEIU. An independent federal agency, the NLRB safeguards employees’ rights to organize and determines whether union participation is appropriate while also preventing and remedying unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

Concerns date back to initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The residents delivered a formal demand to Stanford Health Care to recognize the union in February; their request was not accepted by the health system. The residents’ concerns date as far back as the availability of the COVID-19 vaccines at the end of 2020.

Of the health system’s 5,000 doses, only seven residents and fellows were included in the initial round.

Niraj Sehgal, MD, chief medical officer for Stanford Health Care, apologized in a letter to the graduate medical education community, posted by Palo Alto Weekly, which revealed the root causes to be an algorithm used by the hospital and the age of the residents.

The vote by Stanford Health Care’s residents comes a day after nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children’s hospitals ratified a new contract with their union after a strike for better working conditions and higher pay stretched on for a week, reported Palo Alto Online.

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