Keck housestaff vote to unionize
The National Labor Relations Board certified a unanimous vote to unionize interns, residents and fellows at the USC Keck School of Medicine Friday. Eligible workers at Keck will now be represented by the Committee of Interns and Residents/Service Employees International Union, the largest housestaff union in the United States that represents more than 20,000 resident physicians and fellows.
The CIR/SEIU released a petition March 10, signed by a “supermajority” of 85 interns, fellows and residents, calling on Keck to formally recognize their union.
“We’re on the frontlines every day yet cannot negotiate the terms and conditions we work under or advocate for ourselves,” said Drew Sheldon, pulmonary disease and critical care medicine fellow at Keck, in a CIR/SEIU press release March 9. “We’re demanding that USC/Keck respect our right to freely join our union colleagues in having a fair contract and a voice at work.”
CIR/SEIU stated in its press release that Keck housestaff “receive unequal compensation, benefits, and protections compared to their [LAC+USC Medical Center] counterparts,” who were already being represented by the union.
“We’re doing the exact same work yet see ourselves go without the kind of support our colleagues are rightly afforded,” said Eduardo Fernandez, hematology and medical oncology fellow at Keck, in the press release. “Why are we treated differently?”
On April 5, the NLRB announced that full-time and part-time interns, residents, chief residents and fellows at Keck were eligible to vote for or against union representation. Eligible voters mailed ballots from April 13 to 20.
On May 4, 56 votes were tallied: fifty-three for, zero against and three void.
“Working in a broken healthcare system and increased cost of living in our city, it was clear to me and my colleagues that joining the union was the only way we’d have a path toward real change in our residency program,” said Fernandez in a statement to the Daily Trojan Friday. “The fact that we unanimously won our election, with not a single voter in opposition, shows just how committed we are to improving residency and patient care and USC/Keck.”
The decision comes as the cost of living in Los Angeles rose 7.59% in the last two years — causing USC faculty to demand salary raises in an open letter to University administration issued February. CIR/SEIU also noted in its press release a “national trend” of housestaff seeking to unionize, citing its petitions against Stanford Health Care and the University of Vermont Medical Center, which have both since culminated in NLRB certifications.
In a statement to the Daily Trojan Friday, the University said it supports “the rights of our employees to choose whether they want to join a union.”
“We appreciate the residents’ decision and greatly value their partnership in delivering quality health care to patients across Los Angeles County,” the University statement read.
Christina Chkarboul contributed to this report.