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Employed Physicians Saying ‘YES!’ to Unions

Burnout, staffing issues, reimbursement and hospital rules push more physicians to unionize
J. Duncan Moore, Jr.


They are fed up with the bean counters interfering with their decisions on patient care. They feel underpaid and underappreciated. Distant administrators hold them on a short leash. They have to see so many patients an hour that their heads are spinning. Staffing never returned to the promised pre-COVID levels. Insurers are denying claims. Hospitals are pushing their patients out the door before they’re ready. Medicare doesn’t want to pay the going rate and Medicaid is hopeless. Depressed and demoralized, some of them are leaving direct patient care.

And some are unionizing.

In Minnesota last fall, some 400 primary care and urgent care physicians at Allina Health System, working at 50 sites, voted to form a union. More than 150 physician assistants and nurse practitioners have also joined.

That’s the most prominent assemblage of doctors who have succeeded in pulling a union together. Elsewhere, residents and interns at Mass General Brigham voted in June to unionize by a margin of 75 percent. Before the vote, the hospital agreed to a salary increase of 10 percent and a $10,000 stipend for all residents and fellows. Other residency programs at such establishments as Montefiore Medical Center, Stanford Health Care, University of Pennsylvania, and George Washington University have also joined a union.

In mid-January, a large group of anesthesiologists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles voted 78 to 25 to join the Union of American Physicians & Dentists.

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