More than 1,000 doctors employed by the Montefiore Medical Center, one of the largest residency programs in New York City, requested voluntary recognition of a union in November. The residents and fellows at the Bronx Hospital have signed cards from more than 70 percent of the eligible workforce. Their union, the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR), is a branch of the Service Employees International Union.
The union push comes amid a surge in post-pandemic labor activity at the hospital. More than 30,000 members of the New York State Nurses Association are in contract negotiations with Montefiore and other hospitals, and more than 100 physician assistants at Montefiore are nearing a vote to unionize.
Third-year pediatric resident Isuree Katugampala told the Daily News that staffing shortages and resource shortages during the pandemic contributed to the desire to organize.
At a news conference on November 15, the group raised staffing, pay and hours as issues. They called for compensation for unexpected shifts to fill in for sick colleagues, yearly bonuses, more inclusive family leave policies, and more support staff, like nurses, at the hospital.
Beyond NY Residents Are Pushing Back
In Washington, DC, resident physicians and fellows at Children’s National Hospital, represented by CIR held a Unity Break on November 15 to bring attention to their ongoing struggle for a fair contract that allows them to adequately care for their young patients without burning out.
According to CIR, the conditions at the renowned children’s hospital have “only continued to deteriorate during the pandemic and its resulting widespread staffing shortages.”
“We’re simply asking for what we need to spend more quality time with our patients and to address the concerns of their families,” said Dr. Hannah Kilcoyne, a first-year resident at Children’s National.
On the west coast, resident physicians and fellows at the University of California’s (UC) health system participated in unity break actions, too. More than 5,000 resident physicians in the UC system in Davis, San Francisco, Sylmar, and Los Angeles have been in negotiations since the spring. They’re looking to establish minimum pay and benefits standards system wide. Their contract expired July 1.
In 2021, 842 interns, resident and fellow physicians at the University of Illinois-Chicago joined the CIR. The resident-led organizing efforts began amidst concerns about how programs were functioning and their impacts on physician safety, working conditions, and patient care.
As one of the only hospitals serving the southside of Chicago, the physicians are also seeking a fair contract that addresses working conditions, pay and resources they need to serve their patients without burning out.
Housestaff—resident physicians, interns, and fellows—work up to 80 hours per week, a number that is twice the 40-hour workweek considered the standard in the U.S. and they do this for 3 to 7 years, depending on their specialty. The average resident physician annual salary is $61,030. Given the number of hours they generally work, most of these physicians are making less than minimum wage for these early years of their careers.
The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest housestaff union in the United States, representing over 22,000 resident physicians and fellows. Their members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities. ■