The benefits of unionizing:

  • Collective Bargaining: In addition to the ability to negotiate group contracts, any significant change to working conditions must be agreed upon between the hospital and the union. This provides a structure for more transparent communication between administration and physicians. Do you want every consult to be seen within 24 hours? We will need more staff. Do you want us to set up home visits for discharged patients? Let's figure out a business model. Being in a union gives us a seat at the table in decisions that affect how we treat our patients.

  • Job security: Without a union, physicians can be terminated simply for standing up to administration. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employers need cause for termination. One of the greatest benefits of a union is that it protects the physician that is doing their job responsibly from being terminated without process. Additionally, individual physicians cannot be terminated for forming or participating in a union.

  • Professional support: Unions have access to legal counsel, research departments, publicity departments, and experts in healthcare law, as well as labor law. As physicians, we have benefited from the collective knowledge and experience of our peers; the union only provides more support and access to a diverse group of professionals.

  • Solidarity: The ability to speak with a powerful and unified voice. It is easy to marginalize and intimidate a single employee. It is much more difficult to do the aforesaid against a large, unified group. In addition to this, forming a union aligns us across different departments within the hospital, but also to other unions in the country.

"We do not have to be at odds with the healthcare system. When we have a seat at the table, and a voice to advocate for our patients, we all win."

What is the impact of unions on physician wellness and patient care?

The creation of unions have demonstrated that ability reduce burnout and improve quality of life, which in turn results in improved patient care. Unions not only help members voice their ideas, but also provide resources to actually implement change.

Physicians are typically altruistic in their roles as healers and often work beyond their limitations to cover deficiencies in the hospital system. This sense of duty can be exploited, resulting in serious mental and physical health consequences for individual physicians that, in turn, can cause negative effects downstream on patient care.

Unionization can be a powerful way to strengthen the physician voice, thereby maintaining the standard of care for our patients without compromising individual physician livelihood.

What have other unions achieved?

Anything that relates to wages, hours, or working conditions may be negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement.

Physician unions at other hospitals have negotiated for extended parental leave, safer hour restrictions, and patient care funds, which allow physicians in residency to decide how they would like to apportion money to improve patient care. Through collective bargaining, house-staff across New York City and LA County hospitals have been able to receive grants purchase necessary items, such as exam room supplies, portable ultrasounds, and educational materials.

The American Medical Association (AMA) position:

The American Medical Association (AMA) "supports the rights of physicians to engage in collective bargaining", and even supports efforts to narrow the definition of supervisors so even more employed physicians are protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA).

The AMA has even facilitated forming a national labor organization, Physicians for Responsible Negotiation (PRN) to support the development and operation of local, physician negotiating units across different levels of practice.

The AMA’s policies supporting the physician’s right to unionize are currently being developed. While still very new, physician unions are growing and multiplying across the country.