Doctors who are resident and fellow physicians at Stanford Health Care have voted to join a union by a wide margin, the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR-SEIU) said in a press statement last week.
More than 81% of the resident doctors who voted on May 2 approved joining the union, CIR-SEIU.
Stanford has 1,478 residents and fellows, according to the hospital. The resident physicians began organizing in December 2020 after protesting the hospital's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, which excluded a majority of resident physicians who serve as Stanford's frontline care, from the first round of inoculations. Stanford said at the time that the residents and fellows were excluded due to a computer algorithm glitch. The CIR-SEIU would help the residents negotiate better working conditions and better patient-care standards, the union said.
Stanford Health Care's resident doctors rotate to other Stanford affiliated entities, including Valley Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, but when they rotate they often aren't represented by the union while they are at the other facilities, union spokeswoman Sunyata Altenor, said.
The vote last week came a day after nurses from Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals ratified a new contract through their union, the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA), following a weeklong strike for better working conditions and higher pay.
"Our doctors are united by our desire to provide the best possible patient care and strong worker protections. One thing the pandemic has made abundantly clear, in addition to the widespread equity issues in our healthcare system, is that our needs as physicians cannot be separated from those of our patients," Dr. Ben Solomon, a postgraduate, three-year resident of pediatrics said in the union statement.
In late February, Stanford Health Care refused to voluntarily recognize the house staff union, the union said.
"This was emblematic of hospital management's ongoing refusal to address resident concerns, leading residents to organize the union election through the National Labor Relations Board," the union said.
Amid widespread physician burnout, residents were frustrated that Stanford Health Care stalled instead of taking action to adequately support its resident physicians, the union said. The ongoing physician and nursing shortage has affected hospitals nationwide with resident and fellow physicians filling in gaps in patient care.
The union said these physicians "had no additional support despite working for a hospital whose profits continue to soar, only exacerbating burnout related to 80-hour workweeks and salaries incommensurate with cost of living."
Dr. Meaghan Roy-O'Reilly, a postgraduate, two-year resident of neurology, said the hospital administration has let the so-called house staff down "time and time again."
"With a seat at the table, we are equipped to take the advocacy for ourselves and our patients into our own hands. We understand the power of collective organizing, and we are excited to directly address these issues," she said.
According to the official vote tally, the resident doctors approved joining the union with 835 yes votes to 214 no votes. They have up to a week to win official certification. The election results must be certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) before becoming final. The labor relations board is an independent federal agency that oversees union elections in the private sector.
CIR-SEIU is the largest house staff union in the United States and is a local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). It represents more than 20,000 resident physicians and fellows.
In a statement, Stanford Health Care said it doesn't 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," the hospital said.