Health & Medicine

Union can represent fellows and residents at UC Davis Health, California labor board says

Watch UC Davis residents and fellows demand university recognize their union

Physician residents and fellows at the UC Davis Medical Center rallied May 1, 2019 to urge leaders at the University of California, Davis, to recognize the union they elected in April to represent them.
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Physician residents and fellows at the UC Davis Medical Center rallied May 1, 2019 to urge leaders at the University of California, Davis, to recognize the union they elected in April to represent them.

California’s Public Employment Relations Board, the agency charged with enforcing collective bargaining laws for public workers, has certified that the Committee of Interns and Residents can represent roughly 800 fellows and residents at UC Davis Health in collective bargaining with management.

“We want UC Davis Medical Center to meet us at the table, so that we can begin to negotiate a fair contract that values the work of resident physicians and ultimately helps improve patient care,” said Dr. Edwin Kulubya, a neurosurgery resident, in a prepared news release.

UCD Health residents and fellows, also known as house staff, signed documents authorizing CIR to represent them, and CIR submitted the signed documents to PERB in March for review. The labor panel compared the signatures with information provided by UCD Health to determine validity and approved the submissions on May 9.

On May 1, UCD Health residents and fellows rallied outside UC Davis Medical Center, urging management to come to the bargaining table. At that event, Dr. Debi Thomas, a general surgery resident, said that physician trainees are combating stressors that include medical student debt, rising costs of living in Sacramento and the high cost of child care. She and Dr. Arunima Kohli, a second-year family practice resident, say they also want a collective voice to advocate for better care for our patients.

CIR, a unit of the Service Employees International Union, represents more than 16,000 providers nationwide, about 7,000 of them in California. The union’s oldest local is at Oakland’s Highland Hospital and two of its more recent locals have launched at UCLA and UC San Francisco medical facilities.

Residents have seen a number of gains after organizing at other hospitals, including housing stipends, child care, better parking after leaving long shifts and gathering spaces for residents. The union would give residents and fellows the ability to share concerns with the administration and negotiate without fear of reprisals, Kohli and Thomas told The Sacramento Bee.

CIR’s expansion into University of California medical centers comes despite predictions that the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling last June would cripple unions. In the decision, the high court said that, if public-sector employees refuse union membership, they cannot be compelled to pay union fees. CIR officials said union dues will amount to about 1.6 percent of pay for residents, fellows and interns.

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