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Resident physicians at Montefiore Medical Center voted to join SEIU’s Committee of Interns and Residents, the union announced Feb. 23.
The vast majority of fellows and interns at the Bronx hospital – 82 percent – voted in favor of unionizing, according to a press release, which noted that 63 percent of eligible residents participated. Ballots were mailed out to residents Jan. 26 and returned by Feb. 16.
The majority of medical residents working at other facilities in the Bronx were already unionized, as were Montefiore residents during the 1970s, the workers noted.
“After being one of the last programs in the Bronx without union representation, winning a seat at the table and joining our unionized peers is long overdue,” said Isuree Katugampala, a third-year pediatrics resident at Montefiore. “We are proud to build on the incredible legacy of our predecessors, and progress further toward a compassionate, equitable model of care.”
The doctors-in-training began organizing during the summer of 2020 amid Covid safety concerns. Montefiore residents announced their intent to unionize at a rally held outside of the hospital last November. Residents said that they typically worked 60-80 hours a week and were often understaffed.
Although Montefiore residents earned up to $80,000 annually, their pay averaged between $14-$17 an hour because of their long hours, according to the union. Workers at the rally said they began organizing in order to secure better pay, improve working conditions and also to boost staffing ratios. Improving patient care was also a priority: the Bronx has the worst health outcomes of any county in the state.
“This organizing effort is a huge first step toward community-conscious healthcare that meets the needs of patients and doctors alike,” Sejal Shah, a second-year resident in internal medicine at Montefiore, said in a statement. “We are one of the Bronx’s only safety net hospitals; it is crucial that we are able to advocate effectively to maintain quality care and working standards.”
Physician assistants at Montefiore voted to join 1199SEIU last November, while nurses at the facility won a contract that included 19-percent raises after going on a three-day strike in January. The Committee of Interns and Residents, which represents 24,000 resident physicians across the country, will represent about 1,200 doctors-in-training at Montefiore.
State Senator Gustavo Rivera, the chair of the Committee on Health and who represents the portion of the Bronx where the hospital is located, said he looked forward to supporting the residents “as they bargain for the fair contract they deserve.”
The residents previously called on the hospital to voluntarily recognize the union, which Montefiore declined to do.
In a statement, the hospital said that it “respects our interns, residents and fellows’ right to join a union. Now that the election process is complete, we will enter the bargaining process in good faith.”
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