Unionized residents and interns reached an agreement with University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland (CHO), averting a strike and tentatively ensuring better pay, housing stipends, relocation bonuses, and meal allowances.
The doctors are represented by the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR), which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
“I’m so thrilled that we’ve finally reached a resolution with CHO, without being forced to spend any time away from our patients,” Jay Kwon, MD, a second-year pediatrics resident at the hospital, said in a statement. “All we want is to keep giving our all to the families we serve without wondering if we’re going to be able to pay our rent or care for our own families, and this contract gets us a lot closer to that being the case.”
The proposed tentative contract includes a 6% wage increase in the first year and 4% in the second and third years, a housing stipend increase starting with $11,000 in the first year and $11,805 in the second, a $2,400 relocation bonus, a 40% increase in meal allowances, and improvements in both parental leave and educational funding.
“The previous contract was insufficient for the frontline physicians, who live in one of the nation’s most expensive regions while often carrying over $200,000 in student loan debt,” according to the union’s statement. The new one will “help guarantee that the hospital can continue to recruit talented and diverse physicians who reflect the community they serve.”
According to the statement, residents regularly work over 70 hours a week. Nearly all voted in favor of authorizing their bargaining committee to call a strike. Negotiations between the union and the Oakland hospital took 6 months.
Residents often serve as primary care physicians for children at the region’s only pediatric safety-net hospital, the union’s statement noted.
The agreement comes on the heels of other union actions by residents and fellows. In June, for example, a resident strike was averted at Los Angeles County public hospitals.
Two resident physicians in Los Angeles County wrote an opinion piece for MedPage Today in the lead-up to labor negotiations, saying the shift in demands on residents, the pandemic, the cost of living, and massive student debt had driven them to organize.
“Between trying to stay afloat financially and contending with the persistent hazing culture and labor exploitation that is commonplace in medical training, it’s no wonder that residents nationwide experience startlingly high rates of depression, burnout, and even suicide — all of which impact patient care,” they stated.
In May, residents and fellows voted to unionize with CIR-SEIU at Stanford Health Care, seeking better disability equity, housing stipends, parental leave, childcare support, and benefits.
Other residents and fellows also have unionized this year, including those at UMass Memorial Health, the University of Vermont Medical Center, and the University of Southern California-Keck.