The medical residents of George Washington University Hospital voted on Tuesday to form a union. This comes about two months after they began organizing alongside their nursing colleagues.
The Committee of Interns and Residents, a local branch of the Service Employees International Union in Washington D.C. (SEIU), is the representative of residents employed by the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The results of the vote count on Thursday were overwhelming. 253 residents had voted for unionization, and only 16 people were against it.
The results of the election were a "monumental victory" for patients, co-workers, and our futures. Dr. Hannah Fairley said this after the vote. She is a resident in emergency medicine.
Fairley explained that they began the journey to unionize because of their concern about burnout among GW residents and fellows. They knew it was the only way to empower themselves and make a difference. 'Now that this has happened, we are excited to meet GW and negotiate a contract which reflects the knowledge, talent and care of these incredible doctors who now represent the George Washington Housestaff Union.
The National Labor Relations Board certifies the union before contract negotiations can start. Negotiations can take a few weeks or months to begin, but the goal is to start as soon as possible.
The union will be the first to represent clinical providers at GWU Hospital, located in Foggy Bottom. It is owned by Universal Health Services Inc., headquartered in King of Prussia (Pennsylvania). GWU's residents also work at health care sites in the District including the National Institutes of Health; Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center; and clinics for GW Medical Faculty Associates, the university-affiliated nonprofit physician network.
Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center, which UHS plans to operate when it opens in 2025, will also be staffed by GWU members.
We have contacted GWU to get a comment on this story and will update it as soon as we receive a response.
In February, GWU hospital nurses who were employed by UHS began to organize with the District of Columbia Nurses Association. Edward Smith, the executive director of DCNA, said earlier this week that they are now waiting for the NLRB regional director to determine the dates, times and locations of an election.
Both unionization campaigns are led by organizers who say they hope to achieve better working conditions and pay, while also advocating for equal care for their patients. These unionization efforts are part of a nationwide trend by health care workers to unionize, partly fueled by a Covid pandemic as well as heightened labor tensions.