Kaiser Residents & Fellows Unionize – Cheers to the Next Steps!

This article is reprinted from the Speak Out Now healthcare newsletter at Kaiser and Highland Hospitals in Oakland, CA.

There’s something to celebrate at Kaiser Permanente Northern California: residents and fellow physicians have unionized, and joined Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU). Kaiser is one of the largest healthcare providers in the state, and the city of Oakland’s largest employer. Most of Kaiser’s workforce, minus physicians, is already unionized. Residents and fellows are the first group of doctors in the system to unionize. Let’s hope that more doctors will join Kaiser’s unionized workers; the more of us in a union, the more we are all protected, and everyone’s working conditions improve. In addition, unionized healthcare workers lead to better patient outcomes.

99% of residents and fellows who participated in the vote to unionize, voted in favor of the union. CIR represents about 32,000 resident physicians and fellows around the country. Since 2022, membership has jumped by about 60%, including the addition of 1,500 Stanford Health Care residents and fellows who reached their first contract with Stanford in late 2023. Now that Kaiser residents have joined the union, the total percentage of residents represented by CIR/SEIU in California is up to 82%.

Residents are the doctors that most patients interact with, regularly working over 80-hour weeks across multiple facilities. Despite this, they have had little say in decisions that directly impact patient care and working conditions. In addition, these doctors in the Bay Area face cost-of-living challenges, because their pay is around $60,000-$80,000. Residents are typically part of a 3-6 year training program, depending on medical specialty, and fellows generally train for 1-2 years. This means that their roles are temporary, and that they will eventually transition out of both their positions and union to become doctors. As as result, now more than ever is the time to fight for a contract that will protect this batch of residents and fellows, and the next cohort of residents and fellows coming down the pipeline.

Click here to read the article printed in the 06-04-24 Healthcare Newsletter