Allina physicians move to unionize

A group of Allina Health physicians and practitioners have filed a petition seeking to vote on whether to join the Doctors Council, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.  

The petition was filed Aug. 11 on behalf of full-time, part-time and per diem physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants employed by Allina Health practicing primary/urgent care at its clinics, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Members of the group work at locations in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Allina Health is based in Minneapolis.

The NLRB provides various paths to forming a union. It will conduct an election if at least 30 percent of workers sign cards or a petition indicating their support for unionization, according to its website. Workers would then vote on whether to unionize. Employers may also voluntarily recognize a union based on signed union-authorization cards or other evidence. 

If workers vote to unionize in an election at Allina Health, the vote would cover 560 workers, the petition states.

Physicians do not have as much time with patients or control over care quality due to administrative burdens, Matt Hoffman, MD, a lead organizer who practices at Allina Health's Vadnais Heights (Minn.) primary care clinic, said, according to the Star Tribune.

"Unionization is really the path that we have in order to have our voices heard regarding patient care," Dr. Hoffman said, according to the newspaper.

The latest physician-led organizing campaign is the second recent one at Allina Health. Earlier this year, physicians at Allina Health's Mercy Hospital campuses filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a union representation election. That effort also involves the Doctors Council.

Allina Health, in a statement shared with Becker's, said it "deeply value[s] the critical role our providers play in providing exceptional care to the communities we serve. We are actively engaged in listening to them and responding with changes to better support their ability to care for patients and their well-being. Allina Health remains focused on delivering on our caring mission and ongoing efforts to foster a culture of collaboration and communication with all our employees."

Unionization has gained traction among physicians in recent years, and a number of factors are driving the trend. Physicians are seeking greater investments by hospitals in working conditions, staffing and pay. Hospitals and health systems, meanwhile, emphasize their commitment to quality care and these professionals. They also express their respect for workers' rights while maintaining their preference to work directly with workers.

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