Children's National accuses unionized physicians of violating 'no strike clause'

Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., is seeking legal action against the union representing resident physicians related to a demonstration last year, DCist reported April 20.

On Nov. 15, resident physicians and fellows at Children's National, represented by the Committee of Interns and Residents, held a "unity break" amid contract negotiations. The union said the action was "to bring attention to their ongoing struggle for a fair contract that allows them to adequately care for their young patients without burning out." The action occurred as respiratory syncytial virus cases surged across the U.S. At the time, the union cited concerns about staffing, the well-being of resident physicians and pay.

A three-year union contract was recognized in December and includes a salary increase upward of 12.5 percent over the life of the agreement, a $5,000 annual mental health stipend, and a patient safety committee, according to DCist

But, the publication reported, Children's National claims resident physicians violated the "no strike clause" in the contract, while the union argues its members had a legal right to demonstrate. The union described the action as a "unity break" rather than a work stoppage. Residents participated during their time off, and the demonstration was held off-campus, DCist reported. 

According to DCist, the direct clause within the contract states: "CIR, its officers, agents, representatives and members shall not in any way, directly or indirectly authorize, cause, participate in, encourage, condone or ratify any strike, sympathy strike, sit-down, sit-in, slowdown, cessation or stoppage of work, boycott, picketing or other interference with or interruption of work at the hospital or other sites where residents perform work in connection with their employment with the hospital."

The union told Becker's in a statement that "resident physicians spoke out in a torrential downpour in November, off their hospital grounds, completely legally to demand better for themselves and their patients, and they won an incredible contract as a result of their unified fight. 

"That the hospital would then take this completely without merit legal action is ridiculous and a waste of the physicians' time even as they continue to exhaust themselves caring for … children. … The physicians are organizing to push the hospital to drop this absurd grievance, and they should do so. We believe that what this really shows is that hospitals around the country are scared of the power physicians are building together, and they're scrambling to set the clocks back in time."

A Children's National spokesperson told Becker's the hospital can't comment on pending legal action. 

Children's National is filing for arbitration, which is different than a lawsuit, while the union is hoping the hospital will drop the allegations before going through arbitration, according to DCist.

Read the full report here

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