Providence hospital physicians seek union recognition

A group of emergency department physicians working at Providence Medford (Ore.) Medical Center filed with the National Labor Relations Board Feb. 10 for a union recognition election, according to an Oregon Nurses Association news release shared with Becker's.

The release states that the 15 physicians seek union recognition to address issues related to staffing, patient care and care access. If formed, the new group, Southern Oregon Providers Association, would partner with the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association, a union represented by the American Federation of Teachers Local 6552 and serviced by the ONA.

"Our patients have experienced increasing wait times and delays in care because of a lack of staff. In many cases I have had to transfer them to facilities hundreds of miles away because we don't have anyone who can perform certain procedures," David Levin, DO, said in the ONA release. "Providence management should be focusing on improving staffing and gaps in patient care, but when we repeatedly brought our concerns to their attention, we have been met with silence. Unionizing helps balance the scales between us and management so we can make this a place that patients recommend first to their loved ones, and a magnet workplace for providers."

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

Physicians at Providence Medford delivered a letter to hospital management petitioning for voluntary recognition, but the request was declined, according to the ONA release. The physicians then filed for a union recognition election through the NLRB.

In a statement shared with Becker's, Providence Medford said the hospital "respects the rights of caregivers to explore representation. We encourage people to learn as much as possible about joining a union before voting. To that end, we will provide open and transparent conversations, support and education so that they can make an informed decision.

"Consistent with our existing labor principles, we will follow the NLRB's process of a secret ballot election. Whatever outcome results, we will respect the decision, which is determined by the majority of eligible caregivers who vote."

Providence Medford is part of Providence, a 52-hospital organization with system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif. 

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