Above photo: Leah Rethy, an internal medicine resident with Penn Medicine, holds her 17-month-old son, Peter. Kimberly Paynter/WHYY.
The Largest Victory of Its Kind in Philadelphia in Over 50 Years.
After a months-long organizing campaign, the resident and fellow physicians at the University of Pennsylvania overwhelmingly voted to unionize with the Committee of Interns and Residents. With 88% of participants voting in favor, the frontline Penn Medicine doctors are the first statewide to gain union representation.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – After a months-long organizing campaign, the resident and fellow physicians at the University of Pennsylvania overwhelmingly voted to unionize with the Committee of Interns and Residents. With 88% of participants voting in favor, the frontline Penn Medicine doctors are the first statewide to gain union representation.
Working at one of the region’s largest healthcare providers, Penn’s frontline physicians look forward to advocating for the conditions they need to provide top-quality care without compromising their mental, physical, or financial wellbeing. Despite working at one of the wealthiest university systems in the country, residents often struggle to make ends meet.
“At the end of the day, the prestige of working at a nationally ranked hospital like Penn isn’t enough to ensure our patients receive top quality care, to meet our basic needs or to address the deeper inequities of our healthcare system,” said Dr. Madison Sharp, a third-year Ob/Gyn resident. “Winning representation is a huge step toward addressing these issues and raising care standards for all of us.”
The young doctors’ victory marks a significant moment for the labor movement in Philadelphia, as it is the largest successful union election in over 53 years. “We are so proud to be a part of this city’s rich tradition of labor organizing and collective action,” said Dr. Kendall Major, a second year internal medicine resident. “The road to this day was not easy, but it was worth it. As the primary caregivers for many of our most vulnerable community members, we need a say in the decisions that impact our ability to care for patients.
After first going public with their union effort in February, Penn residents endured months of aggressive anti-union campaigning from their employer. CIR/SEIU has already filed one unfair labor practice charge against the university for their conduct in the lead up to their election.
State Senator Nikil Saval spoke in solidarity with the physicians, saying that “Penn residents and fellows have made history as the first housestaff in Pennsylvania to unionize, changing the landscape of what’s possible. I am proud to welcome them into Philly’s indomitable union family, and I will be standing with them as they fight for their first contract. Protecting the health and wellbeing of these workers is crucial to ensuring all Philadelphians receive the world class healthcare that Penn is famous for, and that everyone deserves.”
Having secured union representation, the residents are excited to start negotiating a fair first contract with the support of their community. “Congratulations to the residents and fellows at the University of Pennsylvania for their incredible victory. These frontline doctors work hard to take care of everyone in the Philadelphia community, and I look forward to supporting them by working to provide a fair process as they begin negotiating a fair contract,” State Senator Anthony H. Williams said.
The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest housestaff union in the United States. A local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 25,000 resident physicians and fellows. Our members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities.