UChicago Medicine residents, fellows vote to unionize

More than 1,000 residents and fellows at University of Chicago Medicine have voted to unionize, joining their peers at other large Chicago-area health systems.

The doctors hope to soon negotiate their first contract with UChicago Medicine. They’re looking for improved pay and working conditions. Residents often work at hospitals after earning medical degrees, as they train to become specific types of doctors. Fellows are doctors pursuing additional training after their residencies.

The residents often work more than 80-hour weeks, yet can struggle financially and have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt, according to the committee.

“While we love our jobs and caring for our patients, we do not have an endless supply of stamina and capacity. We are human beings who must have our basic needs met,” Dr. Aisha Amuda, a fourth-year resident in internal medicine and pediatrics, said in a news release. “We are now in a position to advocate for necessary improvements to our working conditions that directly impact the quality of care our patients receive.”

University of Chicago Medical Center said in a statement Monday that it will “in the near future” begin the collective bargaining process with the union “in order to craft a fair and equitable contract that supports the needs of our trainees, our patients and our institution.”

“This group of 1,040 residents and fellows are integral members of our clinical teams, and they provide exceptional care to our patients and community,” the medical center said in the statement. “Just as we did before the vote, UCMC is committed to continuing to foster an exceptional learning and care environment for our residents and fellows.”

Of those who voted on whether to unionize, 98% voted in favor of unionization under the Committee of Interns and Residents. The committee represents more than 33,000 resident physicians and fellows across the country and is part of the Service Employees International Union. The UChicago Medicine doctors first filed a petition in April with the National Labor Relations Board to hold a formal election to decide whether to unionize under the committee.

The UChicago Medicine residents and fellows are part of a growing movement by doctors at Chicago area health systems to unionize. Earlier this year, a majority of 1,300 residents and fellows at Northwestern Medicine voted for union representation by the Committee of Interns and Residents. In 2021, more than 800 residents, fellows and interns at University of Illinois at Chicago formed a union under the Committee.