Mass General Brigham’s residents and fellows voted overwhelmingly to form a union, with 75 percent in favor, the National Labor Relations Board announced Thursday.
The total bargaining unit includes 2,304 interns, residents, chief residents, and fellows, 71 percent of whom voted in this week’s election. Of those voting, 1,215 voted to unionize under MGB Housestaff United, and 412 voted against unionization.
“It’s a definitive margin,” said Sarah Brown, a first-year primary care resident and organizing committee member. “The amount of people that showed up to the polls is incredible. We talked to our friends — our colleagues — we encouraged them to go to the polls. I don’t think any of us imagined that 1600 people would go to the polls.”
Parties have five business days from the announcement to file objections. Without objections, the NLRB will certify the result within the week and MGB Housestaff United will officially represent housestaff as their bargaining representative.
Mass General Brigham encompasses Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as several other New England-based hospitals.
Daniel B. Chonde, a clinical fellow in neuroradiology and organizing committee member, called the result a “resounding condemnation of the current system.”
Due to the large majority of “yes” votes, Will Ford — a first-year internal medicine resident and organizing committee member — said he’s confident “there won’t be any sort of scrutiny of our win.”
If certified, MGB Housestaff United would become the largest housestaff union in the United States, bargaining with the largest private employer in Massachusetts, MGB. The union is a chapter of the Committee for Interns and Residents, a local of the Service Employees International Union.
In a statement, MGB Interim Chief Academic Officer Paul J. Anderson said that he was “disappointed” with the election result but attributed it to a “continuing national trend among medical trainees seeking collective bargaining through union representation.”
“We will continue to deliver on our promise of providing a world-class medical education experience, working within the parameters that will be established by the collective bargaining process,” he wrote.
Ford said union representation equalizes the bargaining dynamic between housestaff and MGB, removing the “hierarchy in place” and bargaining “as equal partners.”
Since the unionization effort launched publicly in late February, residents and fellows have received a series of emails from program directors and MGB administrators encouraging them not to sign union authorization cards.
Kayty E.W. Himmelstein, an organizing committee member and infectious disease fellow, said those efforts only escalated as the election drew nearer.
“Up until the end, we were receiving sometimes multiple emails a day, both from hospital leadership as well as from people who more closely supervise us,” she said. “There were signs throughout the hospital encouraging us to vote no. We received text messages to our personal cell phones as well as multiple mailed appeals to our houses.”
“There was definitely just a very aggressive anti-union campaign,” she added.
MGB declined to voluntarily recognize the union in April after their card campaign concluded, and Senior Vice President of Enterprise Communications at Mass General Brigham Jennifer Street claimed organizers “pressured” trainees to sign cards.
The hospital system also received legal counsel from Jackson Lewis, an employment law firm, to represent it in discussions with the NLRB.
When clinical staff from McLean Hospital — an MGB member institution — unionized in 2022, the hospital paid labor consulting firms $1.7 million. The union, McLean United, won their election last April.
Once the result is certified, Brown and Himmelstein said the union will elect a bargaining committee and determine what members’ priorities are for the first contract negotiations.
According to Himmelstein, organizers anticipate using bargaining surveys to “make sure that the primary concerns of housestaff are what the bargaining committee is advocating for at the table.”