The Oakland, Calif.-based Union of American Physicians and Dentists last week voted to affiliate with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The move creates an alliance of 8,000 private- and public-sector doctors.
The unions said the deal will position them to expand membership, strengthen lobbying and counter the negative forces of for-profit healthcare, such as deselection of physicians by HMOs. "We now have the resources to counter the mega-greed of HMOs," said UAPD President Robert Weinmann, M.D.
The UAPD has 5,000 members, nearly all in California. Half are in private practice and half work for state and county government, Executive Director Gary Robinson said.
He said the union considered other partners, but AFSCME was the best fit, partly because it represents 3,000 physicians, most of whom are public employees in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Florida and Illinois.
"They already know what we're interested in," Robinson said.
He said the affiliation provides the UAPD with an infrastructure to recruit members outside its home state, and AFSCME offers a top-notch research staff and strong political pull. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee heads President Clinton's healthcare quality commission. AFSCME also agreed to let the UAPD keep its identity.
AFSCME-the AFL-CIO's second-largest affiliate, with 1.3 million members-will net hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues through the deal. When it's fully phased in after four years, AFSCME will receive $6.15 per member per month from the UAPD.
The UAPD said 90% of its members voted for the affiliation.