Members of a union representing 1,300 resident physicians and fellows at three Los Angeles County hospitals have voted to authorize a strike," the labor organization announced Tuesday.
Doctors at Los Angeles County+University of Southern California Medical Center in Los Angeles, Harbor-University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center in West Carson and Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center in Los Angeles voted 99% in favor of allowing their bargaining committee to call a strike over what they deem to be unfair labor practices. Voting took place between May 16 and May 30.
The Committee of Interns and Residents, a local chapter of Service Employees International Union, maintains that the county has left workers "no choice but to be ready to strike, failing a resolution in the coming days," the union said in a news release.
"The results of our vote show how committed we are across our hospitals and across our departments to taking this next step if we need to," Dr. Mahima Iyengar, a resident at LAC+USC Medical Center and a Committee of Interns and Residents regional vice president, said in the news release.
Los Angeles County emphasized that talks with the union continue. "Negotiations are ongoing, and the county remains hopeful of reaching a fair and fiscally responsible contract with our labor partners. The authorization vote by the Committee of Interns and Residents is not a strike and services to the public are continuing without interruption," the county said in a statement.
The Committee of Interns and Residents' bargaining team plans to meet with county negotiators for additional sessions this week, the news release said.
Resident physicians and fellows are working under an expired contract and the county has "has failed to make movement on key union proposals," according to the union. Workers are asking for raises. Currently, first-year residents make $14 an hour and work 80-hour a week, the union said.
While a number of healthcare workers have gone on strike or organized new unions during the COVID-19 pandemic, most have involved nurses and other employees, not physicians. But last month, a majority of 1,500 interns, residents and fellows at Palo Alto, California-based Stanford Health Care voted to join the Committee of Interns and Residents. The union represents 22,000 resident physicians and fellows nationwide.
Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated the Stanford Health Care union vote was unanimous.