For Immediate Release
Press Contact: Dara Streit
Over 1,400 Resident Physicians at the University of Pennsylvania Are Unionizing for Better Working Conditions and Patient Care
The Philadelphia doctors would be the first residency program in Pennsylvania to unionize
Philadelphia, PA — Following a historic wave of workers unionizing across the United States, a supermajority of the 1,400+ resident and fellow physicians employed by the University of Pennsylvania Health System demanded voluntary recognition of their union with the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU). This move makes the Philadelphia doctors the first housestaff to organize with CIR in Pennsylvania, a state without any unionized residency programs. Penn residents union effort is the latest addition to a growing movement, with their announcement marking the eighth group of resident physicians to join with CIR in the past eleven months.
Resident-led organizing efforts first began early in the pandemic, when housestaff were denied their regular cost of living increase. After struggling for months to advocate to hospital management for urgently-needed improvements to their working conditions and patient care without success, it became clear to Penn housestaff that forming a union was the best way to make their voices heard.
“As residents, we have very little power to improve working conditions or address important patient care needs through the official channels” said Dr. Jackson Steinkamp a resident physician in Internal Medicine at Penn. “But through our union, we will have a seat at the table to push for changes we need to best do our jobs.”
The University of Pennsylvania hospitals are among the nation’s top medical centers, yet residents say that their low pay, the rising costs of living and a national culture of overwork that often leads to burnout, depression and even suicide, is pushing many to their breaking point.
“We chose to train at an academically rigorous and highly-respected institution, but we expect more from Penn than just a fancy name,” said Dr. Chantal Tapé, a third-year resident physician in Family Medicine at Penn. “We are human beings first and foremost. If we’re sacrificing our physical and mental health, our financial stability, and our personal relationships in order to provide care, that means our healthcare system is failing.”
Penn’s main medical campus is located in West Philadelphia, in a city with the highest disease burden in the state and a population with the least access to good paying jobs, affordable childcare and other basic societal needs. Amid the ongoing pandemic and a housing crisis, Penn housestaff cite unionizing as a way to advance health equity in West Philadelphia communities.
“We serve one of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable patient populations, who already face huge obstacles to accessing care,” said Dr. Madison Sharp, a third-year OB/GYN resident at Penn. “We are deeply committed to our patients, many of whom have complex medical conditions. We do these patients a disservice when we are not provided with what we need to be the best doctors we can possibly be.”
The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest house staff union in the United States. A local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 24,000 resident physicians and fellows. Our members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities.