UC Resident Physicians and Fellows Complete First-Ever State Table Negotiations to Improve System-Wide Standards of Care

Oakland, CA– After years of a resident-led organizing effort across all eight residency programs in the University of California system and united under the Committee of Interns and Residents, UC resident physicians and fellows recently completed their first collective state table negotiations and are in the process of beginning bargaining at the local level. This historic effort is the largest of its kind nationally, with over 6,000 residents advocating for system-wide change to improve care standards statewide.

The state table negotiations resulted in crucial system-wide agreements between the physicians and UC leadership on grievance and arbitration, release time for union activity, non-discrimination in employment and more. In winning universal contract language on grievance and arbitration, residents won a fight that began at the UCSF bargaining table in 2018 and resulted in the passage of AB 615 last year.

With these victories, the frontline healthcare workers are more united than ever across the UC system as they start bargaining at the local level for their individual programs. “This was a really exciting process–just working together as a group across campuses to make decisions was in and of itself a powerful learning experience,” said Dr. Paul Wallace, a third-year psychiatry resident at UCSF. “We are stronger in our ability to work together, we notched some wins and we have a better understanding of the system, which will prepare us to win strong contracts at all of our programs.”

Still, residents were disappointed that the Office of the President failed to take full advantage of this opportunity to make systemic changes, refusing to come to agreements on several substantive issues, including women’s health coverage. “We could have done this the easy way and negotiated a set of standardized, comprehensive benefits for all UC residents at the state table–but the UC leadership decided to take the harder route,” said Dr. Nekisa Haghighat, a second-year psychiatry resident at the University of California-Riverside. “But we’re ready for that too–I’m deeply optimistic about our ability to coordinate statewide to win in this next phase and to meaningfully raise standards for ourselves and our patients.”

The historic 1UC campaign was driven in large part by the collective experience of residents serving on the frontlines throughout the pandemic. Residents have experienced more severe stress, overwork and trauma on the job than ever, all while dealing with the ever-rising cost of living and inflation throughout California and while carrying in many cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt. In addition to a sharp increase in physician burnout, COVID-19 exacerbated the pervasive racial and economic inequities within California’s largest healthcare system. The organizing effort aims to raise the floor of working conditions and standards in residency for the benefit of both the UC’s frontline doctors and the communities they serve.

“Our advocacy does not stop here,” said Dr. Haghighat. “We are fighting to address the inequities we see every day in healthcare, especially in communities of color that rely on the UC system. This is why we came together to form 1UC: for our communities, for our families, and for the doctors that come after us.”

The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest housestaff union in the United States. A local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 20,000 resident physicians and fellows. Our members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities.