Residents and fellows at Loma Linda University Health in California succeeded in their National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) vote, the latest in a flood of similar unionization activity at institutions across the country.
However, Loma Linda has continued to push back against these efforts, even following the residents and fellows’ vote, the results of which were recorded at the end of June. Residents and fellows at Loma Linda voted in favor of unionization through the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD), according to the NLRB, with 361 votes in favor of unionization and 144 votes against.
“I’m very proud to be a part of the organizing committee for Loma Linda, because we worked very hard to win this election,” Jessica Muñoz, MD, an emergency medicine resident physician at the medical center, told Medpage Today.
However, it’s been a winding road to the tally. And uncertainties remain amid the success.
Residents and fellows at Loma Linda filed their petition with the NLRB back in February, according to the NLRB. But by March, Loma Linda had filed a lawsuit against the NLRB, challenging the board’s authority over it due to its status as a religious educational institution. A federal judge dismissed the case in April, though Loma Linda then appealed that decision.
“Throughout this process, we have maintained that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over LLUHEC [Loma Linda University Health Education Consortium] as a religious educational institution,” a spokesperson for Loma Linda said in a statement provided to MedPage Today in an email. “Our position is based on LLUHEC’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment, as well as established legal protections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Under these stipulations and with the support of the Loma Linda University Health Education Consortium Board of Directors, LLUHEC will not be bargaining with UAPD and will be pursuing our constitutional and legal objections within the court system. We have sent an official notification regarding this decision to UAPD.”
“We continue to have great respect for our residents and fellows,” the spokesperson added, “and are unwavering in our commitment to continuing to collaborate closely with them, equipping them with faith-based training and education that is foundational in both research pursuits and in the delivery of healthcare to our community.”
In addition to its objection based on its status as a religious institution, Loma Linda has also argued against unionization efforts by its residents and fellows by stating that they are students rather than employees, as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.
Ultimately, however, the pushback was not enough to stop the vote. Ballots were mailed in May and tallied last month.
Now, the focus will be on finding a way to bring Loma Linda to the bargaining table, according to Muñoz.
“We’ve sacrificed so much, and at the very least, our basic needs need to be met,” Muñoz said.
Her hope is that current efforts by residents and fellows will help to improve working conditions for future generations.
“Despite all of the challenges, people still voted, and we won,” Muñoz said. “We’re going to continue to fight to have a say in our contract.”