The union for medical residents and fellows at Mass General Brigham has filed unfair labor practice charges against the state’s largest health system with the National Labor Relations Board, records show.
The Committee of Interns and Residents, a local of the Service Employees International Union, filed the complaint Friday, according to the federal agency’s website. It accuses the health system, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s, Mass Eye and Ear, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital — of “refusal to bargain/bad faith bargaining” and “repudiation/modification of contract.”
A copy of the complaint wasn’t immediately available Thursday morning, and union officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. According to the Harvard Crimson, which first reported on the complaint, the union is accusing Mass General Brigham of cutting department-specific stipends for electronics, board certification fees, licenses, and other professional development expenses in retaliation for a successful unionization vote in June.
“Changes to trainee benefits, which included a $10,000 stipend for residents and clinical fellows, were announced in March prior to both the petition for unionization and subsequent vote,” Mass General Brigham said in a statement.
“Across our health system, all stipend recipients saw an increase at the beginning of the academic/programmatic year, and we disagree with the assertion that benefits have been cut,” the statement continued. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with union representatives as we work toward a mutually beneficial labor agreement.”
The NLRB says on its website that the agency fields some 20,000 to 30,000 unfair labor practice charges annually from employees, unions, and employers, and that decisions on the merits of a charge normally take seven to 14 weeks, though some cases can take longer.
In June, medical residents and fellows voted 1,215 to 412 to join the Committee of Interns and Residents, or CIR, at the Service Employees International Union.
The work of residents and fellows has always been demanding, often including 80-hour work weeks. But some say the pressures have escalated in recent years, with training for some doctors becoming longer as more choose to sub-specialize in certain fields, including within surgery. Organizers said during the union drive that they were seeking better pay to accommodate the region’s high cost of living and financial support for child care. Other priorities include lower health insurance costs and compensation for supplies physicians use for work.
The MGB unionization joined a national trend. From early 2021 through June, CIR-SEIU membership nearly doubled from 17,000 to 30,000, as the pandemic put unprecedented strain on hospital staff. The union currently includes residents at Stanford Health Care, the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center in New York, and Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
In Massachusetts, Boston Medical Center and Cambridge Health Alliance have been unionized for several years. Residents and fellows at UMass Medical School unionized in 2021.
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report. This breaking news story will be updated when more information is released.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.