Hospitalists in Oregon and Washington vote to unionize 

Doctors at six Legacy Health hospitals in Oregon and Washington voted overwhelmingly to unionize; the vote was certified by the National Labor Relations Board Nov. 17. Hospital doctors, or hospitalists, are unionizing to improve local healthcare and to give frontline providers a voice in the decisions that impact their patients’ care, communities’ health and hospital working conditions.

Photo of Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital
Doctors at six Legacy Health hospitals in Oregon and Washington voted to join the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association/AFT.

“We’re caring for more people who are sicker than ever before. We need more staff to give our patients the time and attention they need,” says Eric Seymour, a pediatric hospitalist at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Ore. “Hospital administrators aren’t at the bedside to see the problems and aren’t listening to providers’ solutions. We voted to unionize so the people caring for you can advocate for you and your family. We need a seat at the table to ensure we have the staff, tools and support we need to properly care for our patients.”

The new hospitalist group will join the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association—a physician and advanced practice provider union represented by the AFT and staffed by the Oregon Nurses Association.

Hospitalists at Legacy are the latest frontline healthcare workers to join Oregon’s “white coat labor movement.” Earlier this year, doctors and advanced practice providers voted to unionize at Legacy hospitals, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Providence Women’s Clinics, Providence Home Health and Hospice, and Providence Medford Medical Center. Nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, registered nurses, social workers and genetic counselors at Legacy’s women’s health clinics in Oregon and Washington also filed for a union election to join ONA Nov. 9.

The new union hospitalists at Legacy work at:

  • Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland
  • Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland
  • Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland
  • Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin
  • Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham
  • Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash.

Although unionized nurses have been advocating for better patient care and working conditions in Oregon for more than 100 years, new groups of Oregon healthcare workers are now joining or forming their own unions in large numbers. Twenty years ago, few physicians in the United States were part of a union, but as healthcare systems have become larger and more corporate, doctors see collective bargaining as the best way to ensure their voices are heard in decisions that affect their patients and their profession.

“The hospital works best when physicians have a strong voice, and Legacy truly needs our help running the hospital and fixing our many systemic issues,” says Dr. Rob Morgan, an internal medicine physician at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center and Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. “We got into medicine to help people, but we can't help anyone if we're not healthy ourselves. Through our union, I hope we can build back a strong long-term relationship with hospital leadership that prioritizes our well-being and necessary resources for providing safe, sustainable, high-quality patient care now and in the future. I love working at Legacy, and I love all the frontline staff here. It's my sincerest hope to work here for the rest of my career in medicine.”

With the vote, roughly 200 hospitalists employed by Legacy Health have joined the approximately 700 ONA nurses and mental and behavioral health professionals already employed by the system, making it one of the largest hospitalist union groups in the country.

[Adrienne Coles, ONA press release]