12 July 2023 |
After an embattled four months, Loma Linda residents and fellows announced on a pro-union Instagram page that they won the legal case against Loma Linda administration and were officially permitted to unionize on June 22, 2023. The post declared, “WE WON OUR UNION!!! After years of hard work we finally did it! A decisive victory with over 70% of voters saying YES to union representation. The final tally is 361 YES votes to 144 no votes.”
The petition to unionize was filed with the National Labor Relations Board on February 13, 2023, and included a number of demands and concerns regarding physician burnout, excessive scheduling, and a safer working environment.
On March 14, 2023, the Loma Linda University Healthcare Education Consortium (LLUHEC) filed a lawsuit against the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that the union would impinge on the institution’s religious freedom, and that residents and fellows are students instead of physicians, meaning that they would not have the right to unionize.
On May 25, 2023, LLUHEC’s lawsuit was dismissed by the court, with the judge’s statement delineating that “this is a highly unusual case factually and legally. While Loma Linda Health may be a religious educational institution, the medical residents and fellows it employs are neither required nor expected to be religiously affiliated.” Additionally, the judge wrote that “because Loma Linda Health raises a novel First Amendment claim that rests on complicated factual determinations, it has not demonstrated the type of clear and mandatory constitutional prohibition that is needed to establish district court jurisdiction in this case.”
Ballots were mailed out for the union vote by May 31, 2023, and the vote concluded by June 16, 2023. A number of rallies were held in the meantime, with residents, fellows, and allies speaking out about their experiences and the importance of taking care of those who have dedicated their lives to taking care of others. One ally, Harold Turner, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) spoke at one of the rallies, saying:
“We teach people how to survive mental illness… the core of what we are trying to do is to get them to engage in self care, and that seems to be overlooked in the way the hospital operates with regard to their employees….it occurs to me that this is truly a case of: The cobbler’s children have no shoes. If you fail to take care of your own, we all pay the price. We’ve invested a lot in these young people, and our future depends on them.”
On June 22, 2023, the official results came in with 361 “yes” votes…more than double the “no” votes.
As of early July, LLUHEC stands by the following statement:
Loma Linda University Health Education Consortium (LLUHEC) received the certified results of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union election. The majority of those residents and fellows who participated in the election voted in favor of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists. Throughout this process, we have maintained that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over LLUHEC as a religious educational institution. 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. While we continue to have the greatest respect for our residents and fellows, we will pursue our constitutional and other legal objections based on the teachings of our faith, which guide all aspects of the medical education we provide.