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Doctors Unionizing

In March 2023, approximately 100 physicians at a Minneapolis hospital owned by Allina Health voted to unionize. Just seven months later, over 400 primary care physicians employed in clinics owned by the same health system also voted to join the Doctors Council of the Service Employees International Union.  

This recent push to unionize is likely being fueled by the consolidation of health care companies and health systems, which are employing more and more doctors, combined with the strain of the pandemic.

Some mistakenly believe that unionization is not available to doctors because the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does not apply to supervisors, meaning generally individuals who have the power to hire, fire and direct other employees.  

However, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), as recently as 2022, in the Piedmont Health Services case, concluded that physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants may not be supervisors under the NLRA. Due to the management and operational structure of the employer, the NLRB found that the physicians did not routinely direct other employees, assign work or engage in personnel decisions, but their primary role was the provision of health care services to patients.

Some doctors question union membership for many reasons. For example, some disfavor the concept because collective bargaining agreements rarely reward high performers.  Others express concerns about striking, since strikes can, of course, negatively impact patient care and health outcomes.

In any case, presently about eight percent of practicing physicians in the United States are union members, and it will be interesting to see if that percentage does or does not grow in the coming years.

Tonya R. Foley
410-576-4238 • tfoley@gfrlaw.com



March 13, 2024




Foley, Tonya R.


Health Care