Medical school residents at Western Michigan University vote to unionize

The vote among residents at the WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine could allow them to form the Resident and Fellow Alliance.

Residents at a medical school associated with Western Michigan University have voted to unionize.

The WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, or WMed, is a partnership between WMU, Ascension Borgess and Bronson Healthcare.

The vote among residents at WMed could allow them to form the Resident and Fellow Alliance.

Jamil Khondker is a resident physician in psychiatry and a member of the organizing committee. He said residents can often find themselves in vulnerable situations.

“We essentially sign a contract before we even know where we’re going just by entering the match system, saying we’re going to work at a place for 3 to 5 years. And we can’t leave our job once we get there if we’re not satisfied with the conditions or the pay. We don’t really have much of an ability to negotiate,” Khondker said.

Organizers say over 90% of residents that voted in last week’s tally supported unionization.

The Resident and Fellow Alliance at WMed would be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO unions, according to a press release from AFT Michigan.

Khondker said some common concerns that unionizing can help address include those around benefits, safety conditions and compensation.

“We work 60 to 80 hours a week on average. On an hourly basis, we earn less than many low-wage workers, which I think is a shock to many people,” Khondker said.

He said he hopes to start negotiations as soon as possible to reach a deal for next year. So far, he said, WMed has been approaching the move toward unionization fairly.

“We respect our residents’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, and we respect their decision to be represented by the Resident and Fellow Alliance. Once the union is certified by the NLRB, we look forward to meeting with them to listen to our residents’ proposals and to bargain in good faith to reach an agreement,” the statement from the school’s interim dean Dr. Robert Sawyer read.

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