LA County's tentative labor deal heads off 1,300-physician strike at 3 public hospitals

A union representing more than 1,300 interns and resident physicians at three Los Angeles County public hospitals has come to terms with the county on tentative contract terms, averting a three-day strike slated to begin June 13.

The deal was proposed Friday night after more than 20 hours of “intensive bargaining” between the parties that began Wednesday, the LA County Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) said.

Members working at LAC+USC Medical Center, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Martin Luther King Jr. Outpatient Center will vote to ratify the new contract “in the coming week,” the union said.

“With our organizing, our power as workers, and the threat of our impending strike, we convinced the county to move dramatically in negotiations towards what we need to care for ourselves and our patients–further than they ever have in CIR’s history with the county,” Monique Hedmann, M.D., a second-year family medicine resident at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, CIR regional vice president and bargaining team member, said in a statement.

Ninety-nine percent of union members had voted in favor of authorizing a strike at the end of May. CIR—a local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representing more than 22,000 resident physicians and fellows—gave the county notice of their plans to strike June 2.

At the time, CIR said its decision was spurred by “months of bad-faith and unlawful contract negotiations on the part of LA County.” A June strike would have been the union’s first in 32 years.

The union briefly announced the tentative resolution Monday afternoon before sharing more details on the proposal in a Wednesday press release.

The new deal, according to the union, proposes average salary increases of 5.5% during the contract’s first year and 3.25% increases for the following two years. It also includes a $3,000 increase in housing stipends, a signing bonus for incoming interns and $125,000 for “diverse recruitment efforts.”

The contract deal represents a 14.5% raise for first-year residents, who CIR previously said work 80-hour weeks and “make as little as $14 an hour.” The union said the proposed contract will help attract more doctors to the hospitals and its communities.

“Our goal was always to get a strong contract, and what really matters is that this proposal contains real material gains that will help the new interns who are starting this summer right away in their first months in LA,” Hedmann said.

Fierce Healthcare has reached out to LA County and will update this story with any new information.