What does Resident unionizing at UW mean for me? A Guide for Applicants
Why did the Residents at UW unionize?
Compared to our peer institutions, the University of Washington offers lower salary and fewer benefits. Our current Resident salary is below the national average, which is especially problematic in the city of Seattle where the cost of living is 20% higher than the median based on the consumer price index. Moreover, according to a UW-commissioned survey of residency programs, 84% of programs offer free subsidized parking (UW offers none), 88% offer paid maternity leave (UW offers none), 89% offer paid paternity leave (UW offers none), and many programs offer paid holidays (UW offers none). Additionally, we do not receive any reimbursement for licensing fees, board examinations, and other professional expenses.
As a result of these deficiencies, Residents at the UW have struggled financially for many years. We have Residents on charity care at the hospitals where they work and others who depend on public assistance to pay their utility bills. Residents are routinely denied the option of moonlighting to pay their bills.
That’s why in the Fall of 2014 the Residents at UW overwhelmingly voted to unionize. For the last year we have been working with the UW to negotiate our first contract.
What is the Resident union?
The University of Washington Housestaff Association (UWHA) is the largest Resident union in the US and represents approximately 20% of physicians in King County. Its leadership is made up entirely of Residents, all volunteering their time. It has, at this point, no connection to any national union or labor organization.
What are the goals in negotiating a new contract?
The UWHA is working to negotiate a new contract that fixes the major hardships faced by Residents. Specifically, the primary objectives in negotiating a new contract include:
· A fair salary that reflects the valuable work done by Residents and adequately compensates them to live in Seattle.
· Childcare benefits and maternity/paternity leave.
· Free parking and mass transit subsidies.
· Protection of the Resident’s ability to moonlight.
How are the negotiations going?
Unfortunately, despite 12 months of negotiations, we have made little progress.
· Regarding salary, we asked to be paid a wage that takes into account the cost of living in Seattle. To reflect the valuable work done by Residents, we proposed that Residents should be paid at the 1st percentile of a first year Physician Assistant within our system. Instead, the UW proposed a 2% raise, which keeps Resident compensation below the national average and far below the cost of living.
· For parking, instead of a subsidy, UW actually raised the parking rates.
· For maternity leave we were offered nothing, and we were told, “This isn’t Sweden.”
· With respect to childcare, UW only offered Residents a seat on a committee to discuss the issue.
· Regarding moonlighting, we still have no uniform policy, and certain programs continue to insist on language that allows them to arbitratily refuse moonlighting.
So what’s next?
We are pursuing many different options. We have filed legal action against the UW to stop them from raising parking rates or otherwise change our working conditions while the negotiations are ongoing. We also remain hopeful that we can work with the UW to reach a reasonable compromise that will ameliorate Residents’ hardships and keep the University a desirable place to train and work.
What are the union dues?
The current dues are $50 per year. There is no plan to increase the dues.
So… should I rank UW?
Seattle is a great place to live and the UW is a top-tier training program for residency and fellowship. Although the financial situation for Residents is not ideal, we are confident that with a new contract the financial situation of Residents and Fellows will dramatically improve. We will periodically update this page as the bargaining process continues. Please continue to check this site periodically and our Facebook page for the most up to date information.