The resident physicians at Dignity Health’s St. Mary Medical Center (St. Mary) in Long Beach voted January 29 to join the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR/SEIU Healthcare), a housestaff union representing 13,000 interns, residents and fellows working in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Washington D.C. The vote was officially certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Monday.

All full-time and regular part-time interns, residents, chief residents and fellows employed by St. Mary in its Residency Program are included in the agreement and will now prepare to negotiate their first contract with the assistance of CIR/SEIU Local 1957.

“Being part of CIR will enable us to voice our feedback to the hospital in an effort to make St. Mary the best it can be for patients and healthcare providers,” said Dr. Leah Damiani, a third year resident at the hospital, in a statement.

According to the release sent out by CIR/SEIU Healthcare, 37 internal medicine residents came together in an effort to strengthen their residency program by seeking to improve the tools they use to better serve their patients. CIR/SEIU Healthcare said that colleagues at nearby hospitals, including California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, successfully bargained their first union contract last year, and residents at St. Mary are seeking similar improvements, such as “access to an educational fund, reimbursement for their medical license and DEA registration, secure parking, properly functioning work stations and a formal process to make improvements to resident training and patient care.”

“Residents are starting to realize that if we don’t speak up for ourselves, nobody else will,” said Dr. Joanne Suh, CIR Regional Vice President for Southern California, in a statement. “By empowering frontline physicians, we can ensure that our healthcare system is meeting the greatest needs of our communities. We are excited that the resident physicians at St. Mary Medical Center have taken this important step.”

According to Dignity Health officials, St. Mary Medical Center fully supports the residents’ decision to unionize. Joel Yuhas, President and CEO at St. Mary, said in a statement, “We respect the desire of our residents and interns to be represented by the Committee of Interns and Residents, as reflected in the results of their recent vote. We look forward to working with our union partners to continue to provide a residency and internship program that delivers the highest quality care to patients, while launching the careers of the next generation of physicians.”

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].