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American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Residents Can Organize at Private Hospitals

According to an article in AHA News Now, an electronic newsletter of the American Hospital Association, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that more than 90,000 interns and residents at private teaching hospitals have the right to form unions. NLRB reversed a 1976 decision that said interns and residents at private hospitals were students, not employees, but which left their counterparts at most public hospitals able to organize. While the new ruling doesn't dispute that interns and residents are students, it says private hospital interns and residents are employees because they work long hours, make medical decisions, and earn salaries and benefits including vacations and workers' compensation. The NLRB case arose after Boston City Hospital-a public hospital with a residents' union-and Boston University Hospital merged in 1996 to create Boston Medical Center (BMC). Ed Christianson, BMC chief legal counsel, said the fight was over whether the union could be recognized "on the private side." BMC has no plans to appeal the NLRB decision in the court system, he said.