Board Overturns Doctors-in-Training Precedent

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Medical students completing their training in private hospitals as residents, interns and fellows are entitled to form unions to negotiate wages and hours, a divided National Labor Relations Board has ruled.

The 3-2 decision overturned a 23-year precedent that had classified doctors-in-training as students, denying them collective bargaining rights. "Interns, residents and fellows... while they may be students learning their chosen medical craft, are also `employees'" protected under the National Labor Relations Act, the majority of board members said in their written decision, which was issued Nov. 26 but not made public until Monday. Dr. Andrew Yacht, chief resident for internal medicine at Boston Medical Center, said many interns and residents were hopeful the board's ruling will eventually bring some relief, for example, from the notoriously long hours B often 80 or more a week -- they typically work.

Mark Levy, executive director of the Committee of Interns and Residents, a Boston-based union that brought the case, said: "It's part of our belief that these long hours... have come about in part because residents can't fight back."

The NLRB decision cited other professions in which individuals serving in traineeships, such as associate lawyers and apprentice architects, are considered employees protected by federal laws. "Plainly, many employees engage in long-term programs designed to impart and improve skills and knowledge. Such individuals are still employees, regardless of other intended benefits and consequences of these programs," said the board's majority. …