Labor Unions for Physicians: Benefits & Factors

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Are physicians considered employees or supervisors in hospitals? Why would a physician join a labor union? Want to find out the answers to these questions? If so, be sure to check out this lesson!

The Downside of Being a Doctor

Imagine for a minute that you graduated high school, went through four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, five years of a medical residency, and accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that will take much of your life to pay off. Now imagine that your ability to make money has been significantly decreased; you work 80 hours per week and you feel that you cannot adequately treat your patients because of the policies at the hospital where you work.

Sounds pretty miserable, right? Unfortunately, thousands of physicians across the country feel that they are in this exact situation. That is why many physicians are deciding to join labor unions.

What Exactly are Labor Unions?

Labor unions are groups of employees of a specific occupation or industry that work to improve the work environment, wages, hours, benefits, and other aspects of their job through a process called collective bargaining (negotiations between the employer and the union).

Historically, labor unions have been associated mostly with lower-level government workers, factory workers, and teachers. Rarely are labor unions associated with physicians. However, labor unions for physicians have existed for over 40 years, and in 2012 there were roughly 40,000 physicians who were union members.

Historically, labor unions are associated with jobs like factor workers. However, labor unions for physicians have been around for decades.
labor union

Physicians who work for hospitals are considered employees, not supervisors, of their hospital. As employees, they are able to join a labor union. Under federal labor laws, supervisors are not able to join labor unions because they are considered part of management and not part of the labor force. Over the past few years, there has been a rising trend of physicians opting to become employees of hospitals rather than going into the private practice sector.

Benefits & Factors of Labor Unions for Physicians

As previously mentioned, one of the main functions of labor unions is to improve the work environment, wages, hours, and benefits of their workers. This same idea applies for labor unions for physicians. You might be thinking to yourself that physicians have nothing to complain about; they get paid very well and live very nice lives.

Many doctors are unhappy with their work environment, and therefore, join a labor union.

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