Elmhurst Hospital resident doctors declare victory in historic three-day strike

Elmhurst, Queens, New York

Following a historic three-day strike, over 160 unionized resident doctors at Elmhurst Hospital, located in a largely immigrant community in Queens, New York, declared victory May 24. Their fight was for pay parity with their nonunionized Manhattan counterparts. In 2020, Elmhurst Hospital was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.

Elmhurst Hospital residents on day two of their strike for pay parity with their Mount Sinai counterparts, May 23, 2023. Credit: Mary Owen

The striking physicians are employed by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai but were assigned to Elmhurst Hospital, a New York City public hospital, and at lower pay than those working at Mount Sinai’s affluent Upper East Side location. When a year of negotiations failed, they launched their historic strike on May 22the first resident doctor walkout in 33 years.

“We will not accept second-class treatment because of where we are from and who we serve,” their strike leaflet read. The Elmhurst walkout, along with community support, pushed Mt. Sinai to a quick settlement to end the two-tiered residency system.

The tentative contract provides for wage increases of 18% over three years, a $2,000 ratification bonus, an enforceable agreement to negotiate on hazard pay, a meal allowance that reaches parity with Mount Sinai Hospital residents and the creation of a transportation committee. The doctors also won a chief differential pay of $3,500, holiday pay and graduate education leave.

The Elmhurst victory comes as their union, Committee of Interns and Residents (CIRSEIU), a local of SEIU, has seen an increase in resident organizing — with some 8,000 residents and fellows unionizing since 2019. Elmhurst residents were the third hospital to authorize a strike in New York in the past month, according to the union.

“This fight was always about power, and Elmhurst residents are truly building that together,” said Dr. Sarah Hafuth. “Getting a multimillion dollar-revenue employer like Mount Sinai to move this far really shows what our movement as residents can achieve — even up against the most flagrant, union-busting and profit-driven corporations.”

Residents at Mount Sinai Morningside/West in Manhattan, employed by the Icahn School of Medicine, have also authorized a strike — with 99% of voting members in favor of striking if negotiations fail. Other strike authorizations have been voted up at MediSys-managed Flushing and Jamaica Hospitals in Queens and at the Alameda Health System in Oakland, California.

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