In a significant shift in the United States, physicians and pharmacists, traditionally seen as professionals immune to labor hierarchies, are unionizing in response to increasingly demanding working conditions and feelings of powerlessness against large health bureaucracies. One of the main figures in this movement is John Wust, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Allina Health in Minnesota, who led the unionization of over 100 physicians in March, making it one of the largest private-sector groups to do so.
Spreading Trend of Unionization
The trend has spread, with about 400 doctors from Allina clinics unionizing in October. The Physician Council of the International Union of Service Employees states that professionals from numerous clinics across the country have considered unionizing recently. Health sector strikes have also increased, with healthcare workers, including nurses, conducting eight major strikes in the past year, the highest number in a decade. Pharmacists from CVS and Walgreens have also protested over staffing shortages.
These actions reflect a widespread exhaustion due to the workload, which has been intensified by the pandemic, and corporate consolidation that has limited professional autonomy. Health corporations have responded by assuring advances in reducing the workload and investing in improving staffing.
This unionization movement is part of a broader trend of professionals in various fields, such as education and journalism, seeking a louder voice in their working conditions against shrinking budgets and performance metrics inappropriate for their roles. For instance, on December 6, 2023, nurses at Essentia Health-Duluth Clinic 1st Street organized and filed for union representation with the Minnesota Nurses Association for pay equity, dignity, respect, and to address workplace issues.