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American Medical Association Votes for Doctors' Unions

At their convention, on June 23, 1999, the American Medical Association voted to back the formation of a union organization for physicians wherever this is legally allowed. The intent is to give physicians who are employed by HMOs the organizational support they could use in bargaining with the HMOs over physicians working conditions and who decides what patient care is needed.

The AMA's official statement is available on the web at this page on the AMA's web site.

Less than one month previously, 800 doctors in Los Angeles, all employed by the County of Los Angeles, voted to join the Union of American Physicians and Dentists. This union already exists, and is not controlled by the AMA. Other unions (IAM, AFT, AFSCME, etc.) have also been recruiting doctors. The AMA is not starting this trend; they just don't want to be left out.

The legal position of doctors who wish to do battle with HMOs is ambiguous so far as unions are concerned. The HMOs tend to argue in court that the doctors are not employees but are independent contractors. By current law, the doctors are not allowed to form unions. One way and another, the doctors will discover or create the appropriate form of organization for this struggle. The organization may not be recognizable as a traditional union when it finally emerges.