Mount Sinai Doctors Protest Lower Pay for West Side and Queens Hospitals
Even as non-union medical residents at the system’s Upper East Side main hospital get a raise, union members — including those at public Elmhurst Hospital — work for less, without a contract.
Unionized medical residents at Mount Sinai Health System’s West Side facilities claim the hospital network is shortchanging them by thousands of dollars a year, as Mount Sinai moves ahead with raises for their non-union colleagues at its main campus on the Upper East Side.
The 500 residents at Mount Sinai’s facilities in Harlem and on the Upper West Side earn roughly $3,600 less annually than their peers on the main campus, a disparity that is expected to widen once a 6% raise for doctors at that campus goes into effect in July.
The result is significantly different pay for doctors with identical titles in facilities operated by the same hospital system, separated only by Central Park, said one doctor and union activist.
“I get the impression that they instead would like to maintain this two-tiered residency system in which unionized residents have to work harder to enjoy the same benefits that non-unionized residents over at the main Mount Sinai Hospital are set to enjoy,” said emergency department resident Dr. Brian Brown, who works at both the Morningside and West hospitals.
Residents at Morningside and West, who are members of the Committee for Interns and Residents–SEIU, are calling on Mount Sinai to agree to a contract that achieves parity between union and non-union residents. All have been working under a contract that expired in November 2022.
On Tuesday, about 50 doctors rallied outside Mount Sinai West’s 10th Avenue facility in what they called a “unity break” to put pressure on the hospital to settle a contract.
The disparities are even greater for residents at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, part of the public Health + Hospitals system, whose program is managed by Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine.
There, first-year residents currently earn $7,000 less than their colleagues who work at the Upper East Side hospital, even before accounting for the raises, according to CIR-SEIU. The residents’ contract expired in July 2022.
It is not the first time Mount Sinai medical professionals have turned up the heat on their employer this year. Nurses at the Upper East Side campuses walked out of the job in January after contract negotiations fell apart, returning to work three days later after securing 19% raises and a highly sought-after improvement in staffing ratios. (That strike came shortly after nurses at Morningside and West hospitals reached deals that averted strikes.)
Same Job, Different Pay?
CIR-SEIU alleges that Mount Sinai has declined to agree to pay parity between residents at different hospitals, or to hear out a union proposal for a hazard pay bump of $300 a week in the case of a future public health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brown, a CIR-SEIU delegate who sits on the Mount Sinai bargaining sessions, said the hospital “refused to entertain the discussion” of hazard pay.
Asked about the contract dispute, Mount Sinai spokesperson Lucia Lee instead talked about Tuesday’s rally, which she said was actually about Morningside and West residents showing support for their colleagues at Elmhurst, and not about their own negotiations.
“The demonstration of a unity break that happened yesterday was in support of residents who work at Elmhurst Hospital,” Lee said.
In response, CIR-SEIU spokesperson Rachel Nass said “that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
“The event was 100% about the physicians at Mount Sinai Morningside and West and their contract negotiations with Mount Sinai and their lack of pay parity with the non union physicians who work there,” she added.
On its website, Mount Sinai Hospital touts $11.3 billion in revenue across its eight campuses and medical school.
Brown told THE CITY that Tuesday’s “unity break” was not a work stoppage but rather an effort “to make it clear to Mount Sinai that residents and fellows here are running out of time to have our needs addressed.”
Other doctors and union activists who attended the rally said they were frustrated with hospital management and prepared for the long haul.
“We really want to do what’s best for our patients, and it feels like we’re not valued enough,” Dr. Aneury Hernandez, a senior resident at Morningside and West, told THE CITY.
“It’s scary to kind of put yourself up in front of a big crowd like this, but it’s been too long” without a contract, Hernandez added.
Dr. Aliza Grossberg, a third-year psychiatry resident and union delegate, said: “We’re amped up, we’re here, we’re ready to fight for a fair contract. I hope for the best, but we’re here for the fight.”
The doctors led chants of “When residents are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
The event followed a February rally by about two dozen residents at Elmhurst Hospital, who have been in bargaining talks since last summer for a new contract. They seek to close the salary gap between them and their peers at Mount Sinai’s main campus.
“We cannot understand why Mount Sinai would pay us less and would give us fewer benefits than our co-residents just a subway ride away in Manhattan who are doing the exact same job,” Elmhurst first-year pediatrics resident Dr. Alaa Mohamed said during the rain-soaked rally.
“We don’t give our patients lesser care, and we don’t work less — every day we go the extra length to care for our patients and to meet their needs,” Mohamed added.
In December 2022 and again in February 2023, the union filed a complaint with the federal National Labor Relations Board alleging that Mount Sinai “refused to bargain in good faith with the union.” Both unfair labor practice charges are still under investigation by the board.
Mount Sinai did not respond to requests for comment about the charges.
On Wednesday, unionized residents at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Flushing Hospital, which are operated by MediSys Health Network, voted to authorize a strike amid their own bargaining talks, the Daily News reported.