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Contract Talks Resume Between UW And Doctors In Residency Programs


Contract talks are getting back underway between the University of Washington and a new union representing doctors in residency programs at hospitals including Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center and Seattle Children's. The residents say it’s a struggle to get by on what they’re paid, given the cost of living in Seattle and their student loan debt.

Residents spend anywhere from three to seven years in a hospital taking care of patients and learning a specialty after completing medical school. UW residents voted in 2014 to form a union and began contract talks with the administration early last year.

Andrew Korson, a gastroenterology resident on the union’s bargaining committee, is the primary breadwinner for himself, his wife and two children. He said they were struggling to pay their water bill until he realized their income was low enough that they qualified for the city’s discount program.

"As a doctor and a father who’s 34 and has a graduate school degree, it’s just embarrassing to be on a subsidy like that," Korson said.

Credit Andrew Korson
Andrew Korson is a resident specializing in gastroenterology and a member of the negotiating committee for the University of Washington Housestaff Association.

He said the residents are seeking higher pay and better access to child care, as well as subsidized or free parking, since they often have to come to the hospital in the wee hours, making it tough to travel by public transportation. He said residents sometimes work as many as 80 hours a week, which, for some of them, equates to less than minimum wage.

Byron Joyner, vice dean for graduate medical education at UW, said residents earn $53,000 to $70,000 a year. He said the average resident works 55 hours a week, and that works out to more than $15 an hour.

"We’re about where our competitors are with regard to salaries and we’re willing to go a little higher, certainly," Joyner said, though he said the two sides' initial proposals were far apart.

Both sides say they’re hopeful they’ll be able to reach an agreement. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.