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Doctors’ Group Votes To Form Union

June 23, 1999

CHICAGO (AP) _ The American Medical Association voted today to back the formation of a national union of doctors to give the profession more leverage with managed-care companies.

``My profession is being crushed under the rocks of rules and regulations, government influence, HMOs,″ said Dr. Jack L. Summers of Akron, Ohio. ``I need help to fight back.″

The vote by the 494-member House of Delegates, the AMA’s policy-making body, came after almost two hours of impassioned debate.

The national union would support the formation of local bargaining units for the minority of doctors who are employees of HMOs and other managed-care companies. Federal law bars doctors who are not employees from forming unions in the traditional sense.

Self-employed doctors would not be involved unless Congress gives them collective-bargaining rights. Such legislation is now pending in Congress.

The vote came on the fourth day of the AMA’s annual five-day meeting and was taken by a show of hands. The total was not released, but AMA leaders called it a clear majority.

Summers said a labor organization is necessary ``to protect the rights of American physicians and to protect their patients.″

Whether doctors could have a union and be professionals was a main point of debate.

``We are not mere laborers. We are not strikers. We are not simply providers,″ said Dr. Susan R. Wynn of Fort Worth, Texas, who was against the union proposal. ``We’re servants. We are caregivers who have sworn a duty to society.″

AMA policy forbids doctors to go on strike.

Many doctors argued that the AMA should wait for passage of the federal measure, which would free independent doctors from antitrust laws that prevent from forming unions.

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