American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Employees of Texas Emergency Medicine Group Form Labor Union

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) approved on February 29 what may be the first Emergency Medicine labor union in the country. Physician employees of Third Coast Emergency Physicians (TCEP), a medium size contract management company located in Central Texas, voted overwhelmingly to unionize. This decision came after doctors experienced years of frustration over TCEP's refusal to create a more democratic group with open accounting practices and a partnership track.

The union (Seton Third Coast Emergency Physicians Association) is comprised of emergency physicians working at Seton Medical Center and Seton Northwest Hospital in Austin, TX. The two physician owners of the company acknowledged spending over $50,000 in legal fees to obstruct the creation of the union, including filing an appeal to the NLRB. The NLRB's decision and findings can be viewed at www.nlrb.gov under decisions at 330 NLRB No. 117, or contact the AAEM office for a copy.

The employee status that fostered the creation of the union has come relatively recently in the group's history. From the inception of the company in 1988, until the end of 1998, physicians worked under independent contractor status. After becoming employees in 1999, members of the group hired labor attorneys and elected representatives. A treasurer was elected and members of the group voluntarily contributed to a legal fund. When the physician owners of the company refused to meet with the representatives or the attorneys, the course towards unionization was taken.

The union representatives of the physician employees plan to invite the owners of Third Coast Emergency Physicians to begin negotiations soon.