Legal Battle Begins over Unionization at Loma Linda University Health

On Monday, March 13, a pre-election hearing began with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to determine whether medical residents at Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) will be allowed a formal vote to unionize. In February, organizers collected signatures from the required 30% of residents to file for an election with the NLRB, seeking to be represented by the Union of American Physicians & Dentists.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Just waiting for someone at the GC to call the residents and doctors “missionaries” like they did during the Merikay Silver case in the 70’s. This appears to be heading in the same direction. “That law doesn’t apply to us. We’re a church.”


I am trying to remember a case some years ago where the Moravian Church appealed in the Supreme Court a lower court judgement against it in favour of a former employee. The General Conference joined the matter as a friend of the court in support of the Moravian appeal and the Supreme Court threw out the lower court judgement. Does anyone recall it and can provide a link? I am wondering if that judgement could have a bearing on this case. I seem to recall someone from GC being reported as saying that with that Supreme Court decision, the GC could now hire and fire anyone without reference to a third party. Does anyone recall this or am I dreaming?


LLUH uses the power of the government’s legal system to allow it to show preference for SDA students over “gentiles” during the admissions process:

After which, and when those students become capable of generating a profit for the nonprofit institution, the LLUH wants the government to leave it alone so it can treat and compensate those student workers in whatever manner it sees fit.

And the congregation says….?!?!



As a Australian medical practitioner it is laughable to have hospital residents regarded as students. They have been students for a very long time, and are still heavily supervised, but residents also work long hours doing complex tasks and making difficult decisions. It harks back to when English junior doctors had to pay for the privilege of being employed.

It is easy for junior doctors to feel undervalued. In Australia there have been decades of organised action to address unsafe working hours. Otherwise, hospitals expect doctors to work beyond the point of fatigue, which is bad for patients and bad for doctors. There are always excuses and claims that we need to work excessive hours in order to build up adequate clinical knowledge, but poor mental health among residents, including suicide, demonstrates that work expectations are unreasonable.

If the Loma Linda staff are organising unions, that suggests that the administration is not treating them well. Does it reflect a failure of the administration to ensure safe work practices? If so, they shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind religious excuses. If an external authority needs to be appointed, the fault lies with the administration. The only way for the administration to avoid unionisation is for them to be proactive in caring for their residents’ well-being. This legal action reflects that such care has been lacking.


i think this is exactly right…


From what I have been told, the residents have been asking for change for the better part of 30 years now. About half of the residents are non-SDA which may not care so much about the reputation of the SDA Church and just want what is fair and just. I can’t say that I blame them.


It seems ironic that Loma Linda no longer limits enrollment to Seventh-day Adventists, not does it limit employment to Adventists. But it wants to define itself as Adventist when that is convenient. How long can they have it both ways?

I’ve been an inpatient at Loma Linda. Never did a physician or nurse pray with me - or even offer to. There was nothing spiritual about my experience.

It is amazing how Loma Linda appeals to the opinions of Ellen White. Labor unions today were very different in Mrs. White’s days, and so was the education of physicians. There is little or nothing in the Bible regarding U.S. employment law or labor unions. The question, IMHO, was simply an opinion of Ellen White - and not necessarily inspired for all time.


I just returned from the Loma Linda area, and I can say that this IS a hot topic down there. Even among staff who are nominally SDA and observe the rules a-la-EGW negligently at best, the horror and fear of unionization because Sister White condemned it is alive and well. Medical Residents have always been treated poorly and to claim that they are “students” is preposterous. It is the same as classifying pastors as “contract workers” to get out of usual and customary employment benefits. It’s ridiculous.


Peter, I agree with your point of how “How long can they have I both ways.” However I respectfully disagree with your statement,“There was nothing spiritual about my experience.”
In the last two years I was an impatient at Loma Linda for more days than I can count. I had Open Heart surgery, Liver Transplant, Long Haul Covid, 8 bile stents etc. (I think my bill was close to $ 2Million).
My experience with the care givers, nurses, janitors, doctors, residents, nurses was for the most part “spiritual.” A doctor prayed for me in the OR just before I was getting a new Liver, nurses prayed for me in my room, even a housekeeper prayed for me in Spanish. I had numerous of conversations with the ones caring for me. Sometimes at 3 AM, sometimes at 9PM and because I almost died 4 times our conversations always ended being very spiritual.
I received spiritual hope and care from these dedicated staff. Most of them said when asked why they worked at LL, responded with the fact that they liked working for a faith based institution.
A Muslim Resident invoked the name of Allah with me. A Hindi nurse said she would pray to her Lords for me. I have to honestly say the “spiritual environment” of Loma Linda sustained me through my near death experiences and I have experienced nothing like it in my life.

On the flip side I also had numerous of conversations with the Residents. I can see their point of wanting to be Unionized. Many were very tired and exhausted. I did not think or feel of them like “students” but employees. They sure acted like employees and practiced medical care to me like trained professionals.

Perhaps at the end of the day LLUMC should be viewed as a Faith based Christian Institution based on doing the work of Christ but not the “work” of Adventism.
Just my 2 cents from a very gratfeful, still living patient of LLUMC.


When you’re a student, you pay tuition. When you’re a Resident, the institution pays you a salary. Absolutely ridiculous.


Oh, how can you tell who is “nominally SDA and observe the rules a-la-EGW negligently at best”? That’s a strong accusation - please verify it!

Well, not being judgy here, just observant. Maybe it’s the bacon burgers? Fully stocked wine cellar? Saturday afternoon sports events? Lack of agreement with the 28 (or however many there are now) Fundamental Beliefs? No attention to EGW (and her stance on Unions)? I personally am a cultural SDA, with 16 years of Adventist education, student missionary, house to house Ingathering, summer camp employment, temperance speech winner, and last but not least: Pathfinder Girl of the Year (don’t ask what year… does this count?). I am grateful for all the good things of my upbringing - though I left and joined the Episcopalians.


Said it before and I will say it until no one has an excuse that they never heard it. Ellen White only wrote 2 paragraphs about unions in all of her writings, and “borrowings”. In those two paragraphs, she decried the violence that took place over a century ago when there was a lot of heads being busted by both sides. It wasn’t a simple picket line with negotiations going on. People were actually being killed. She said not to be a part of that. This was the era of child labour and people working 12 hour days 7 days a week. Owners thought they owned people and were truly disgusting owners and managers. Workers need to be treated like people and not someone’s property. The only reason the working class today are living as well as they are is because unions made it possible. It is ridiculous that the Adventist church would be against unions since Jesus constantly spoke of our concern for the sick, the oppressed, even those in prison. So why no for the wellbeing of those who do most of the work in this country, which doesn’t really include someone sitting on their fat derriere dictating to those who actually do the work?..I know because I was one of those people who sat behind the desk and dictated, and I knew those who worked for me were the ones who actually did the lion’s share of the work. And I made sure they were treated as they deserved. I Think that it is obvious, that our medical institutions need to do a better job for these residents, who they seem to think are their slaves. They think they can get away with it because these residents want to get through this process so they can go out and make a good living. That doesn’t excuse there being overworked and underpaid.

It is a shame that our institution has let it get to this point. If the management had treated them reasonably, this would not have been necessary.


Well said, Lindy. I’m just going to go read some Charles Dickens…


Thank you. I came here to say exactly that. During EW’s time anyone who dared even mention unions were often severely beaten or even killed — by the police. Homes were burnt, those jailed were systematically tortured, and worse. The Free Speech “riot” in Spokane Washington is instructive, as is the Everett Washington massacre, as well as many others. Child labor practices were horrifically cruel and generations of workers fought and died to change them.

Those two paragraphs EW wrote so long ago are now being used by a wealthy church to try to justify the financial abuse of vulnerable young people who work endless hours, and it’s being done publicly, in Christ’s name. The leadership’s often vaunted concern about the Adventist message to the world is certainly ringing out loud and clear, but it is not winning any converts. In fact, it’s making many of us members leave for good.


Oh my! How interesting. I live 10 miles from Loma Linda, so I’d very much like to know more.

  1. Where can I find the “fully stocked wine cellar”? How did you learn about it?
  2. How have you determined who at Loma Linda does not believe the 28 fundamental beliefs? You do know that not all faculty and not all students are SDA, don’t you>
    3, And where can I buy a “bacon burger”? The public cafe at the market was closed years ago. Are you speaking of the McDonalds down Barton Road? Is it owned and operated by Loma Linda?
    4, Have you seen a Sabbath afternoon sports event happening on actual Loma Linda property? Where? I’d like to check that out. Were you able to confirm whether the participants were Adventists? The Loma Linda Sports Complex (Drayson Center) is closed down tight on Sabbath! So where are these games being held?

I’m sure you’re not just passing gossip / hearsay are you!

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In a decidedly liberal but small congregation where i attended, there was an “almost ready for retirement” couple: her career was with church-based publishing and his was with a major newspaper. A strike at the paper came during the years I knew them. I couldn’t help but ask him about the writings of E. G. White and labor unions. Never being a man of many words, he responded: “I’ve never had a problem. Her writings and my experiences are–well, I really don’t know what she was writing about.”


If the university and hospital gave up federal money, they would need to close down. End of story.


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