By Don McIntosh
In 2009, Joe Crane was working graveyard on the Frito-Lay snack assembly line in Portland. Twelve years later, age 40, he’s national organizing director for a doctors union based in New York City.
Crane caught the union bug at Frito-Lay when he got involved in Bakers Local 364 as a steward, union officer, and volunteer organizer. In 2011, he took a job as a professional union organizer at Communications Workers America Local 7901, supporting union campaigns at a chain of beauty salons and a prominent nonprofit. In 2015, he was off to work for Washington State Nurses Association, and helped 310 hospital technicians unionize at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver. In 2017, he became an organizer for the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD). Headquartered in California, it’s a 2,800-member nationwide affiliate of AFSCME. Last November, Crane helped 120 doctors in Tacoma strike for two days and win N-95 masks, among other gains.
Now, with wife and three young kids, he’s relocated from Washougal to New Jersey so that he can lead the organizing efforts of the Doctors Council. A 3,000-member national affiliate of SEIU, the Doctors Council represents unionized doctors in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.
I caught up with Crane by phone June 23 as he drove across the country, and asked him why doctors are starting to look at unionizing. Here’s what he said:
Joe Crane on why doctors are unionizing
“The general consensus around doctors organizing is that they want to be able to better advocate for their patients. For the older generation, they used to own their practice. They used to be the ones employing the nurses and the techs. By about three years ago, the majority of doctors were employees. They’ve lost that autonomy. Now they’re being told how they’re going to do it, what they’re allowed to treat, how they’re allowed to treat it. And that’s been a breaking point for the older generation. Then the new generation coming in, they don’t want to be told that they can’t have families [because they have to work long hours]. They don’t want to be told that they can’t care for patients. And they’re like, ‘If a union works for the nurses, it should work for us.’
If doctors unionize, it has the potential to change health care. We need to we need to welcome them into the labor movement, because an injury to one is an injury at all.”