A major unionization effort is underway among the 1,200 physician trainees at Montefiore Medical Center, who are raising concerns about staffing and other issues at the Bronx hospital.

Resident physicians and fellows at Montefiore will announce their plans Tuesday to join the Committee of Interns and Residents of SEIU — a health care union that currently represents about 22,000 residents, interns and fellows across the country.

More than 65% of the doctors-in-training at Montefiore have pledged their support for the union, giving them a strong majority, organizers said. They are calling on hospital management to voluntarily recognize the union right away. If that doesn’t happen, they will seek to hold an official vote and ask Montefiore to allow it to proceed without interference.

“We recognize that, right now, we don't have a voice at the table,” said Dr. Isuree Katugampala, a third-year pediatric resident at Montefiore who has served as a key organizer in the labor effort. “It takes us months to make small changes here and there.”

In a statement on the unionization effort, Montefiore spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt said, “Our success and our reputation are grounded in the world-class training we provide and the compassionate care we extend not just to our patients, but to our residents and all who make the selfless commitment to provide care here.”

Katugampala said residents were first motivated to organize to get their needs met during the first wave of COVID-19, when they struggled to obtain enough masks and other protective equipment. Now, she said, medical residents are dealing with understaffing at the hospital. Because residents get matched with a hospital to get medical training as part of their certification, “we generally can't leave our jobs,” Katugampala said.

But nurses and other support staff can leave — and many have during the pandemic.

“It really sometimes can fall on us as residents to fill in the gaps for where we're missing some of that support in order to provide the same high level of care that our patients are receiving,” Katugampala said.

“While hospitals across the country are facing labor shortages, we are working to fill vacancies and exploring new recruitment strategies,” Riegelhaupt said.

In addition to stronger staffing, Katugampala said residents and fellows would be fighting for better pay and benefits, such as improved family leave.

The union push comes amid a wave of labor activity at Montefiore. More than 30,000 members of the New York State Nurses Association are currently involved in heated contract negotiations with Montefiore and other hospitals. And more than 100 physician assistants at Montefiore will vote later this month on whether to join the health care union 1199SEIU.

Last week, former cleaning staff at Montefiore Health System filed a class-action lawsuit against the hospital network and the subcontractor that hired them for failing to properly pay overtime, among other alleged violations.

This story was updated with comments from Montefiore Medical Center.