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Stanford Health Care residents demanding better wages

STANFORD — Stanford Health Care residents are demanding better wages as they say many of them are struggling with debt and making ends meet.

A third-year resident physician at Stanford Hospital, Dr. Ivan Mayor is typically working long hours, and when he isn't, he is often studying.

"In medicine, you never stop learning," he said.

He's also often tidying up after his toddler.

"The experience of being a father and being a resident is intertwined for me entirely. I've never been one without the other," he said.

He takes pride in both of those roles. Neither are easy jobs, and he knew that going into them both. What he didn't quite comprehend, however, was how deep of a financial hole he'd find himself in working as a young doctor at one of the nation's premier hospitals.

"I had to take out a $30,000 loan in addition to my over $100,000 debt from medical school just to survive that first year of residency, in order to pay for rent, in order to pay for food, and just to make ends meet," he said.

After having their child, his wife had to stay home for a while due to medical reasons, which made Mayor the sole-earner in their household.

"We were $300 a month away from qualifying for food stamps — as a doctor," he said. "You wouldn't really think that would be the case. But that's how close we were."

According to Mayor, his wife saved their family from their financial situation.

"We were getting to the point where we weren't going to have enough money for rent. Thankfully, this was where really, truly I think our luck changed, my wife was able to get a job in tech," he said. "Sometimes I feel like luck was on our side, but not everyone can be as lucky as we were."

So, he and hundreds of other Stanford Health Care resident physicians and fellows, represented by the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR SEIU), are trying to change that reality.

They recently came together for a march on the hospital, in the form of a "unity break." It wasn't a strike or a work stoppage, it's a strategy commonly used by union members during negotiations to draw attention to the bargaining process.

The physicians are demanding better pay and benefits, as many are drowning in debt and are struggling to make ends meet.

"Stanford makes hundreds of millions of dollars in profits every year. It's unimaginable that what we're asking for is unreasonable," Mayor said. "We're asking for appropriate pay that keeps up with the rising cost of living, that appropriately acknowledges our work, that is keeping up with inflation and other measures. I know we're hoping for increased benefits in childcare."

As of mid-July, there have been 14 bargaining sessions, with nine tentative agreements, according to a Stanford Health Care spokesperson.

Mayor and colleagues feel that Stanford hasn't bargained in good faith.

"They've been stalling a lot, they've been withholding information. The most recent package that they offered actually offered to take away benefits that we already have," he said. "I understand that our demands might not necessarily be met. But at the same time, meet us halfway, come in good faith. That's all I would ask."

CBS News Bay Area requested an interview with a representative from Stanford Health Care, but was sent the following statement instead:

"The Stanford Health Care bargaining team is committed to the negotiation process and reaching an agreement that supports our housestaff and their continued education and clinical training. Throughout negotiations we continue to reinforce our commitment on a number of important topics, from prioritizing highly competitive wages and benefits to ensuring the safety of our housestaff if they are too fatigued to drive home at the end of their shift. This includes providing access to call rooms to rest or a transportation service (app-based or taxi cab voucher) to get them home safely from any of our main rotation sites. We look forward to continuing our important conversations and making further progress at our upcoming sessions."

Mayor says the less focused the resident physicians are on making ends meet, the more focused they can be on their patients in their time of need.

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