A National Labor Relations Board ruling upholding a union election by hospital residents and interns may clear the way for more organizing at hospitals.

The NLRB affirmed on Thursday that the house staff of residents and interns at New York's St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx should be considered employees, with a right to unionize, and not be considered students, as the hospital suggested.

In January 2009, nearly 90 percent of the hospital's 280 residents petitioned to form an organizing unit represented by Local 1957 of the Committee of Interns and Residents, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union. The local NLRB allowed an election in June 2009, but the results were impounded while the hospital appealed the decision on a regional and national level.

Thursday's decision was a national ruling, with one member of the three-member panel dissenting.    - Jane M. Von Bergen