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COVID-19 Resources

Updates for Members

The fight of our lives: COVID-19 and communities of color

Published Tuesday, January 12, 2021

At our virtual Leadership Conference last September, leading scholars and activists joined us for a discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and the racial disparities that exist in providing and accessing health care. The panelists delved into how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these disparities and how we — as healthcare workers and a health care union — can seize this moment to help build a more just healthcare system. That discussion is now available on video.  The participants included:

Adolph Leonard Reed, Jr., is an American professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in racism and U.S. politics.

Monique LeSarre, PsyD, is adjunct faculty in the School of Undergraduate Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She also serves as the institute’s director of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Project, which seeks to empower historically underrepresented groups in the five master’s in counseling programs.

Victoria Dooley, MD, is a healthcare activist and board-certified family physician in Michigan, who has developed policy on Black maternal health;

Mónica Ramírez is an activist, author, civil rights attorney, social entrepreneur, and speaker.

 


Strategies for healthcare worker organizing during COVID-19

Published Tuesday, January 12, 2021

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NUHW created a COVID-19 Bill of Rights and NUHW Workplace Safety Policy Paper to codify the standards and policies healthcare providers should be following to protect employees and patients during a pandemic. Watch NUHW leaders discuss how they’re using these materials to educate elected officials and hold employers accountable, and hear from front line workers on the strategies they used to successfully improve safety protocols at their workplaces.

 


NUHW urges members to get Covid vaccine

Published Monday, December 14, 2020

Healthcare workers are first in line to get the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
But will some be hesitant to take it?

This Week the National Union of Healthcare Workers is urging its members to get vaccinated and set an example for their communities 

The union also calls on employers to first vaccinate those most exposed to risk rather than prioritize by title

Healthcare workers across the country will start receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine beginning today. But, will all those eligible jump at the opportunity to receive a shot?

The National Union of Healthcare Workers is calling on its members to get vaccinated. And while the union’s leaders believe most will do so, they also know that some frontline healthcare workers will be hesitant without more information. Among other actions, the union has released a detailed FAQ on the vaccine to its members.

“We want to get our society back to normal,” said NUHW President Sal Rosselli. “A vaccine can get us there and along the way save millions of lives. But the vaccine will only be effective if it is embraced by healthcare workers and the general public here and around the globe.”

“Healthcare workers have been courageously working under dangerous circumstances caring for infected patients throughout this long pandemic,” Rosselli added. “Now it’s up to our workforce to take the lead and set an example that demonstrates that taking the vaccine is safe and the right thing to do,” he said.

The anticipated initial 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine allocated to California, where most NUHW members work, could not be arriving at a more critical time. Across the state, 29,000 new infections are recorded every day. ICU capacity in Southern California has dropped to just 4.2 percent, while in the Central Valley it has been reported that hospitals have zero emergency room capacity.

Despite these grim statistics, many in California and elsewhere say that they are resistant to taking the vaccine. A Gallup poll published last week found that only 63 percent of Americans were willing to get vaccinated — significantly below the 75 percent threshold that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said would be needed to achieve “herd immunity.” Among those polled, willingness to be vaccinated was lowest among all adults aged 45-64 years old (52%) and non-white adults (53%).

“We are not only combatting a deadly virus,” Rosselli said. “We are forced to push back against misinformation and disinformation related to vaccines in general and the COVID-19 vaccine in particular. President Trump’s remarks about the vaccine and the way he has politicized its rollout hasn’t helped,” he added.

“Probably every one of our members knows that vaccines are a proven way to protect individuals from viruses and can even eradicate a virus completely,” Rosselli said. “Yet doubts remain because many of our people hail from communities that are distrustful of this administration and the medical establishment.”

Let’s not let anyone skip in front of the line.

Rosselli cautioned healthcare employers against letting administrators or doctors who don’t treat COVID-19 patients jump to the front of the line for vaccines.

“Direct caregivers like nurses, respiratory therapists, housekeepers who clean the rooms of COVID-19 patients, transporters who move patients and phlebotomists who test patients are all at high risk and must be prioritized for vaccines, not the folks in the front office,” Rosselli said.

“We can’t let our guard down.”

He also added that since the vaccine supply will initially be limited and it’s still unknown if the vaccine prevents virus transmission, it’s critical that hospitals not scale back on providing PPE, testing or other safety precautions after workers are vaccinated.

“We can’t let our guard down,” Rosselli said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s a long tunnel.”


Daily Pilot: NUHW members reflect on hard-fought COVID-19 testing victory

Published Wednesday, December 2, 2020

NUHW members have played an important part in securing weekly COVID-19 testing for hospital workers in California. At Fountain Valley Regional Hospital where Armando Rodriguez, a radiology technician, died of COVID-19 earlier this month, workers held three rallies calling for stronger COVID-19 protections, including regular testing for themselves and mandatory testing for their patients upon admission.

One day after the California Department of Public Health mandated weekly testing for all hospital workers and one-time testing for all patients upon admission, The Los Angeles Times‘ Orange County publication, the Daily Pilotpublished a story about the impact NUHW members had on achieving the first-in-the-nation testing requirements:

“I feel [it] is going to make an impact,” Josh Jesus, an MRI scan tech told the paper. “Patients coming in will know workers are being tested — and it’s going to help us feel a lot safer.”

The article noted that the new state directive is similar to a proposal put forth by NUHW and fought for by its members.

“There’s absolutely no doubt healthcare workers, as a result of this, will be safe,” Barbara Lewis, NUHW’s Southern California hospital division director told the paper. “And when healthcare workers are safe, that means patients are safe and communities are safer.”

The union leader praised the courage of employees who stood up and risked their jobs to expose inadequacies at their respective hospitals. “They knew what was happening and they knew it wasn’t good enough for patient care,” Lewis said. “When we talk about healthcare heroes — this was their heroic act.”

Read the full article at the Daily Pilot.


LA Times: Weekly COVID testing for hospital workers to have major impact

Published Tuesday, December 1, 2020

California’s new COVID-19 testing requirements will have a major impact on hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers. The Los Angeles Times covers the impact this will have on workers at acute-care hospitals throughout the state:

“It’s a huge victory that will save lives,” said Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents more than 15,000 healthcare workers in California and helped lobby for the change.

Before the policy update, the state had no formal testing requirements for healthcare workers, Rosselli said. The introduction of weekly testing, which benefits both patients and workers, was long overdue.

“Sports players and their teams are tested every day to keep them safe,” Rosselli said, “and elite colleges are testing their entire student bodies and faculties every week to minimize COVID infection. But hospital workers who take care of people with COVID couldn’t get tested.”

This is a major win for NUHW members and healthcare employees throughout the state, who continue to fight for even stronger reforms to protect workers throughout the pandemic.

Read the full article at LA Times (subscription required).


Politico: State’s NUHW-backed Covid testing mandate draws hospital industry’s ire

Published Tuesday, December 1, 2020

NUHW members have won our fight for comprehensive COVID-19 testing requirements covering acute care hospitals.

Politico published a story about the California Department of Public Health’s first-in-the-nation regulations mandating weekly COVID-19 testing for acute care hospital workers — and the hospital industry’s resistance to the new requirements.

Carmela Coyle, executive director of the California Hospital Association, told POLITICO the group’s primary concern is about timing. She argues that testing supplies are still scarce — a problem she attributes to the test manufacturers, not the hospitals — and this new guidance kicks in just as California is “on the precipice of what may be the greatest surge we have experienced to date.”

Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, accused the hospital operators of putting cost concerns over the safety of their workforce.

Rosselli, who has been pushing for the guidance for weeks, said skilled nursing facilities have abided by similar testing guidance and that the new rules have resulted in a dramatic decrease in coronavirus infection rates and deaths. “Why are these hospitals pushing back against testing their employees who are coming in contact with patients every day?” he said in an interview.

Read the entire article (subscription required).


First in the Nation: California mandates a new weekly COVID-19 testing requirement for ALL hospital healthcare workers

Published Monday, November 30, 2020

“Governor Newsom deserves credit for recognizing the urgency of the problem and taking decisive action.” – Sal Rosselli, National Union of Healthcare Workers President

Across the country, healthcare workers fear that Thanksgiving 2020 will be remembered as a ticking time bomb during which millions of social gatherings led to an explosion of coronavirus cases. But for California healthcare workers, the holiday also will have marked the moment when the California Department of Public Health created a sweeping new mandate that requires weekly COVID-19 testing for workers at acute care hospitals. The mandate further stipulates that COVID-19 tests be administered to all newly admitted patients at those same facilities and to workers who are symptomatic.

The new requirements, announced over the holiday, are the strongest in the nation for testing healthcare workers. They mark the largest expansion in California’s testing rules since May, when the state mandated regular testing of workers inside nursing homes.

“These new regulations will save lives, dramatically reduce the risk of further outbreaks inside hospitals and help ensure that there are enough healthcare workers to care for patients during the worsening surge,” said National Union of Healthcare Workers President Sal Rosselli.

The emphasis at the federal level has been on finding a vaccine, Rosselli pointed out, not on making testing more widely available.

“But we can’t just sit on our hands and wait for a vaccine as COVID-19 cases continue to soar and hospitals fill up,” Rosselli said. “Governor Newsom deserves credit for recognizing the urgency of the problem and taking decisive action to finally make hospitals test all workers and patients upon admission.”

Under the new regulations set forth by the California Department of Public Health, acute care hospitals will be required to:

  • Begin testing workers deemed to be at especially high-risk of contracting COVID-19, such as emergency room caregivers, by the week of Dec. 7.
  • Start weekly testing of all workers including nurses, nursing assistants and medical technicians as well as workers who don’t provide direct patient care but could still be exposed to the virus, such as housekeepers, food service workers and clerical workers, by Dec. 14. Hospitals are required to submit their plans to achieve full-scale, weekly testing by Dec. 7.
  • Immediately test workers with COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Test all newly admitted patients for COVID-19.

The new regulations are similar to what the state authorized for nursing homes earlier this year and reflect recommendations NUHW submitted to state officials for consideration.

For months, NUHW members across California have been protesting the lack of available testing for themselves and their patients and staging rallies demanding that their employers ramp up testing.

Last week, workers gathered outside Fountain Valley Regional Hospital in Orange County to demand access to COVID-19 tests after a colleague died from exposure to the virus. Like most hospitals in California, Fountain Valley has refused to test all newly admitted patients, provide regular testing of caregivers or test caregivers following an exposure.

“This is a huge victory that will make everyone safer inside California hospitals,” said Josh Jesus, a radiology technologist at Fountain Valley.

“It was hard not to be demoralized when professional athletes were getting tested every day by their employers but caregivers treating COVID-19 patients couldn’t get tested at all,” he said.

News media reported that there were 7,415 COVID-19 patients in California hospitals on November 28, according to state figures, a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations and surpassing the previous high of 7,170, back in July. By comparison, one month earlier, on Oct. 28, there were 2,400 COVID-19 patients in the state’s acute care hospitals. Nationwide, approximately 95,000 people are hospitalized with the disease, according to remarks made over the weekend by Adm. Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services. This accounts for 20 percent of those who are currently hospitalized in the United States.

“It’s unconscionable that multibillion-dollar hospital corporations had to be forced to test their workers and patients for a virus that has already killed 225,000 people in the United States,” Rosselli said. “This is a critical step forward in California and a model for the nation but we still need to expand testing requirements to caregivers in home health settings and in correctional facilities where outbreaks continue unabated.”

The National Union of Healthcare Workers is a member-led movement representing more than 15,000 healthcare workers in California.

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The survey results are in, but our work is far from over

Published Monday, October 26, 2020

Dear NUHW member:

More than 5,000 NUHW members completed our COVID-19 survey. We are already using key findings to make the strongest possible case to government officials that hospitals and other healthcare providers must be compelled to provide adequate testing for all healthcare workers and patients.

We’ve asked state officials to establish new rules requiring hospitals and others healthcare facilities to provide frequent, employer-paid testing to all employees, and have exchanged draft proposals with them.

As far as our COVID-19 survey, here are key findings from NUHW members working at acute-care hospitals:

  • Fifty-four percent responded that they do not trust their employer to keep them safe on the job.
  • Nearly one in three respondents reported being informed by their employer that they had been exposed to COVID-19 on the job. Among those who were informed of their exposure, only 39 percent were offered COVID-19 tests by their employer, while 74 percent were told to continue working despite the exposure.
  • Conversely, among workers who informed their employer of a potential exposure, only 37 percent were offered COVID-19 tests, while 66 percent were told to continue working.
  • Nearly one in three respondents said that at some point during the pandemic they had cared for a patient who they had been told did not have COVID-19, but who later tested positive.

The top three priorities for improving health and safety on the job were:

  • Providing COVID-19 testing to all healthcare workers.
  • Increasing the supply of PPE, including N95 respirators.
  • Improved contact tracing to immediately notify workers following an exposure.

The top two proposals for improving financial security were:

  • Paid-time off for workers who have to self-quarantine following an infection or exposure.
  • Hazard pay

This survey has proven to be a valuable tool in setting our priorities for protecting the health of NUHW members and patients. Stewards at many facilities have used the results to press management for improvements, and we are now better equipped to make the case to elected leaders about the urgent need to expand testing and access to PPE.

If you have any COVID-19-related questions or concerns, please email COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer
National Union of Healthcare Workers


Our newest members are fighting to secure COVID testing

Published Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

Since the onset of the pandemic, we have successfully organized healthcare workers at jails in Sonoma and Stanislaus counties. These caregivers, including nurses and mental health professionals, are employed by Wellpath, a private company that also employs our members at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County.

While our new members started organizing to safeguard their jobs and improve their health benefits, they are now using their newfound power to join with our members at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail to make Wellpath protect them and their patients from COVID-19.

As our union made clear with a commentary this week in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, correctional facilities are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks — more than 200 incarcerated people at Santa Rita have already contracted the virus — yet the state has not mandated regular testing for caregivers or patients as it has for those at nursing homes.

At the jails where we represent healthcare workers, Wellpath has refused to test our members who have been exposed to the virus and stockpiled N95 respirator masks that did not meet federal guidelines. Over the next few weeks, our members will be demanding that Wellpath provide them with regular COVID-19 testing, and they will go public with their concerns if Wellpath refuses to comply.

While we advocate for our members working in correctional facilities, we are also continuing to advocate for reforming the criminal justice system in our state. Last year, we helped elect Chesa Boudin as San Francisco District Attorney. Boudin campaigned on a platform of eliminating cash bail, establishing a unit to re-evaluate wrongful convictions and refusing to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with raids and arrests. This year, we have endorsed George Gascon, who has pledged to pursue major reforms in Los Angeles if he is elected the county’s next district attorney.

Please contact us with any COVID-related questions or concerns at your workplace by emailing COVID19@nuhw.org. Also check out our resource page at NUHW.org/covid19.

 

In Unity,

Sal Rosselli, President
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer
National Union of Healthcare Workers

 


COVID-19 oubreak highlights need for regular testing, appropriate PPE at all hospitals

Published Friday, September 4, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

Throughout this pandemic Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital — and the entire Providence St. Joseph hospital system — has been one of the worst offenders when it comes to refusing to test workers or provide appropriate PPE.

Now the hospital has reported one of the worst outbreaks of any healthcare facility with NUHW members. To date, 17 Santa Rosa Memorial caregivers have tested positive, including five NUHW members, none of whom, fortunately have required hospitalization. Additionally, at least two patients contracted COVID-19 inside the hospital.

Santa Rosa Memorial, which was already severely understaffed, recently brought in help from the National Guard to provide additional nurses and the nursing assistants — the two job classifications most impacted by the outbreak.

This outbreak should never have happened. Workers were put at risk for three reasons:

  1. The hospital has refused to test caregivers, even those with symptoms. At the onset of the outbreak, it denied a test to a worker who was feeling sick and later tested positive for COVID-19.
  2. The hospital is not providing N95 respirator masks for nursing assistants, transporters and phlebotomists who are caring for patients who either have COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19.
  3. Despite testing newly admitted patients for COVID-19, the hospital is not fully isolating them while they await the test results, increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

NUHW members are fighting even harder at Santa Rosa Memorial for adequate protections, and they’ve been sharing their concerns with local reporters at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and ABC-7.

It’s outrageous that Santa Rosa Memorial officials trace the outbreak back to Aug. 6, but didn’t inform employees until Aug. 28 — the same day the hospital finally began widespread testing.

Testing is needed to prevent outbreaks. And, we are continuing to push ahead with our call for hospitals, correctional facilities and home health agencies to test workers at least once a month.

If you have any concerns or questions related to COVID-19, please email us at COVID19@nuhw.com.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer
National Union of Healthcare Workers

 


NUHW members win COVID improvements at Orange County hospitals

Published Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Dear NUHW member:

Our members in Orange County have been confronting many of the same problems that so many NUHW members currently face— employers that fail to provide enough PPE, deny them COVID-19 tests and refuse to test all newly admitted patients.

Over the past several months, NUHW members in Orange County have taken a series of actions to pressure their employers to prioritize their health. And, they’re winning! They’ve won changes, including:

  1. Hazard pay at West Anaheim Medical Center and Kindred hospitals in Westminster and Brea.
  2. Improved access to PPE and regular COVID-19 testing of all NUHW members at Kindred Hospital Westminster.
  3. Safer cohorting of COVID-19 patients at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital.

Fountain Valley Regional Hospital

Fountain Valley is owned by Tenet Healthcare, a Fortune 500 company that nevertheless was refusing to isolate COVID patients and forcing caregivers to treat both COVID-positive and non-COVID patients on the same shift, wearing the same PPE.

In advance of their first protest last month over the hospital’s substandard safety procedures, workers filed a complaint with the California Department of Public Health. The agency found so many issues that it received approval from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to launch a much broader survey of the entire hospital. This larger survey included a seven-day visit by four agency surveyors and a doctor.

Although the findings have not been released, the hospital has already begun to isolate COVID-19 patients, several of whom had been previously placed in the same unit as cancer patients.

Now, we’re focusing our demands for the hospital to test all newly admitted patients and provide regular COVID-19 testing to employees. Our second protest, last Thursday, was covered by the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and Becker’s Hospital Review.

Our members were also joined by about 20 nurses, including Jennifer Carter, who told the LA Times: “There’s a lot of fear — of getting COVID-19, bringing it home to family, giving it to patients. Every patient who comes into the emergency room should be tested. If they leave our ER, but they’re asymptomatic, they’re going to go out and spread it.”

Kindred Healthcare

Our earliest victory followed our worst tragedy. After a COVID-19 outbreak at Kindred Hospital Brea infected 27 workers and ended the life of nurse Roda Vicuna, workers fought for and won a dedicated COVID-19 unit, COVID-19 testing for all patients and staff, hazard pay, and regular labor-management meetings to further discuss infection-control protocols.

However, Kindred refused to extend these safeguards to workers at its nearby hospital in Westminster — until now. After Westminster workers held an informational picket that generated several newspaper and television news stories, management offered concessions shortly before a second picket was scheduled to start last week. Stewards are recommending that their colleagues approve management’s offer, which includes:

  1. Monthly COVID-19 testing for all workers.
  2. N95 masks for all hospital employees.
  3. Hazard pay for workers serving COVID-19 patients.
  4. Weekly labor-management COVID-19 meetings.

West Anaheim Medical Center

When the pandemic began, this Prime Healthcare hospital rejected our call for hazard  pay. Now it has proposed paying an additional $7 per hour to respiratory therapists, and we are requesting that the differential also go to additional classifications at the hospital.

Our progress in Orange County is a testament to the power of strong organizing for worker and patient safety during an unprecedented public health crisis. When we join together to demand change, we win!

Fill out the survey

Preliminary results from our COVID-19 survey helped get press coverage for the Fountain Valley protest, and was referenced in the Los Angeles Times article.

But we need more folks to participate. The more people who fill out the survey, the more hard evidence we’ll have to take to employers and political leaders, and make the case for increasing testing, expanding COVID-related paid time off and securing more PPE.

Please take the survey.

In Unity,

Sal Rosselli, President
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer
National Union of Healthcare Workers

 

 


Athletes get regular COVID tests; healthcare workers should, too

Published Thursday, July 30, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

You may have read that professional baseball and football players will both be tested for COVID-19 every other day this season to protect their health.

Unfortunately, we all know that most healthcare workers can’t even get tested by their employers when they’ve been exposed to COVID-19. That must change, and we are working hard to change it.

We are scheduling conversations with leading elected officials across the state, including Governor Newsom, to build support for our plan to require regular testing of healthcare workers inside hospitals and correctional facilities. We’re also addressing our testing proposal with our employers.

In a nutshell, we’re asking Newsom to expand many of the testing protocols he required for nursing homes to hospitals and jails, which are at similarly high risk for rapid transmission of the coronavirus.

We have heard from our members at nursing homes that the testing requirements put in place by the California Department of Public Health, at Newsom’s direction, have significantly helped reduce the risk of COVID transmission. And we believe that had Kindred Hospital Brea been required to test workers and patients, it would have averted the outbreak that killed NUHW member Roda Vicuna, a nurse at the hospital.

Here are the testing provisions we are urging the state to adopt for healthcare workers in hospitals and jails:

  • Testing of Patients: Test all newly admitted, re-admitted, and newly treated patients for COVID-19 infection. Also, test all patients when they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or have a known exposure to COVID-19.
  • Baseline testing of all healthcare workers: Test all staff of inpatient facilities and home health agencies.
  • Surveillance testing of workers: After the baseline round of testing, test 25% of all workers every seven days, such that 100% of the staff is tested each month.
  • Testing of symptomatic workers: Test healthcare workers when they have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Exposure-driven testing: Test healthcare workers when they have had an exposure (without adequate PPE such as an N95 respirator) to Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) or confirmed COVID-19 cases (whether patients, coworkers, or individuals in their family or in the community).

This should have been the testing standard from Day One of the pandemic. And there is no excuse not to implement it now.

It’s easy to assume that athletes are getting tested frequently because professional sports are multi-billion dollar businesses. But, so are hospital companies. Providence St. Joseph, which employs more than 2,000 NUHW members, has cash reserves totaling $12 billion — more than enough to buy the Giants and the Dodgers. And, it has already received more than $500 million in federal stimulus funding.

Our employers can afford to regularly test employees and patients. And, we are intent on making them do it.

In Unity,

Sal Rosselli, President
Sophia Mendorza, Secretary-Treasurer
National Union of Healthcare Workers

 


NUHW members strike and picket amid pandemic

Published Thursday, July 23, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

It’s not too late to take our short COVID-19 survey. The survey will help us make the strongest case to elected leaders and employers about how best to protect everyone’s safety and economic well-being during the pandemic.

Our work in pushing for more PPE was recognized Wednesday by Gov. Newsom. In his daily COVID-address, the governor praised us for raising concerns about the inadequate supply of N95 masks.

The Associated Press wrote about Newsom’s new initiative to provide more masks and mentioned our involvement:

“We’re sending out an unprecedented number of masks. I want to make sure those masks are going to our front line workers,” Newsom said, after sharing that the president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, Sal Rosselli, told him some health workers were getting only two to three N95 masks per week. The California Nurses Association wants nurses to get a new N95 mask for every patient.

“We have got to address that issue and I want folks to know we’re not naive to that challenge and that responsibility,” Newsom said.

NUHW members have staged two major actions this week centered around health and safety concerns.

At Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, 740 NUHW members are on strike this week over the hospital’s demand to cut sick leave and health benefits during the pandemic. The hospital’s takeaway demands are even more outrageous considering that it has reported a $201 million operating profit over the last three years and is still not providing sufficient PPE.

We have had strong support from local officials speaking at our daily strike rallies. Every major media outlet in the Bay Area has covered the strike, including KTVU, KRON4KSRO, CBS-5, ABC 7, The Press Democrat, San Francisco Chronicle, KCBS Radio, and News of the North Bay.

At Kindred Hospital Westminster, approximately 100 workers held an informational picket demanding stronger safety protocols to avoid a repeat of the COVID-19 outbreak at nearby Kindred Brea. The Brea outbreak left more than 40 percent of patients infected, as well as 27 workers, including Roda Vicuna, the only NUHW member to die from the coronavirus.

Marching together with local elected leaders, NUHW members from Kindred Brea, and Kindred Westminster’s registered nurses, Westminster workers held a two-hour picket, demanding that the hospital provide everyone with N95 masks, offer regular testing for all workers and establish a dedicated COVID-19 unit so coronavirus patients can be fully isolated.

Among the news outlets covering the picket were the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Voice of OC,Univision, and KTLA.

Please complete our COVID-19 survey. (La encuesta también está disponible en español aquí.)

And, if you have any COVID-related concerns, email us at Covid19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer
National Union of Healthcare Workers


Fixing mental health care during Covid and beyond

Published Thursday, June 18, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

The coronavirus is reshaping health care in our country. With more than 4,000 mental health clinicians in our ranks, NUHW is keenly aware that no sector of the healthcare industry is more in need of reform and more prone to collapse under the pressure of COVID-19 than mental health care.

We consulted with NUHW members to craft six recommendations for addressing the underlying issues that keep people from getting the mental health care they need now and that will only get worse as the pandemic grinds on.

Our recommendations include:

  • Programs to help expand and diversify the ranks of clinicians and expand care to regions where clinician shortages are most severe.
  • Better laws safeguarding the right to receive mental health care and better enforcement of existing laws.
  • More worker input into how mental health care is delivered and guarantees that essential workers putting their lives at risk during the pandemic will have access to mental health care.

SEE ALL RECOMMENDATIONS

The pandemic is one of the worst public health crises we’ve experienced, but in any crisis there is opportunity for real reform. That includes achieving Health Care and Mental Healthcare for All.

If you have any COVID-19 related questions or concerns, contact us at COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


Help the family of Roda Vicuna

Published Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

A GoFundMe account has been set up on behalf of the family of Roda Vicuna. Roda, a licensed vocational nurse at Kindred Hospital Brea, died of COVID-19 on May 29. Contributions will go to Roda’s husband and her two children. NUHW is planning to make a separate donation to the family.

Roda’s sister, who also works at Kindred Brea, recently shared with her co-workers a journal entry about Roda and how her family struggled through the final weeks of her life. You can read that entry by clicking here.

Our primary focus is on making all employers properly protect the health of their workers. One of the very few employers that has done a good job when it comes to making sure that workers are tested for COVID-19 has been Keck Medicine of USC.

Last month, NUHW, because of our strong record of standing up for strong safety precautions for workers and patients, was asked to participate in a television advertisement that thanked Los Angeles County residents for doing their part to stay safe during the pandemic. Since Keck USC has been one of the better employers in terms of making tests available, we asked Keck, as well as the Los Angeles County Fire Department to join us in making the ad.

The ad, which was written and filmed prior to the recent civil rights demonstrations, has aired on several local Los Angeles television stations.

Coronavirus infections are continuing to grow in many parts of California. Health officials recently placed nine counties, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Santa Clara and Sacramento counties, on a watch list for potential reinstatement of lockdown orders. Infection rates are also increasing again in the Bay Area even as the region begins revising shelter-in-place orders.

If you have a COVID-19-related question or concern, email us at COVID19@gmail.com.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


In honor of Roda Vicuna, LVN

Published Friday, June 5, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

We are heartbroken to report that NUHW lost its first member to COVID-19 last week. The passing of Roda Vicuna, an LVN at Kindred Hospital Brea, after having been hospitalized for several weeks, is devastating to all of us.

Her coworkers at Kindred Hospital Brea are wearing black ribbons to honor her memory. They are also setting up a GoFundMe account for her family that we will share once it’s online.

In March, we shifted the primary focus of our union to keeping members safe, and pushing employers to adopt the highest safety standards. We have made progress, but there is still much work to be done.

Many NUHW members are fortunate to work at facilities that have not experienced a surge of COVID-19 patients. But others have not been so lucky. Kindred Brea is a 96-bed hospital that cares for many elderly patients recovering from critical illnesses. As of last week, 25 workers at the facility, including 22 NUHW members, had tested positive for COVID-19 as had 16 patients, two of whom have died.

The situation at Kindred Brea illustrates why we have put our focus on health and safety issues. Hospital management initially failed to secure adequate PPE, resisted testing all patients.

It took very aggressive measures to get the hospital to test patients, agree to test members, and obtain more PPE. We’ve secured $6 to $8 per hour hazard pay for our members working with COVID patients at the hospital, and we have set up weekly labor-management meetings to ensure the management follows through on its commitment to adequately safeguard workers and patients.

Unfortunately, Kindred Brea isn’t the only facility where our members have contracted the virus. We have had 10 members become infected at a Bay Area Kindred hospital and two members become very sick working at Kaiser Permanente and Children’s Hospital Oakland. We just had our fourth member test positive at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital.

We all know that the pandemic is far from over. We are continuing to push all our facilities to adopt best practices and be prepared for the virus to rebound later this year. As we mourn the passing of an NUHW member, we pledge to do everything in our power to keep everyone safe.

If you have any questions or concerns, email COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


Members promote NUHW’s COVID-19 Healthcare Workers Bill of Rights

Published Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

NUHW members have taken to social media to help promote our union’s COVID-19 Healthcare Workers Bill of Rights. Members throughout California have taken part in short videos to promote each of the ten items NUHW advocates for keeping workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and during future pandemics. Eight videos have been released and more are on the way.

Our Bill of Rights is a distillation of a more comprehensive policy document (see it here in English and in Spanish) that outlines the minimum precautions and protocols that we believe must be put in place to keep healthcare workers safe. We have developed this policy agenda based on guidance from public health officials, research into best practices at healthcare facilities, and conversations with NUHW members — and we are presenting it to employers and political allies as part of a concerted effort to put these policies into practice.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


Here’s how you can object to an unsafe work assignment

Published Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

As healthcare workers, there are times when we feel that management is asking us to do work that is unsafe for ourselves or our patients.

We must be especially vigilant about unsafe assignments during the COVID-19 pandemic when the threat to people’s health is greater and many hospitals are assigning workers to labor pools and giving them tasks for which they might not be adequately trained.

That’s why we want to make sure everyone understands their right to object to an assignment. Click here to access an electronic objection-to-assignment form and learn more about your right to do assignments under protest.

If you have any questions related to COVID-19 and your workplace, please contact us at COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


What Gov. Newsom’s Workers Compensation order means for NUHW members

Published Thursday, May 14, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

Nearly 11 percent of Californians who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been healthcare workers. As of Monday, 7,274 healthcare workers in California had tested positive, including at least 31 NUHW members.

Given the clear threat to healthcare workers and all essential employees, Gov. Gavin Newsom last week issued an executive order that will make it much easier for essential workers who’ve contracted COVID-19 to receive workers compensation benefits.

Under the executive order, workers will have presumptive eligibility for workers compensation benefits if they test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of working anytime after the statewide stay-at-home order was issued on March 19, 2020.

Because the governor’s order will be in place for only 60 days, we’re working with elected officials to pass a bill in the state legislature that would extend this system of presumptive eligibility into the future. Caregivers on the frontlines of this pandemic deserve the full protections and support of our workers compensation system.

To support NUHW’s members, we’ve made arrangements with attorneys who specialize in workers compensation issues to answer questions you may have about filing a claim.

If you’re based in Southern California, including Kern, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties, you can contact the law firm of Ford & Wallach, and ask for Jason Swanson at 213-380-3140, extension 2209.

If you’re based in Northern California or the Central Valley north of Kern County, you can contact the law firm of Boxer & Gerson and ask for John Harrigan at 510-918-3500.

If you call, please tell them you’re an NUHW member. The consultation is free. If you end up filing a claim, the attorneys would only collect a standard contingency fee (a portion of your workers compensation settlement) if your case is successful.

If you have any questions related to COVID-19 and your workplace, please contact us at COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


NUHW advocates for mental health care for COVID-19 caregivers

Published Thursday, May 7, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

One of NUHW’s central tenets is that everyone should be able to access mental health care that’s on par with the physical health care they receive. Unfortunately, California’s Mental Health Parity Act has big loopholes, and insurers routinely violate it without repercussions from government regulators.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to produce a surge in mental health problems including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared with the same time last year.

As healthcare workers, NUHW members are especially vulnerable to mental health problems due to the strains of caring for our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 11 percent of all Californians testing positive for the coronavirus are healthcare workers.

As the nation’s leading union representing private-sector mental health clinicians, we are pushing to ensure that all of our members have access to free and immediate mental health care and that our mental health clinicians  — whose work responsibilities can be done from home — can do their jobs remotely to lower their risk of infection.

Our COVID-19 Healthcare Workers Bill of Rights states:

“Healthcare workers are confronting intense pressure, stress, uncertainty, and trauma in the workplace as well as a high risk for infection. To help workers facing these conditions, healthcare facilities must provide access to high-quality mental healthcare services to employees at no cost.”

We are engaging healthcare corporations and elected officials about meeting the increasing demand for mental health care and making sure that healthcare workers are prioritized. We are also supporting mental health bills in the state legislature that would require insurance companies to cover all medically necessary mental health care and substance use disorder treatments and remove common barriers patients face when attempting to access medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders.

It’s time for a mental health care surge to meet the growing demand. And that starts with making sure that healthcare workers can get free and immediate care.

Please contact us with any Covid-19-related questions at COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


Tracking the COVID-19 stimulus

Published Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

The $2.7 trillion federal stimulus package that provides enhanced unemployment benefits also includes $100 billion for hospitals, nursing homes and clinics to “support healthcare-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19.” That’s not all. Billions more in federal aid is on the way to healthcare providers.

Our healthcare facilities shouldn’t be cutting hours for workers during a pandemic, especially facilities operated by healthcare corporations that are pocketing federal relief funds. Decades of corporate downsizing has left our healthcare system woefully unprepared to handle a pandemic, and it’s simply not okay for hospitals to use the COVID-19 outbreak to further cut staffing.

We’re closely tracking the allocation of federal stimulus dollars. Together, we need to make sure our employers treat NUHW members fairly and do not exploit the crisis to further their bottom line.

Click here for our estimate of how much money each employer of NUHW members received during the first round of stimulus funding, which amounted to about one-third of the initial $100 billion pot.

So far, it’s been a mixed bag. Several employers have done a good job at working with NUHW to create sensible labor pools and ensure that NUHW members continue to receive their full paychecks. Others have been quick to flex workers without giving them access to paid administrative leave or a fair opportunity to join a labor pool.

We’ll continue to monitor how much employers draw down from their stimulus allocations and advocate that they do their duty to provide opportunities so workers can earn their full paychecks.

Please remember that people who lose shifts may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. For more information about applying for unemployment, click here.

Please contact us at COVID19@nuhw.org with any questions about losing shifts or other COVID-19 related matters. And check out our one-page COVID-19 Healthcare Workers Bill of Rights and our more comprehensive policy document to learn more about our top policy goals for protecting healthcare workers during this pandemic and future ones.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


NUHW’s COVID-19 Healthcare Workers Bill of Rights

Published Monday, April 20, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

The COVID-19 outbreak has jeopardized the health and financial security of many NUHW members — and healthcare workers across the country. To identify and advocate for policies that will protect all healthcare workers, we have produced a 10-point COVID-19 Healthcare Workers Bill of Rights.

This one-page document boils down what must be done immediately to keep healthcare workers safe so they can care for patients and continue providing for their families. Our demands include PPE, universal COVID-19 testing, the ability for certain workers to do their jobs from home, and the right for everybody to have sufficient time to care for their families.

Our Bill of Rights is the distillation of a more comprehensive policy document that outlines the minimum precautions and protocols that we believe must be put in place to keep healthcare workers safe. Both documents have been developed over the past several weeks based on guidance from public health officials, research into best practices at healthcare facilities, and conversations with NUHW members.

We are presenting this policy document to our employers and to elected officials as part of a concerted effort to put all of these policies into practice. We will also send employers and share with our members an additional document focused more directly on the critical economic issues that must be addressed in response to the pandemic.

It’s clear that our current healthcare system has failed us during the COVID-19 crisis, and there is much work to do in order to build a sustainable, high-functioning health care system that prioritizes patient care and protects healthcare workers. As a union, all of us have a vital role to play in shaping the future of healthcare, starting with using our collective power to advocate for our own safety, so that patients can get the care they need.

Please read our Bill of Rights and our policy document and keep letting us know about COVID-19 issues you are facing in your workplaces, either by contacting your steward or organizer — or by emailing us at COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-TreasurerNational Union of Healthcare Workers


NUHW COVID-19 Update: April 6, 2020

Published Monday, April 6, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

Over the past week, we’ve updated our COVID-19 information page, responded to dozens of members’ emails outlining virus-related workplace concerns, and pressed employers to improve access to PPE, mandate the wearing of masks in every facility, allow mental health clinicians to work remotely, and provide appropriate paid leave for workers who must care for family members during the pandemic.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email COVID19@nuhw.org. Your organizer or an NUHW director will get back to you with the resources you need or will work to resolve your issues with management. You can also get answers to a lot of questions at NUHW.org/covid19.

Your stewards and organizers will be providing more detailed information about COVID-19 related issues in your facilities, but we wanted to update you on several items that impact everyone:

Mandatory Mask Policies

Every employer must provide healthcare workers with the appropriate PPE (including N95 masks) that’s donned and doffed each time they deliver care to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients or clean and handle equipment in these patients’ rooms. If your employer is not providing that equipment, please contact your organizer or email us at COVID19@nuhw.org.

When it comes to other settings, several of our employers have recently rolled out Universal Masking Policies. UCSF, which employs more than 1,200 NUHW members at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, agreed to require everyone in its clinical centers, including patients and visitors, to wear surgical masks. It also requires caregivers to use a different mask when dealing directly with patients, which reduces the risk of caregivers unintentionally passing the virus on to their colleagues and others inside their facilities.

Providence St. Joseph Health this week introduced a less comprehensive policy that provides caregivers with a single mask per day that they must use in all settings.

We’re pushing employers to adopt the UCSF policy. Making masks mandatory shouldn’t just be for big hospital chains. Every medical facility, including clinics and nursing homes, should be requiring masks. Please let us know if you’re concerned about your facility’s masking policy either by contacting your organizer or emailing us at COVID19@nuhw.org.


PPE shortfalls

The lack of adequate PPE is a national disgrace that’s impacting nearly every medical facility in California. We’re continuing to work with employers as well as local and state officials to boost supplies especially at facilities with the most dire needs.

At Seton Medical Center in Daly City, which the state has leased to accommodate large numbers of COVID-19 patients, we worked with local officials to deliver nearly 16,000 N95 masks.

But we know that supplies remain low across the state. Cynthia Yee, an NUHW member working at a San Francisco nursing home, told the New York Times that she has to sanitize and reuse her N95 mask. Keep your organizer informed about the PPE situation at your facility, so we can work on finding solutions.


New resources on our website:

We’re continuing to update NUHW.org/covid19 with additional information, including:

  1. Guide to benefits, stimulus, and new state policies: https://nuhw.org/covid-19/navigating-benefits/new-federal-and-state-benefits/
  2. Mental health resources: https://nuhw.org/covid-19/community-resources-for-covid-19/mental-health-covid-19-resources/
  3. Childcare resources: https://nuhw.org/covid-19/community-resources-for-covid-19/childcare-covid-19-resources/

FILING UNEMPLOYMENT, DISABILITY INSURANCE, OR PAID FAMILY LEAVE CLAIMS
We know that many NUHW members have lost shifts or had to stop working during the pandemic. For a detailed explanation on whether you qualify for benefits and to apply for benefits including Paid Family Leave, Unemployment Insurance, Workers Compensation, Disability Insurance, as well as rent or mortgage relieve, please click on this page if you are a California resident or this page if you are a Hawaii resident.

When filling out a California EDD application, here’s the information you’ll need when asked about your union:

NUHW
1250 45th Street, Suite 200
Emeryville, CA 94608
(510) 834-2009
(510) 834-2019 Fax

Please note, there is no “union local” number. Since you are required to enter information into the “union local” field, you can enter “1.”

We know these are enormously difficult times. We’re committed to protecting everyone’s health and economic well-being. Please contact us with any questions or concerns. We’ll get through this together.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer, National Union of Healthcare Workers


NUHW launches COVID-19 resources website

Published Saturday, March 28, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to rapidly evolve. Over the past few days, NUHW leaders and stewards have pressed more employers to improve safety protocols and testing, while federal and state authorities have passed legislation and issued orders providing temporary relief to people economically impacted by the outbreak.

To keep up with the latest developments and provide critical resources, we encourage you to visit our new webpage: NUHW.org/covid-19. The page provides updates on our activities to hold employers to the highest standards for safeguarding the health and well-being of workers as well as information about the federal stimulus package and resources for workers who have lost shifts and income due to the pandemic.

We are committed to protecting the safety and economic security of all NUHW members and their families so all of you can care for your patients.

That’s why we are marshalling all our resources to respond to your COVID-19 concerns and get them positively resolved with your employers.

If you have a concern, please contact us at COVID19@nuhw.org or (510) 834-2009, or contact your organizer.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer, National Union of Healthcare Workers


COVID-19 Update – March 23, 2020

Published Monday, March 23, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented hardship and trauma for NUHW members and healthcare workers across the country. Many NUHW members are confronting a desperate shortage of protective equipment; others are losing shifts as elective procedures are cancelled, while many others are struggling to do their jobs while caring for children who are home from school.

Our top priority is to protect the safety of all NUHW members so all of you are able to care for your patients and your families. We can only accomplish this by holding employers accountable. To that end we have initiated working groups with management at several hospitals to constructively address and solve problems identified by our members. While we have not solved every issue as quickly as we’d like, these working groups have been productive, and we are currently seeking to expand them to additional hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other facilities.

One issue that we are continuing to stress with employers is the need to make COVID-19 testing available for all healthcare workers as soon as there are enough available testing kids to make that practical.

The immediate need to test all healthcare workers is even more pronounced because of the appalling lack of available personal protective equipment. It’s unconscionable that healthcare workers across the country are being asked to make their own masks, reuse masks, or work without any masks whatsoever.

We are pushing hard to make sure that all NUHW members have immediate access to appropriate protective equipment. We have also echoed the demands of healthcare workers and public health experts advocating for a dramatic increase in the production and availability of ventilator masks, goggles, gowns, and other protective equipment. When supplies finally increase, we will continue calling on employers to be fully transparent about the availability of protective equipment and how it is allocated.

Unfortunately, many NUHW members have lost shifts because of the COVID-19 pandemic or have had to cut back on work in order to be with their children. One of our employers, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, has agreed to provide NUHW members with 128 hours of additional paid-time off. We’re asking other employers to follow the lead of Children’s Hospital, but in the meantime we want to make sure everyone is aware of unemployment, paid family leaves, and other programs that can be accessed through the state of California. Click here to access more information about these programs and links to sign up for them.

Our great strength as a union is that we stand together — particularly in times of crisis. At a juncture when Asian-Americans have endured a sudden, sharp increase in hate crimes, and anti-Chinese comments have been made to COVID-19-related social media posts by at least one of our employers, it’s critical that we not succumb to the forces of division and hatred.

We’re all in this together, and we are all united in our shared humanity.

If you have any concerns that your employer is failing to protect your safety, provide sufficient time for you to care for your children or maintain your shifts please immediately report your concerns to your steward or organizer — or contact NUHW directly at (510) 834-2009 or COVID19@nuhw.org.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer, National Union of Healthcare Workers


Coronavirus Update: Making sure our safety is prioritized and our rights are protected

Published Monday, March 2, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

Last week, we submitted information requests to all employers demanding that they quickly provide detailed information about how they plan to keep workers and patients safe while treating people infected with the coronavirus. We have already seen at least one case in which a hospital that employs NUHW members did not immediately take appropriate safety precautions, and there are several public reports of healthcare workers who were potentially exposed to the coronavirus because of lax oversight procedures.

Click here to read the information request template that was later tailored for individual medical facilities and employers — and sent out late last week. We will keep everyone informed as we get information and make sure that every hospital, clinic, and nursing home with NUHW members has appropriate safety protocols and sufficient supplies of safety gear.

We are also pressing employers to ensure that NUHW members be paid without having to use PTO if they are required to be quarantined over possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Click here to see the coronavirus preparedness tool provided to healthcare facilities by the Centers for Disease Control. If you feel that your employer is not taking appropriate precautions to protect your safety or the safety of your colleagues or patients, please immediately report your concerns to your steward or organizer. Or you can contact NUHW directly at (510) 834-2009.

In Unity,
Sal Rosselli, President, National Union of Healthcare Workers
Sophia Mendoza, Secretary-Treasurer, National Union of Healthcare Workers

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