Eloise Reese-Burns tirelessly fought for justice as one of the longest-tenured health care workers in California and a member of NUHW’s executive board. She began serving her community in 1972 as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the Cottonwood Post Acute Rehab Center up until her passing in 2018.
A fierce advocate for workers’ rights, Eloise played a key role in founding NUHW. As a union leader, she fought against the SEIU trusteeship, and helped start NUHW as a member-driven alternative.
“I got that courage and my inspiration from my Dad,” a World War II veteran with the Tuskegee Airmen and the first Black president of the AFSCME in Little Rock, Arkansas. ”He said: if it’s right, and you think it’s right, fight for it.”
At Cottonwood Post-Acute Rehab, Reese-Burns helped her co-workers fight for better pay as well as more staffing and supplies. “When you violate one of our rights, you’ve violated them all,” she said. “That’s what unionism means.”
While Reese-Burns never shied away from conflict, she will be remembered most for how she nurtured patients and co-workers.
“A leader has to care; A leader has to mentor. A leader has to hold hands,” she said. “We’re taking care of human beings, and to do that work, you have to be compassionate.”