Member profile: Humberto Retana
The work of a mental health therapist and a union steward isn’t as different as it might appear.
Humberto Retana takes a similar approach to serving his patients and his colleagues: Understand exactly what’s causing the problem in order to help devise a solution.
When it comes to being a steward, “Once you identify the problem, you can prescribe the solution based on the contract,” said Humberto, who has worked as a marriage and family therapist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland for 10 years.
Humberto became a steward soon after he and his colleagues in the hospital’s Professionals Unit signed their first contract in 2018.
“I got involved with NUHW because I’ve always been on the side of labor,” Humberto said. “I became a steward to stay close to the action; and learn more about what a union is and how it works — and to give myself greater incentives to stay involved in labor–management relations.”
And this past year Humberto had plenty of chances to do that as he took part in negotiations that resulted in a new three-year contract following a one-day strike in April.
“It was emboldening,” he said of the strike that brought hundreds of workers into the streets, including nurses who struck in sympathy. “It opened my eyes. I felt a sense of encouragement to persuade my colleagues to advance.”
Humberto believes the strike “softened up” management and helped deliver a good contract with strong raises and job projections.
“We did good,” he said. “We largely got the things we wanted, but not everything.”
Humberto is proudest of language in the contract that will make it harder for UCSF to lay off his colleagues in the East Bay if it seeks to further consolidate Children’s Hospital Oakland with its children’s hospital in San Francisco or seek a full merger of the hospitals.
The protection probably won’t benefit him, but it should benefit hundreds of his colleagues who do office and clerical work at the hospital.
The unity his colleagues demonstrated at the bargaining table and on the strike line bodes well for the future, Humberto said. “We can all be actors in the workplace,” he said, “not just cogs in the hospital machinery.”