Member Profile: Michael Camarena
When nearly 200 recently organized NUHW members at West Anaheim Medical Center marched on their first picket line, Michael Camarena stood out in the crowd, carrying a bullhorn high up in his right hand.
Since he and his colleagues voted in December to join their co-workers as members of NUHW, Camarena, a pharmacy tech, has emerged as a leader in a unit that includes nursing assistants, EMTs, housekeepers, food service workers and lab technicians.
“We’re fighting for our rights, the rights everyone should have here, like reasonable pay,” he said during the July 13 picket. “Everything’s going up, food, rent, etc. A lot of us here are fed up. A lot of us here are having trouble supporting ourselves, let alone our family.”
Michael and his colleagues will soon vote on holding a one-day strike at the hospital, where Prime Healthcare reported making a $21.7 million net profit in 2021.
“They made (a huge) profit, and we’re being told to our faces by management that they don’t have (money for fair raises),” he said. “They’re lying to our faces.”
Michael, who has worked at WAMC for over three years, has learned from existing NUHW members who have won good contracts at the hospital that unity is critical for victory. That’s why he has been encouraging his colleagues from across the unit to become active and involved.
“I try to educate those that are either on the fence or a little scared,” he said. “I try to show them that we have to stick together to make a difference.”
Michael has attended nearly all of the bargaining sessions, attending even when he’s not on duty, and has done volunteer phone banking to encourage others to attend as well.
He’s a lot more involved than he expected when he started working at the hospital on a per diem basis, but that changed when he accepted a full-time position recently.
“This is now my home,” Michael said. “This is my full–time job and I want to improve it.”
The best way to make things better, he added, is to work together.
“We need to be there to show that we’re interested, that we’re partaking in the movement,” Michael said. “If only one of us shows up, it means nothing. If we clap one at a time, it means nothing, but if we clap together, it means something. We’re stronger in a union, that’s why we fight. And, that’s why we’ll win.”