NUHW members take part in biennial Labor Notes conference

April 28th, 2016

NUHW members participated in the biennial Labor Notes Conference in Chicago, Illinois April 1-3.

Porfirio Quintano, a steward at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (Sutter–CPMC) in San Francisco and a member of NUHW’s Executive Board, was asked by conference organizers to co-chair, along with a veteran activist of the New York State Nurses Association, a national strategy meeting of more than one hundred healthcare activists. The group discussed common issues, successful membership fights, and larger issues within healthcare. “It was surprising to see a room full of people dealing with the same struggles we are — staffing, vacation, benefit cuts,” Porfirio said. “I saw that at the international forums and workshops too, unions dealing with subcontracting or even bosses attempting to get them to join friendly unions. All over, workers’ issues are the same.”

Sutter–CPMC steward and NUHW Executive Board member Greg Luna and NUHW Organizer Ryan Olds led an Assertive Grievance Handling training. Greg shared stories of successful organizing fights his coworkers have had over the years. Greg also attended the Chicago teachers strike that took place that week. “It was a lot of fun meeting members from around the country, talking about our common issues,” said Greg. “It was also a lot of fun being out there with thousands of people supporting the Chicago teachers’ struggle.”

Turusew Gedebu-Wilson, a steward in our Kaiser Healthcare Pros unit and member of the NUHW Executive Board, joined three other labor activists from across the United States on a panel explaining how labor bargains for the public good. The panel discussed how workers, at a time when both union members and the services we provide to the public are under attack by budget cutters, privatizers, and anti-union forces, can advocate for themselves and the communities they serve using our power at the worksite and at the bargaining table. Turusew served on the panel alongside union sisters from AFSCME, St. Paul Federation of Teachers, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Elizabeth White, a Kaiser Psych–Social steward and member of the NUHW Executive Board, joined four other labor activists from across the United States on a panel explaining how unions are defending mental health care and how union workers are fighting to keep clinics open and staffed adequately so that mental health services can be available to all. Elizabeth spoke about how the legislative and regulatory framework of the mental health parity laws created a pathway for equitable treatment of those affected with mental health needs in California. Her presentation, “Defending Mental Health Care: From the Law to the Couch by Way of the Street,” detailed the NUHW campaign to expose the mental health crisis at Kaiser Permanente. Wearing her NUHW “No More Kaiser Suicides” t-shirt, Elizabeth described the efforts of rank-and-file NUHW union members to document and take action against Kaiser’s gross lapses in care, change the political landscape and balance of power in California, and create a model for union activism across the country.

Kaiser Optical steward Gloria Villaseñor also took part in the conference, as did NUHW Secretary–Treasurer Sophia Mendoza, who led workshops on new organizing.