Remembering Antonio Orea, a champion for working people
On November 17, we lost a dedicated staff leader and beloved member of our NUHW family to COVID-19. Antonio Orea lived an exemplary life. He grew up in Mexico, journeyed across the border at age 16, worked in a sweatshop, took classes, became a U.S. citizen, and devoted his life to helping people earn a decent living and work with dignity.
As many NUHW members in Southern California can attest, Antonio was a tough defender of workers rights during his 17 years with our union and one of the hardest-working people we’ve ever known. Antonio believed in the power of people organizing, and he had a gift for bringing workers together and making them feel comfortable challenging their employers and standing up for their rights.
One of Antonio’s greatest accomplishments came two years ago when he led the successful drive to bring in-house 80 dietary workers at USC Keck. By pressuring USC to stop subcontracting out those jobs, our members received raises of up to 50 percent, employer-paid retirement contributions, better health coverage, and tuition assistance for their children.
Antonio was a loving father to his twin sons, Gabriel and Daniel. He also remained very close to his family in Mexico. He was in Mexico, visiting them when he first developed COVID-19 symptoms. Antonio rapidly deteriorated and had been intubated for two weeks before his passing. He was 63.
As we mourn Antonio, we will also honor him by continuing his struggle. On Monday, November 23 subcontracted dietary and EVS workers at Tenet hospitals in Fountain Valley, Lakewood and Los Alamitos will join with other NUHW members at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital to kick off a campaign to win fair contracts that include bringing all subcontracted workers in-house. They will also announce their list of demands for Covid testing and safety protocols to protect them and patients from the virus. It will be a somber start to a tough fight. But, it’s a fight that Antonio has shown us we can win.