I know what it’s like being in a big union. You’re told that you’re part of something very powerful only to realize that the union is too big to care about your concerns and that you’re powerless to do anything about it.
In 2010, we voted to leave SEIU and help create NUHW.
Our goal was to build a better union — one that was focused on quality patient care and making sure we have a say in our union and our workplace.
It’s hard to start a union from scratch, but we’ve built something very special with NUHW.
Where I work, it’s clear that NUHW is more involved and better at holding Kaiser management accountable than UNAC. Our priorities are set by our stewards, and, as stewards, we are responsive to our colleagues’ concerns.
When per diem Speech Language Pathologists, who were working long hours, raised concerns about not being reclassified to full or part-time status so they could receive health benefits, we filed a grievance against Kaiser and won. Not only did Kaiser agree to reclassify those workers, Kaiser agreed to work with us to identify other workers, including Registered Dietitians, Audiologists, Speech Language Pathologists and Health Educators, who should also be reclassified and eligible for benefits.
The big union we used to belong to never would have taken on that fight.
As NUHW, we created the Regional Professional Practice Committee for all job classifications in our unit, which gives us a venue to work out issues with Kaiser. Through the committee, my fellow Dietitians/ Health Educators and I set baseline standards to ensure we have time for consults and for classes; time to prepare for appointments; time to document appointments and time to do indirect patient care tasks.
We had a lot of very good reasons to leave SEIU back in 2010. We were ignored and neglected. But this is different. We have a good union that supports us and a good contract with the same raises and a better bonus than UNAC’s. I don’t understand why we’d want to go back and bargain another contract and go back to being in a big union that won’t care about us.
TURUSEW GEDEBU WILSON