Pioneering UNAC/UHCP founder Kathy J. Sackman has Passed

Kathy J. Sackman, RN, founder and 33-year President of UNAC/UHCP passed away on December 31, 2021.

Our “charge nurse of the labor movement” was one of a small group of nurses who formed UNAC/UHCP in 1972. As our union begins our fiftieth year, we say goodbye to one of the founding mothers.

In her words, this is the seed that grew our solidarity:

We decided UNAC’s structure then and there. Nurses would represent Nurses. Any member would be able to easily contact the union officers. Every facility would have their own with their own local officers. Our union would be led by an Executive Council with a representative from each of our Affiliates, so members would have a voice in the organization. We would represent our members in all areas – legislation, collective bargaining, and representation. We would be run by nurses with patient care experience.

Kathy began her nursing career in the emergency room at Pittsburgh Hospital, later joining Kaiser Permanente in the Intensive Care and Critical Care units at Fontana Medical Center.

Her remarkable decades-long tenure as president of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals began in 1978, when our union consisted of just a small group of nurses. She led us through untold changes and monumental growth. When she retired in 2010, UNAC/UHCP represented 18,000 registered nurses and health care professionals.

Kathy rose to become a national labor leader. serving as an international vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, and co-chair of AFSCME’s United Nurses of America. A valued voice among state and federal lawmakers, Kathy was one of the union leaders whose activism and passion led to the passing of California’s safe staffing ratio law, among other important public policy initiatives.

“Kathy was a visionary,” said Denise Duncan, RN, our UNAC/UHCP president. “She was a huge believer that the people on the ground need a voice in how care is delivered and how we speak for it in the community. This is the legacy she left, a legacy that should inspire us as we do our work for the future.”

Kathy was widely respected as a straight shooter and a true force at the bargaining table, advocating for both quality patient care and UNAC/UHCP members – and always seeking the best solutions for all parties.

When Kathy retired, she left us with these words:

I want to thank all of you for your support over these many years. Without you, UNAC/UHCP wouldn’t exist. You – the members – are the heart and soul of this union. I want you and I need you to continue to be our heart and soul. To stand with our union as we carry the UNAC/UHCP tradition forward, making it the best, most innovative health care union in the country.

UNAC/UHCP is planning a celebration of her life. She is survived by two sons, Monty and Michael, who along with the extended family, have requested privacy at this time. Any cards or tributes can be sent to the UNAC/UHCP office at 955 Overland Ct., San Dimas, CA 91773.