During the weekend of March 11th, a delegation of UNAC/UHCP members and state officers traveled to Sacramento for the biennial AFSCME California PEOPLE Convention. The attendees included UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan, RN, State Secretary Charmaine Morales, RN, State Treasurer Jettie Deden-Castillo, NP, Milan Bubnevich, RN (Kaiser San Diego), Sandra Chun, RT (UTSC), Michelle Lanorias, RN (Pettis Memorial), Kim Mullen, RN (Kaiser South Bay), Isaac Saroia, RN (Beverly Hospital), Michele Shack, RN (SCNSC), and UNAC/UHCP’s Political Department. This year’s theme, Building A Stronger AFSCME, gave our members the opportunity to participate in discussions about building union power at their workplace through organizing. They also attended a series of workshops that addressed the ongoing challenges threatening to destroy unions, the middle class, and retirement security. Attendees heard from noteworthy plenary speakers such as AFSCME President Lee Saunders, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and California State Treasurer John Chiang. Additionally, UNAC/UHCP convention delegates were charged with the responsibility of approving statewide ballot initiatives and candidates during the AFSCME California endorsement process for the 2016 election cycle. One of the biggest highlights of the weekend, however, occurred during Saturday’s Political Action Spotlight Lunch, when two of our own members, Kim Mullen and Michele Shack, were recognized and awarded by the convention’s delegate body for their efforts as PEOPLE activists at their respective affiliates.
To cap off the AFSCME California PEOPLE Convention, our members took on California’s State Capitol the following Monday and learned how to use different tactics to lobby the legislature. The UNAC / UHCP delegation addressed issues and needs associated with mental health funding, safe staffing, and workplace violence as they met with various legislators throughout the day. Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, the Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, took a particularly strong interest in the safe staffing discussion and requested a follow up meeting moving forward to gain a better understanding of the issue. After a productive day of legislative visits, our members attended a reception hosted by AFSCME, where they had the opportunity to network with other union leaders, legislators, and most notably, special guest Governor Jerry Brown.
In April, Political and Legislative Director Eric Robles accompanied a second delegation of UNAC/UHCP members to Sacramento to further discuss the importance of safe staffing with state legislators, and voice their concerns for the issue at an Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services hearing. Attendees included State Secretary Charmaine Morales, RN, Scott Byington, RN (Board of Directors), Michelle Byers, RN (SPNN), Viera Daniels, RN (Parkview), Edwin Guardado, RN (St. Francis), Christina Magnusen, RN (SPNN) and Deanna Ostler, RN (Fountain Valley). Throughout the day, our members had the opportunity to discuss health care issues with Assemblymembers Ian Calderon, Matt Dababneh, Rudy Salas, and State Senator Connie Leyva. Additionally, the delegation held a follow up meeting with Assemblymember Tony Thurmond to further inform him of the safe staffing issues that continue to persist within our facilities. He benefited greatly from our members’ extensive knowledge and experience of the issue, and expressed specific concern over the hospital systems that are in direct violation of California’s safe staffing laws. Armed with the knowledge of this continued noncompliance, he later took the Department of Health to task during the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services hearing by questioning their continued inability to enforce staff ratios. Though his statements were not necessarily well received by the state agency, we are grateful to Assemblymember Tony Thurmond for holding them accountable and pursuing this struggle for the second straight year.
We have quite a bit of work to do in Sacramento to strengthen our professions and protect our patients. Member involvement in UNAC/UHCP’s political program is critical not only to that work, but to our future. That’s why we push so strongly for our PEOPLE program, which enables our union to advocate on behalf of its membership at the legislative level, and also provides the resources needed to protect our interests as they relate to the issues we encounter within the health care profession. Every year, we work on and sponsor legislation that directly impacts the health, safety, and working conditions of our members. Along with the efforts of our member activists, the PEOPLE program plays an important role in ensuring that lawmakers are well informed about the issues we face as nurses and health care professionals.