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UNAC/UHCP grows by 1,350 members – an organizing success in the age of COVID-19

Photo credit: UNAC/UHCP
UNAC/UHCP grows by 1,350 members – an organizing success in the age of COVID-19

SAN DIMAS, Calif. – More than 1,350 Kaiser Permanente health care employees have joined the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) family.

The newest members, who joined on July 30, include physical, occupational and speech therapists working in Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California region. This organizing victory marks UNAC/UHCP’s first expansion into the northern part of the state.

Despite the COVID-19 constraints on in-person, face-to-face organizing, Northern California therapists, UNAC/UHCP members, staff organizers and representatives united in one of the most successful campaigns this year.

“We can all be inspired by a new labor model of using digital tools and one-on-one conversations resulting in an unstoppable, powerful combination,” said Denise Duncan, a registered nurse and president of UNAC/UHCP, an AFSCME-affiliated union representing more than 32,000 registered nurses and health care professionals.

Southern California therapists already represented by UNAC/UHCP began assisting the new group’s organizing efforts a few months before the global coronavirus pandemic hit the region. As social distancing became the norm and physical spaces became less accessible, the UNAC/UHCP field team joined the Bay Area virtual meetings in supporting the organizing efforts of the largest group of nonunion health care professionals in the Kaiser Permanente network.

Terry Kim, a physical therapist and a clinical specialist at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Occupational Health Services, said the vote to join UNAC/UHCP was the first step in “making informed choices for each one of us moving forward.”

“Our choice to come together in solidarity is borne out of our love and passion for our profession and our patients,” Kim said. “By raising our collective voice and standards, we are now charting the future of rehabilitation services in Kaiser Permanente.”

Kuusela Hilo, UNAC/UHCP’s director of organizing, said the campaign showcases the importance of supporting professionals who want to be stronger advocates for their patients and their profession.

“We welcome the Northern California therapists to our union family,” Hilo said. “We’re proud of the growth and expansion of UNAC/UHCP. Over the past two years, we’ve brought members from Hawaii and now in Northern California into the UNAC/UHCP family, resulting in more than 2,000 new health care workers joining us for a strong voice in patient care and in our workplaces.”

(Stories about UNAC/UHCP organizing successes in Hawaii can be found here and here).

UNAC/UHCP continues to build on its success in organizing members in influential and large health care systems. The new group of members will soon head to the bargaining table to take steps in the right direction for patient care and to build power at work.

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