I’m Filipino. Nursing is in my culture, in my blood. While I didn’t know it growing up, I was born to be a nurse. I love nearly every minute of it. Now my whole family is in nursing. I am proud to be a nurse.
I became a union activist the day I realized my manager wasn’t following the contract. I had always assumed we could rely on management knowing the contract and having our backs. There were a lot of violations. I got involved with the union, saw the changes we could make to improve working conditions and how we deliver care, and that was it.
You can do things the boss’ way, or you can do things the right way, by the contract. This made me hungry for knowledge. I became a steward in my union, working to protect a contract that allows anyone of us to make big changes that have a big impact on our patients. We are part of a national agreement where 114,000 union members nationwide bargained industry leading pay and benefits—and the right to be heard as partners alongside managers in unit-level teams. I’m a member of my medical center’s cath lab team, bringing my expertise as a nurse to the table.
Working at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, I preach the blue book (our contract) every day and educate union members on their benefits and contractual rights, and how they as dedicated advocates can make a difference in the health of their patients and their communities. When I am not working my shifts, I do “rounds” in the hospital, making sure our union members’ voices continue to be heard and that we are making the important decisions about how we do our work. Our great contract is our biggest win. The more people know this, the more people will get involved.
Without a doubt, being in a strong union is what matters most in fighting for our patients and each other. I thought that my boss would always have my best interests in mind and I thought that the company was always looking out for us as employees. Then I was hit with the cold hard truth: It’s not a perfect world. Even with a basically progressive employer, if we didn’t have the union, we wouldn’t automatically have the great wages and benefits and a voice getting things done the right way. I thank the UNION for being there and thank the UNION for all that we have accomplished.
Jess Mangubat is a registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente’s Los Angeles Medical Center and a proud member of the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP), an AFSCME affiliate that represents more than 26,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals in Southern California.