Denise Duncan, RN, Elected UNAC/UHCP Executive Vice President
“If it’s right I will support it, and if it’s wrong I will fight against it,” says Denise Duncan, UNAC/UHCP’s new Executive Vice President. Denise saw the May 18, 2013 election as a sign of the union’s vitality, with multiple candidates running for each office and delegates more involved than ever before. “It really showed that there’s a lot of love for the union,” she said. “It made me proud.”
Denise’s history has been interwoven with UNAC/UHCP’s for over 27 years. “We’re no longer the same little boutique union,” she says, “but our mission is the same.” Denise became an activist early, then an affiliate officer, and a staff representative in 1993. She’s participated in nearly all the Kaiser contract negotiations since. She dove into Tenet and NUHHCE organizing drives. In 2004, The Journal of Nursing Care Quality published “Nurse Perceptions of Medication Errors,” a first-ever study to consult nurses about errors and their cause, for which Denise was co-researcher. She helped push California’s historic safe staffing law, meeting with the Governor twice and testifying to the Board of Registered Nursing.
Denise is also a big supporter of the Affordable Care Act. “We’re embarking on the biggest change to hit health care delivery in this country since the implementation of Medicare.” But she sees it presenting both opportunities and challenges. “There will be those who will attempt to deskill us, downsize us and contract out our work. As working nurses, optometrists, therapists, NPs and PAs, we have to have a seat at the table. We must be smart, savvy, and able to articulate why receiving care in a UNAC/UHCP represented health care setting is better. We must continue to speak out against unsafe working conditions and poor patient care.”
Denise points out that nursing continues to be the most trusted profession. “With union membership being at an all-time low, I think we’re primed. From San Diego to Bakersfield, UNAC/UHCP represents some of the best health care in the country. We need to brag about it, organize around it and remind the public why organized labor makes a difference in their work life and in their health care.”