Everyday Leader – Vena Stover, RN

April 2011

I like meeting people. Every patient has a story. They’re sick and needy and scared, but I ask them questions. How long have you been married? What country were you born in? It helps take their mind off their troubles. They’re anonymous, in this bed with this patient gown on. People come into their room all day, from dieticians, to housekeepers, to doctors, all wanting to know about their one illness or injury. But they’re more than their health. What can we do for their spirit? I tell them, “This is something you have right now, but you’ll be better. And who were you before?” You care for each other.

I started as a nurse’s aide at fifteen. A woman I met told me, “Honey, just go into nursing, you’ll always have a job.” And she was right. I came to Kaiser for the benefits. I hear people say, “What is our union for?” Well, that competitive wage you have? That’s the union, not Kaiser. Every other weekend off? We negotiated for that. And patient care? Ratios at Kaiser are better than state law. Nurses also negotiated the LMP—it’s a Labor-Management Partnership. So it’s not supposed to be us against them, it’s something bigger.

I feel like the union’s your guardian angel, your coach, your buddy. At a facility I worked in before I had a situation where I had to quit. It was definitely a systems issue, not my issue. But there was no investigation. I lost my self-esteem, my employment, and my benefits—right in the middle of my son’s illness. With a union that never would have happened.

Before I got involved in UNAC/UHCP I had no understanding of unions whatsoever. But I like to be in the mix. I like to be part of something bigger than me. I’m super fired-up about what’s happening in Wisconsin. It could happen here. And I signed up for MOV—to be a Member Organizing Volunteer. People are begging us to come help set up unions, at non-union hospitals here in southern California and all over the country. So I get to meet people!