Summer Interns Re-Ignite the Movement

September 2013

“My dad was part of the United Food and Commercial Workers union,” says Anelise Costa. “It not only provided me with an education scholarship but it also helped my family avoid poverty.” Anelise is one of five interns who worked for UNAC/UHCP for eight weeks this summer, all recent college graduates. Anelise and Jennifer Cervantes came to us from UCLA; Diana Cardenas and Xitlali Rodriguez from Cal State Long Beach; and Darren Esparza from Cal State Northridge. All made excellent contributions to UNAC/UHCP while learning about unions in health care.

Anelise and Xitlali worked with the team negotiating a first contract for the Kaiser Physical/Occupational Therapists. Anelise studied sociology and labor studies in college. Xitlali, born and raised in Orange County, earned a double major in Political Science and Chicano Studies. “In Chicano Studies we talked about unions and the great boycotts that pertained to the Chicano movement,” she said. She and Anelise worked together on a database comparing UNAC/UHCP’s contracts article by article. Anelise intends to pursue a career that will give back to the community and stand up for workers’ rights. Xitlali begins work soon with AmeriCorps mentoring high school and middle school students. She’s also applying to law school.

Diana found her commitment to social justice early, when she often had to babysit her younger brothers and sisters because her mother’s service-sector job couldn’t pay enough to cover the cost of daycare. “My experience as an intern reinforced my commitment to bringing workers together across sectors. Management even in health care is trying to set low standards in working conditions, and we should not wait until poor working conditions come about to come together.” Diana helped write the last issue of The Voice, and produced a series of videos to help UNAC/UHCP members learn social media, up now on our website. She moves on to Cal State LA this fall for a Master’s in Social Work.

Darren and Jennifer helped Organizing in a recent union election. They also helped Corona RNs organizing to save their pediatrics unit by researching PTA groups and which local schools feed into the hospital. Darren’s father and brothers are in a union, and his aunt is a former RN. Jennifer like Xitlali will join AmeriCorps program this fall while applying for law school. On their first day, the interns repeated something they had been taught at their pre-internship training that struck a chord: the most effective anti-poverty programs we have are unions. On the heels of our program giving student scholarships, it was rewarding for all involved to learn from and teach recent college graduate-interns.