UNAC/UHCP Women Leading the Way

July 2015


The AFSCME Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA) is a six-month program held annually from June to December. For 2015, the Academy received a total of 150 applications and 32 were selected, including our very own UNAC/UHCP Secretary Charmaine Morales, RN.

The Academy is designed for women officers or activists at the local union level. The six-month Academy includes a five-day opening session in June, completion of a local union project or campaign, monthly check-in sessions, webinars, and a three-day closing session in December. This year’s group is the third cohort since the start of the program.

The five-day orientation session took place from June 22 to June 26 at the Koven Conference Center at Florida International University, North Miami, FL, where Charmaine and other AFSCME women officers and activists spent full 12-hour days in sessions geared towards further developing them for their union leadership roles.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders welcomed the participants on the first day and AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Laura Reyes shared her own story the following day. As part of the leadership training, participants did exercises surrounding Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) preferences, teamwork, developing/presenting presentations, journaling, and strategic planning. Participants also had the opportunity to go on house visits with organizers of AFSCME Local 199, which represents Miami-Dade County employees.

After a “speed dating” breakfast with potential mentors, each women activist was matched up with a mentor from their top three choices. Charmaine’s mentor is Tracye Hawthorne of Local 1549 DC 37 in New York. She is from the first WLA cohort and this is her second year returning as a mentor. Hawthorne will be keeping in touch with Charmaine throughout the rest of the year for her project.

“I am honored to have been selected to be a part of this program. Every woman there had a moving personal story. We allowed ourselves to be vulnerable to our past and confident in the today and future. Many tears were shed throughout the week, whether from hearing about others’ struggles, overcoming obstacles, or the realization that we are superwomen. My goals back at home are to inspire my members (both male and female), build my community, believe in myself, and teach others to believe in themselves. I never in a lifetime imagined myself in the role I am today. God had a purpose and I’m living it each day. I am in a leadership position, not to glorify myself and keep things to myself, but to lead and develop the future of UNAC/UHCP and the labor movement,” says Charmaine of her experience.

AFSCME women are leading the charge to create change for working families and we are proud of the work that Charmaine is putting in as a leader of UNAC/UHCP.


This year’s Summer Institute for Union Women (SIUW) took place at Reed College in Portland, Oregon on June 23-27. Registered nurses Rosa Carcamo from St. Francis, Marilen Castañon from St. Francis, Viera Daniels from Parkview, and Margarita Jauregui from Kaiser San Diego represented UNAC/UHCP, staying in college dormitories for the duration of the event.

The theme for this summer’s session was “Fighting for a Fair Future.” Participants attended workshops and plenary sessions on current issues, including: overcoming barriers of discrimination, sexism, and double standards that still remain well into the 21st century. It was a time for reflection on how women can be allies to one another.

Parkview President Viera Daniels, RN, attended the class on internal organizing and said the bullying workshop was excellent. According to Daniels, there was great emphasis placed on increasing memberships of women 35 and younger, taking on more active roles in the union, and promoting the increase of political activism in our unions and communities.

St. Francis Treasurer Marilen Castañon, RN, attended the workshop on workplace violence as it is a heated topic in health care. Says Castañon, “The week-long seminar was empowering. It was an eye-opener for me to interact with different leaders from other professions and countries, and find out that issues of mandatory overtime and bullying are universal. The sessions were very informative and we left with great tools that we can put into practice.”

Women are using political power, community labor organizing, and women-centered leadership to raise standards for working communities. This was a great opportunity to spend a few days with more than 100 union sisters learning, sharing, and building leadership for the future.