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Natalie Rogers: “I like to be a voice for the voiceless”

Whether she’s helping a patient in the ER, leading coworkers at the picket line, or pushing for affordable housing in the Santa Rosa City Council chambers, NUHW member Natalie Rogers is always advocating for those who need help.

“I like to speak up for people who are maybe unheard, and that has been pretty much in everything I do,” said Rogers, a licensed Marriage Family Therapist at Kaiser Permanente.

“I like to be a voice for the voiceless.”

And Rogers, 41, now has the biggest voice in helping guide her adopted hometown. In December 2022 — two years after being elected to the Santa Rosa City Council — her council colleagues voted to appoint her mayor. It’s an honor that she admits does add some pressure to her role.

“I feel as though I can’t make a mistake because everyone’s watching,” she said.

Still, she enjoys having an impact in her community, where she wants to continue supporting the city’s climate change initiatives, improving city infrastructure, helping procure affordable housing for everyone, and connecting the unhoused with pre-existing services.

Above all, she wants to work cooperatively with city staff, businesses, residents, and community organizations to find creative and innovative ways to tackle the city’s issues.

Union involvement

Rogers sees a lot of parallels between her civic work and her involvement in NUHW as a social worker at Kaiser, where she never shies away from advocating for her patients.

“When it’s time to step up, I do step up to get things done,” she said.

Rogers was on the picket line throughout the 10-week Kaiser mental healthcare worker strike last year, standing side-by-side with her coworkers as they advocated to improve patient care.

“I feel like it (being a NUHW member and mayor) gives me the best of both worlds,” she said. “I can be in the trenches with my coworkers to provide the patient care we advocate for, but I’m also in this position wearing a hat where I’m able to talk to more leaders in the Kaiser organization and give them input from what I am experiencing.”

The Kaiser strike in Northern California netted a contract that included significant raises and patient care improvements, with Kaiser required to abide by and fund the recommendations of labor-management committees that will work addressing chronic understaffing and appointment delays that have plagued Kaiser’s mental health system for over a decade.

Rogers is happy with the contract, but believes “Kaiser still has some ways to go” to make real changes to improve patient care.

As an ER worker, she wants therapists to have time to provide the best possible care for all of their patients.

“If you don’t even have time to return a phone call when they’re in crisis, how can you say that we’re really giving them great patient care?” Rogers said.

Brought up in a union household

Rogers grew up in Marin City, the daughter of parents who were both proud union members.

“Had they not been members of a union, I don’t believe I would have had some of the luxury I had growing up. Being in a union allowed my parents to earn a fair wage,” she said.

Becoming active in civic affairs is important for union members, Rogers said, because it gives working people “a pulse of what’s going on” and the power to make government more responsive to their needs.

“Who knows better than us what we go through?” Rogers said, before adding that “if you’re not sitting at the table, you’re part of the meal.”

“Just do it,” is Rogers’ advice to any fellow NUHW member who wants to run for elected office or get involved in civic affairs. “You don’t need a background in politics. If you see things in your community that you don’t agree with or just want to change a little bit, you can have your say and have your voice heard.”

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