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Member Profile: Marlene Castro

Growing up as the middle child with two brothers, Marlene Castro learned quickly how to stand up for herself and make herself heard.

Her parents dubbed her “the little girl who wouldn’t put up or shut up,” and as a college student in the Philippines she was a devoted human rights activist.

Now, as a social worker and case manager at Seton Medical Center in the Bay Area, Marlene’s a leader in her bargaining unit, which just secured their first contract after more than a year of negotiations.

“I know when to speak up,” she said. “I have a way of saying things without being impolite. And, if I know I’m sure of something, I’ll fight for it.”

And that’s what she and her coworkers did for 14 months as the Professionals unit at Seton bargained their first union contract.

Her outspokenness, her open mind to different ideas, and her communication skills proved valuable as the group navigated a difficult negotiation process full of delays by management that discouraged many, who ended up leaving for other facilities in search of better compensation.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “It was always a battle with management, but we stuck together.”

The three-year agreement includes an 8 percent raise this year and 4 percent raises in 2024 and 2025. It also includes extra pay for working nights and weekends, four additional vacation days, and up to $2,000 in tuition reimbursement for continuing education. Additionally, the contract has a pathway for per diem workers to attain part-time or full-time status and guarantees that caregivers will receive pay if they are called off a shift after arriving for work.

Many of the new benefits were already enjoyed by the more than 400 NUHW members at Seton, who like their professional colleagues had to authorize a strike before finally winning a good contract.

“It’s a good start,” Marlene said, who’s already thinking about making gains in the next contract. “There’s always room for a little bit better down the road.”

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