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Member Profile: Isidro Sanchez

Isidro Sanchez can testify to the power of a union.

The lead housekeeper started working at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital 17 years ago before his colleagues had formed a union. It was a bad situation.

“We saw a lot of injustice,” he said. “Our bosses sometimes would see us in the cafeteria taking a water break on a hot day and start yelling, ‘what are you doing here? It’s not your time to be in here.’”

Workers would complain about their treatment and their pay, but nothing happened, Isidro said. “If we didn’t have the union, we’d still be earning minimum wage.”

Isidro and his coworkers’ fight for justice started when they organized themselves as subcontracted workers at Fountain Valley employed by Compass Group. Their first contract secured better wages and a voice in their workplace, but their most recent contract, signed in 2021, raised their standards across the board.

In partnership with NUHW members who work directly for the hospital, the housekeepers and subcontracted food service workers held pickets and rallies outside the hospital.

With a strike authorized, their united front finally resulted in a breakthrough contract. The agreement set a salary floor that resulted in immediate raises for most of the subcontracted workers ranging from 17 to 30 percent — along with additional three percent raises in the second and third years of the contract.

In addition to the wage increases, Isidro said the biggest benefit of having unionized is that “(Supervisors) don’t mistreat us anymore.”

Life is better for workers at the hospital, but Isidro isn’t letting down his guard.

“I became a steward because I like to help,” he said. “I’m still a steward because I still see injustice toward my coworkers. I want to help them, I want justice for all.”

Isidro said he tries to offer guidance to coworkers when they come to him for help. “They come and say, ‘the supervisor told me this or that’. I ask them if they think it’s OK. If not, we can talk to the supervisor and, if needed, we can call on (our organizer) for help.”

While things have improved, there is still more to accomplish — principally higher wages, which will be at the top of the bargaining priorities when workers negotiate a new contract next year.

“Everyone wants to fight for $25 (per hour),” Isidro said. “I tell them it’s going to be difficult to get it, but if we unite, we can accomplish much more than we have now.”

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