Political Work Goes Hand in Hand with Union Work

Maria Castillo

My father was in a union and I didn’t take for granted everything that afforded me in life, including health and an education. I want to help my entire community live that life.

My name is Maria Castillo and I am a social worker with Cook County Health and Hospitals System. I have been working with CCHHS for seventeen years and what has been my main motivation is service to my community. I am passionate about promoting social justice at my workplace, but also in the community I live in. I believe that all of our struggles are intertwined and that we have more in common with each other than we have differences. For example, access to affordable healthcare is an issue that we can all relate to. I believe access to healthcare is a human right that should be accessible to everyone. I love working at CCHHS because I believe that that’s what my workplace stands for as well.

One of the ways I have stayed involved in my community as a union member has been through my involvement in the Political Engagement Committee (PEC) with Local 73. Prior to working with CCHHS I did not have a background in unions, but I decided to become an active member of my union because of my interest in politics. As part of the PEC, I am able to connect with elected officials who make decisions that impact me as an employee and that impact my patients. The political director at Local 73 reached out to me to join the PEC after he saw how active my fellow members and I were in saving our health center. To save our center we organized community leaders, we reached out to Cook County commissioners, and we even reached out to students to support us. This experience was an example of why I got into this field in the first place – to serve and help as a healthcare service provider AND as an activist more broadly. Political work in the community goes hand in hand with union work and I’m happy to bring those together as a member of the PEC.

I would encourage members to get involved in the PEC so they can make a difference among the people we service. It’s a unique opportunity to engage with elected officials and other players outside of union leadership. It is very rewarding to be able to be involved in a process of meeting with elected officials and encouraging them to make decisions that benefit our communities. The more members we can engage in this political process, the bigger the impact we’ll have in our cities and our state.

Interviews for candidates in the upcoming elections will be held on July 23- 26, July 30 and 31, and August 1 and 2. Check back on our website for more information. If you want to get involved in the Political Engagement Committee, contact John Kohlhepp via email jkohlhepp@seiu73.org or phone at 312 787 5868.

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