1,500 healthcare workers at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in the San Diego area joined SEIU-UHW in a union election held on February 1 -3, 2023. Haba Serrano works in the Emergency Department at the facility and is one of the workers who led this victory. This is his union story.   

Haba Serrano works in the Emergency Department at Sharp Grossmont Hospital

People sometimes ask me why I’m so enthusiastic and passionate about uniting in SEIU-UHW at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. I tell them, “My whole life changed because of a union.”

At age nine, I came to the United States from Zacatecas, Mexico because my family dreamed of a better future. My parents settled in a small town called Lakeside, and my father got work as a steel welder for a private company that paid him minimum wage. To get by, my father made an agreement with management to let me, my mother, and him clean the company offices on Sundays after church. 

As I vacuumed each office, I would look at the photographs that the company executives had on their desks: pictures of families on vacations in RVs or on ATVs, on the beach or at resort pools. I would think to myself, “this must be how some American kids live.”

One day, my father’s company was doing a job at San Diego Airport along with union workers. As my dad was welding, another worker approached him and asked, “Hey Little Joe (my father’s nickname), you do great work. How much are they paying you for this?” My father said, “minimum wage.” The worker said, “Here’s a card for Ironworkers Union, Local 229 — they’re looking for welders like you.”

That one brief exchange changed my family’s life. My father made that phone call and became a union welder. Soon, we went from shopping at the Salvation Army for used clothes and toys to shopping at stores that sold new clothes and toys. We ate differently because now we had enough to buy healthier, fresher food.

Eventually we even moved out of our little apartment because my parents were able to save enough to become homeowners. 

Now when I walk through my parents’ house, I see photographs like the ones in the offices I cleaned as a boy: pictures of loved ones on vacation spending quality time together. 

Because of a union, my family achieved the American Dream. I want the same for all of us at Sharp Grossmont. 

Forming our union means that my co-workers and I will have the power to win better jobs and better lives. Forming our union means that our loved ones won’t have to struggle so much for basic necessities. Forming our union means that we may not need to take on that second job or work that extra shift and can spend more time with our loved ones.

The way Sharp has responded to our efforts to form our union has been beyond disappointing. I never thought management would speak so disrespectfully to us or throw our pastries in the trash or rip our flyers from bulletin boards or tear stickers off our scrubs. I never thought I would hear them call me “delusional” for trying to improve my life and the lives of my co-workers. 

Despite Sharp’s attacks, I hold my head high because I believe wholeheartedly that forming our union is the best pathway forward for me, my co-workers, our patients, and our families. 

This victory is our opportunity to get closer to our own American Dream. I look forward to achieving that dream together with my co-workers at Sharp Grossmont Hospital and with all the other workers across this country who are choosing to improve their lives by going union.  

Haba Serrano
ED Tech – Healthcare Partner
Emergency Department
Sharp Grossmont Hospital