Debra Sung, PT
Unit: Physical Therapy
Health Care Professional Since: 1996
UNAC/UHCP Member Since: 2014
Hometown: Centerville, South Dakota
I believe in what we’re doing as a union. I was always open to unions before, but I saw them as separate—for people without education who couldn’t help themselves. For therapists and health care professionals to have a voice is good for everyone. Unions don’t just benefit workers, but workers and the places they work all over the world. It’s how we should function. People who do the work should be involved in their everyday work lives. The more ways you look at an issue, the better your solutions. Unions help accomplish this.
I’m not even sure how I got here. When we started organizing last year, people just started asking me what was going on. I like to be involved and I like things to go well, so I went in with an open mind to see how this Union thing would work. Then I wanted to see it through the negotiations so I joined the Bargaining Team. It was clear to me that the contract is not just a piece of paper. We have to implement it and work it for it to be valuable to us. So I became UTSC President.
The Union has increased our wages and brought more stability to our pension and benefits. We’re rolling out new work schedules, which give us more time to document our patients’ progress. We have more of a voice in how we treat patients and coordinate our work day.
I like being involved in people’s lives in a meaningful way, and a PT’s day is never the same twice. I started out in engineering, but it was too dry, all textbooks and math. Then my Grandpa broke his elbow and got physical therapy. He thought I’d like it, so I changed to a psychology undergrad, then two years of PT school. There are a lot of psychological components in helping patients recover. Each person is different. Some you can communicate with easily, some not. You have to know who they are and who you are to find the best way to reach them.
Communication might be our affiliate’s biggest challenge also, because the therapists are all so spread out. We have some big issues and it’s hard to get us all together. We have this new voice as a Union, and the opportunity is only as good as how we all use it.
Everyone who gets involved can help us say who we are and present our interests. It’s new and exciting, and I feel gratified to be part of it.