National Nurses Union Endorses Sanders

As the Executive Director of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in our nation, I was there when we proudly endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.

In the moments leading up to our endorsement, I watched our nurses’ outpouring of love and respect for Bernie.

Bernie-NNU-endorsement-600px-150814

Bernie and NNU members

It was a magical moment of genuine hope for nurses who see people when they are at their most vulnerable and suffering, and who care for every person’s life in our country.

Nurses see the terrible social health consequences from:

Choosing between putting food on the table and getting the medications and treatment you need
Job loss
Severe depression from debt, especially student loan debt
Pollution, toxic spills, and climate change
Malnutrition and income inequality
With Bernie Sanders, we can turn our country around, and restore genuine hope for our families. Continue reading

Sanders: The Economy is Rigged by Corporate America

National Nurses United Endorse Bernie Sanders

OAKLAND, Calif. – National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, on Monday endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.

“Bernie has a proven track record of uncompromised activism and advocacy for working people and a message that resonates with nurses and tens of thousands of people across the country,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the organization. “We are proud to stand with him in his candidacy for president,” she added in remarks before delivering Sanders his first national labor union endorsement.

Flanked by nurses in red scrubs at the union’s Bay Area headquarters, Sanders thanked the 185,000-strong labor organization for providing high-quality health care to Americans. “I am humbled and enormously appreciative of you support,” Sanders said.

He called nurses “the backbone of our health care system” and added, “I want to thank each of you for the work that you do.”

Sanders has worked for years with the California-based national nurses’ group to strengthen Medicare, address the nation’s nursing shortage and ensure collective-bargaining rights and decent wages and benefits. He praised the critical role National Nurses United has played in improving the health care system, working to prevent medical errors and reducing costs.

He also welcomed the nurses’ backing for Medicare-for-all legislation that he will soon introduce to provide better care for more people at less cost. “The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.”

A leading champion for health care reform, the union also stresses social and economic justice issues as a key part of its mission. Continue reading

San Francisco Nursing Home Calls Cops on Peaceful Protesters

By Carl Finamore
 photo by NUHW
NUHW picket
A lively San Francisco picket line of 50 caregivers from the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) began their one-day strike of San Francisco Nursing Center (SFNC) in the very early morning hours of Wednesday, July 22, 2015.

NUHW negotiator Dennis Dugan told me the strike was primarily to preserve union-contract Kaiser Foundation health benefits that were unilaterally eliminated after San Diego-based Providence Group Inc. took control of SFNC long-term care facility in May.

 As a result, workers were dumped into a grossly inferior and more expensive healthcare pool of insurance choices. And, since then, the company has refused to negotiate with the union, limiting themselves to email exchanges through a federal mediator.
 
Nonetheless, despite the disruptions brought upon SFNC by Providence, there were other examples on this day of the warm, compassionate and very human connections in the facility.
 
For example, convalescing patients in wheelchairs and others sitting on comfortable lounge couches crowded the front lobby area to exchange waves and smiles with their favorite nursing assistant now unaccustomedly out of reach and on picket duty.
 
“These sudden cuts to our healthcare will make it difficult to recruit quality caregivers in the future,” says Certified Nursing Assistant Marilyn Aquino, “and that will undermine the quality of care SFNC residents receive.”
 
Several strikers asked of me, “how can we properly care for our elderly and sick patients with our own health in jeopardy because we will be unable to afford full care?”
 
Of course, healthcare is a huge issue for millions of Americans who often delay care because of the expense. This is a matter of record. However, when this reality hit the low-paid workforce at SFNC who previously enjoyed good contract health benefits, they united as never before.
 
All In for First Strike
 
This was the first strike ever at the facility and for almost everyone on the picket line, mostly Latinas and Filipinas, it was their first time too. So, workers reported with great pride their 100 percent participation in the one-day strike.
 
It was a start. Everything was going fine. A 12 noon rally of several dozen community and union supporters lifted spirits and was topped off by pizza, snacks and drinks being spread around.
 
So, when a San Francisco patrol car with two cops showed up at around 1pm, everyone took it in stride. The pickets did not stop moving and the chants did not stop echoing. Everyone assumed it was just a routine check – maybe asking folks to keep the sound down or cautioning us about street traffic.
 
But, it turned out to be anything but routine.
 
These cops were actually called by the SFNC administration to arrest prominent members of a community delegation that had just entered the facility to parlay with the employer.
 
The delegation facing arrest included SF Board of Supervisor John Avalos; top aides of two other city Supervisors; Tim Paulson, Executive Director, SF Labor Council and leaders from SEIU 87, the Filipino Community Center and the Chinese Progressive Association.
 
Incredulously, to make this scene on the inside all the more absurd, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, a supporter of NUHW workers and the strike, was himself picketing outside.
 
Paulson told me that the company’s security officer told him “you are trespassing” and that you have to leave or be subject to arrest. But Paulson and the others refused to leave before speaking with the onsite administrator and delivering the delegation’s message that “these striking workers and NUHW do not stand alone.”
 
The security guard was told that the delegation had elected officials along with union and community representatives who all believed it unacceptable to “unilaterally scrap existing health benefits and impose other sick day and vacation cuts while refusing to bargain.”
 
And, according to NUHW, this is exactly the record of the new owners.
 
Instead of negotiating with NUHW directly, Dugan continued, the company hires notoriously anti-union Los Angeles attorney Josh Sable who represents another nursing home operator under investigation for poor care and “flagrant disregard for human life” according to the Sacramento Bee.
 
A bad sign indeed.
 
“So, actually,” Dugan commented to me, “while the whole confrontation inside SFNC unfolding before our eyes looked ridiculous and was quite shocking, it is not all that surprising.”
 
The new owners have been stonewalling us from the beginning, he said. “In fact, the community delegation got a dose of SFNC’s new style of bargaining,” Dugan mused.
 
Nothing like this in recent memory has happened at SFNC where good union contract benefits were enjoyed by the workers who, at the same time, maintained SFNC’s state-sanctioned standards at a very high level.
 
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Providence has come in and broken it,” an exasperated Dugan told me.
 
Let’s Talk This Over
 
Indeed, the new owners’ old, outmoded command and control style of management was on vivid display for all the delegation to see. But when community representatives refused to budge until they spoke with an onsite administrator, who apparently was holed up in his office, a rapid-fire series of phone calls between company representatives ensued and a semblance of sanity was eventually restored.
 
Delegation members reported to me that, finally, the onsite administrator crawled out of his office to report a phone call from the Providence CEO from Los Angeles “that he did not like the strike, did not want another one and was very eager to begin negotiations with the union.”
 
As a result, a union organizer told me that the whole day was considered by the workers as a big success: “Our message was heard loud and clear – the company’s anti-worker behavior is not acceptable in San Francisco and when it is attempted, we mobilize extensive community outrage against it.”
 
Carl Finamore is Machinist Lodge 1781 delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He was outside on the NUHW picket line looking on the inside where all the fun was happening. He can be reached at local1781@yahoo.com

Massachusetts Home Care Workers Win Battle for $15

Local 1199 SEIU Massachusetts

Mass Health aides victory

Tears of joy streaked the faces of cheering home care workers assembled in their Dorchester union hall on Thursday afternoon as a decades-long struggle for recognition and a living wage culminated in a historic moment of celebration.

According to an agreement reached in contract negotiations between the 35,000 home care workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the administration of recently elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) are poised to become the first in the nation to achieve a statewide $15 per hour starting wage.

Upon reaching the agreement, workers called off the fifteen-hour picket they had planned to begin at the Massachusetts State House on the morning of Tuesday, June 30th. Instead, caregivers are planning a celebration of this milestone and nation-leading achievement of a $15 standard at 4:00 p.m. on the State House steps the afternoon of June 30th.

“This victory, winning $15 per hour, it means we are no longer invisible,” said Kindalay Cummings-Akers, a PCA from Springfield, MA. Cummings-Akers cares for a local senior and became a union activist at the onset of the campaign. She was also a member of the statewide PCA negotiating team that reached the agreement with the Baker administration. “This is a huge step forward not just for home care workers, but also toward ensuring the safety, dignity, and independence of seniors and people with disabilities,” she added. “We are a movement of home care workers united by the idea that dignity for caregivers and the people in our care is possible. Today, we showed the world that it is possible.”

“Massachusetts home care workers are helping to lead the Fight for $15 – and winning,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “We applaud Governor Baker for helping to forge this pathway to dignity for PCAs and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on quality home care services to remain in the community or in the workforce. As the senior population grows, the demand for home care services is increasing. By helping to ensure a living wage for these vital caregivers, Governor Baker is taking a critical step with us toward reducing workforce turnover and ensuring that Massachusetts families can access the quality home care they need for their loved ones.”

“It is a moral imperative that all homecare and healthcare workers receive $15 per hour, and Massachusetts is now a leader in this effort,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “Extreme income inequality is a threat to our economy, our bedrock American values and our very democracy. With a living wage, we can ensure more compassionate care for homecare clients, and better lives for homecare workers and their families. We applaud this bold step by Governor Baker towards a better future for our communities in Massachusetts and our country overall.”
Continue reading

California Nurses Begin Strike on Tues

NATIONAL ACTIONS BEGIN WITH CALIFORNIA STRIKES TUESDAY

talks-stall-as-strike-nears-for-18000-kaiser-rnsRegistered nurses from California to Maine will hold strikes, picketing, and other actions Wednesday, November 12 in 16 U.S. states and the District of Columbia – with possible support actions globally – as National Nurses United, the largest U.S. organization of nurses steps up the demand for tougher Ebola safety precautions in the nation’s hospitals.

One centerpiece of the actions will be a two-day strike by 18,000 RNs and nurse practitioners at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics who have been protesting the erosion of patient care standards in Kaiser facilities for months, and see Kaiser’s failure to adopt the optimal safeguards for Ebola as symbolic of its overall dismissal of nurses’ concerns about patient care.

Strikes will also affect some 600 RNs at two other California hospitals, Sutter Tracy and Watsonville General Hospital, and 400 RNs at Providence Hospital in Washington D.C.

The two-day California strikes begin Tuesday morning. The Providence walkout is Wednesday. Continue reading

National Nurses United Grows in Troubled Times

Alana Semuels    The Atlantic

Oakland, California. This is the hub of one of the smallest, but most powerful unions in the country. Just 190,000 members strong, National Nurses United is growing while other unions across the country are shrinking. When the autoworkers were agreeing to have some members’ pay cut in half, the nurses fought Arnold Schwarzenegger on patient-to-staff ratios—and won. While public employee unions in states like Michigan and Wisconsin were getting decimated by laws restricting their collective-bargaining rights, the nurses were pushing bills in the California legislature that eventually became law.

National Nurses United may be proof that unions are not all on their way out: Some are very much alive, although they may look a little bit different than they used to.

“Nurses United is among the most innovative and bold of U.S. unions,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at Berkeley. They’ve emerged as a powerful voice in defense of people who receive health care treatment. Continue reading

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