Sanders Campaign Can Help Revitalize the US Labor Movement

This year the left must use the ideological opening created by the most anti-corporate political campaign in recent history to build political capacity that lasts well beyond this electoral cycle.
Joseph M. Schwartz
TeleSUR
September 7, 2015 Posted on Labor Day

The Democratic primary candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for president of the United States provides progressive labor activists with a unique opportunity to enhance the independent political capacity of a besieged labor movement. Reflecting his political roots in the American socialist movement, Sanders is the most consistently pro-labor member of the United States Congress. Just this Friday he walked the picket line in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where workers are protesting the anti-union practices of the new owners of Penford Products, a potato starch manufacturer.

Backing a radical pro-labor candidate like Bernie Sanders in a Democratic primary would enable the labor movement to express its disgruntlement with the pro-corporate national Democratic Party.

This Labor Day tens of thousands of labor activists and their allies will participate in labor marches and picnics across the country in favor of Sanders’ candidacy. But except for endorsements from several progressive local trade unions, the South Carolina Central Labor Council, and the militant 200,000 member National Nurses Union, most established labor leaders have been silent about the Sanders candidacy or have endorsed his establishment opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This despite Clinton’s roots in the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party which is financially backed by Wall Street and has long fought to diminish labor’s influence in the Democratic coalition.

The Sanders effort is the most explicit pro-working class major campaign for president since Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition 1988 presidential run. His campaign insists that working people must fight back against the unceasing class war waged by corporate elites over the past 40 years. (Sanders is so focused on class injustice that he had to be pushed by #Black Lives Matter activists to explicitly address racial justice issues, such as mass incarceration and police brutality. He has now done so in a recent major addition to his campaign platform.)

Sanders’ platform differentiates him clearly from the centrist, pro-corporate candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Sanders supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; he opposes “free trade” agreements that empower corporations and weaken labor rights and state regulation of corporate behavior; and he supports a “Medicare for All” health care system that would abolish the private health insurance sector. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has refused to unambiguously embrace any of these positions. Continue reading

National Nurses United Statement on Black Lives Matter

nnu image

NNU Statement on Black Lives Matter and the Health Impact of Societal Racial Disparities

National Nurses United Press Release, 7/23/15

National Nurses United joins with the AFL-CIO and activists across the United States in urging all presidential candidates to address the pervasive problems of racial and economic justice that have so stained our nation.

For nurses, the national dialogue this week about structural racism is a reminder that health, which includes personal safety, is a broad thematic that affects all corners of the national debate – from police shootings to the courts to incarceration, and racial disparities in healthcare, housing, job opportunities, and education.

Systemic racism also contributes to additional race-based violence, such as the horrific massacre that claimed nine lives in an African-American church in Charleston, S.C.

While there are clear correlations between structural racism in the criminal justice system and economic and social justice, each area is also a clear and present danger to life and health, as well as an infringement on the human rights of those affected and on American democracy. As nurses, we are dedicated to preventing all forms of illness, protecting health, and alleviating human suffering.

  • Black lives matter.  According to a Washington Post database, more than 500 people, a disproportionate number of them African-American, have been shot dead by police this year.  Others, such as Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail cell under suspicious circumstances, have died while in police custody.  Harassment based on race remains evident in too many routine police matters as well, evidenced by “stop and frisk” practices. All have serious health consequences from loss of life to serious injuries to exacerbating physical and mental health problems.​
  • Inequity in incarceration. With 5 percent of the world population, the United States has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Though only one-fourth of the U.S. population combined, African-Americans and Latinos comprise 58 percent of the prisoners.  One in three African-American males born today is likely, under current trends, to spend time in prison. Arrests for drug offenses and minimum sentencing laws disproportionately affect African-Americans. In addition to the disparate treatment based on race, inadequate health services are common in prison settings and, the NAACP notes, infectious diseases are highly concentrated in prison settings.
  • Racism remains a significant public health issue. Even with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, racial disparities continue in access to health services and health outcomes. African-Americans, for example, have shorter life expectancies, higher infant mortality rates, and higher rates of chronic illness, such as higher blood pressure, that can lead to strokes and diabetes than whites. Overall racial discrimination significantly contributes to stress and other adverse health factors.
  • African-Americans and Latinos have higher jobless rates than white Americans, and have been disproportionately affected by cuts in public-sector jobs, long a key area where ethnic minorities, who face greater racism in private employment, have traditionally had greater opportunity. A result is lower incomes and a wealth gap, which are significant factors in higher rates of medical bankruptcies, lack of health insurance, failure to seek timely medical care, malnutrition, and stress-related health disorders.

Each one of these areas, as well as racial disparities in other walks of life, such as education, housing and homelessness, and environmental racism, deserve attention and systemic solutions from candidates for elected office and other institutions of our society.

NNU supports efforts at comprehensive solutions including, but not limited to:

  • Comprehensive criminal justice reforms, including national standards for greater public oversight, accountability, and prosecution for rights violations, improved racial bias training, and diversity in hiring.
  • Systemic prison and sentencing reform to reduce mass incarcerations and disparities, and improved prison and jail health services.
  • Genuine, universal guaranteed healthcare based on a single standard of quality care for everyone, best achieved by an upgraded and expanded Medicare for all that would help reduce racial disparities and discrimination in healthcare.
  • An end to austerity economic policies that disproportionately affect minority populations. Focus on increased revenue, not budget cuts, such as could be achieved by a tax on Wall Street speculation that could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually for living-wage job; increased funding for healthcare, housing, and education; and robust action to combat climate change and environmental devastation that also hit low-income and minority communities in higher percentages.

Remembering Martin Luther King: Rallying for the Robin Hood Tax

by Bill Barclay

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

April 4th was the Fiftieth anniversary of an event that we don’t like to remember: the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But, it also offers the chance to honor and carry forward MLK’s thinking and goals, particularly the concerns with poverty and inequality that he articulated with increasing intensity in the last years of his life.

So, on April 4th there was a national mobilization around the Robin Hood Tax (RHT), the proposal for a very small tax on financial transactions in stocks, currencies, debt and derivatives, futures and options based on these financial claims. The RHT has two goals: raising a large amount of money to reconstruct the U.S. political economy in a way that serves most of the population and at, the same time, restricting or even eliminating some of the most destructive aspects of finance and financial activities by throwing a small amount of sand into the gears of always increasing and always going faster treading volumes.

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Chicago Nurses Say: We Need a Robin Hood Tax!

by Bob Simpson

National Nurses United(NNU) took up the cause of Robin Hood at Chicago’s downtown J.P. Morgan Chase building on June 19. With its merry band of tax reforming nurses, the NNU held a lunch hour rally to press for a financial transactions tax (FTT) or as it is more commonly called, a “Robin Hood Tax”. Chicago was among 15 cities where similar rallies were held.

Easily recognized by their red scrubs along with their Robin Hood hats and masks, NNU  members described the Robin Hood tax in signs that read,”It’s Not a Tax On the People. It’s a Tax For the People.”

It's not a tax on the people

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Do Nurses Have an Rx for Our Ailing Economy?

 by Bob Simpson

NNU

They became a Chicago media sensation after they streamed into Chicago’s Daley Plaza on the morning of May 18, wearing the now familiar National Nurses United (NNU) red scrubs. Many of them had the green caps and masks you’ve seen in nearly every Robin Hood movie ever made. The NNU is the largest union of nurses in the USA and one of the more progressive unions in the AFL-CIO.  In addition to improving working conditions for nurses, the NNU has taken on the role of trying to nurse our sick economy back to health.

Near the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, the NNU had a  stage with a large banner of a smiling nurse in a Robin Hood outfit. Next to her was another banner of Sherwood Forest itself which served as the backdrop to the speeches, skits and music. The nurses put on  quite a show, all in support of taxing Wall Street.


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Nurses Condemn Chicago Mayor Emanuel for Arrest Of Nurses, Medical Volunteers at Occupy Chicago

NNU first aid station in Chicago just before the arrests Saturday night

RNs to Picket Mayor’s Office Monday 24 October at 10 am

Registered nurses from across the USA condemned Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his decision to arrest nurse volunteers, as well as peaceful protesters, in a late night crackdown Saturday night at the Occupy Chicago protest.

The National Nurses Union (NNU) is asking supporters to call Mayor Emanuel’s office at 312-744-5000 and demand they immediately drop all charges against the nurses and other protesters, and stop the harassment and arrests of the nurses and others peacefully exercising their free speech rights. Nurses will also picket the mayor’s office at 10 a.m. Monday morning, at City Hall at the LaSalle entrance.

Nurse leaders of National Nurses United who set up a nurses’ station to provide basic first aid to Chicago protesters – as NNU has done peacefully in five other cities across the U.S. – were among the some 130 people arrested by Chicago police. The police also tore down the first aid station, and arrested scores of others who had peacefully assembled to support the station.

“Even in wartime, combatants respect the work of nurses and other first responders. Yet Mayor Emanuel and Chicago seem to care as little about that tradition as they do in protecting the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro. “These arrests are disgraceful and unconscionable, and will not deter our nurses from continuing this mission, setting up the station again, and continuing to support the protests.”
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Nurses Take on Wall Street

By Carl Finamore


An open-air soup kitchen staffed by registered nurses in bright red union t-shirts feeding a line of hungry San Franciscan’s assembled midday outside a busy U.S. Federal Building is not something you see every day and it caused lots of heads to turn.

It was intended to make a point, one also emphatically made at protest rallies outside 60 other legislative offices in 21 states attended by thousands of nurses and community friends.

National Nurses United (NNU) selected the offices of major federal legislators to announce loud and clear: Our Communities are Hurting; Tax Wall Street to Rebuild Main Street.
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Rise Up America!

View this moving video with soundtrack by Bruce Springsteen. It’s time for a Main Street Contract for the American People. National Nurses United (NNU) has embarked on a campaign to reverse national priorities and policies that have placed the interests of Wall Street over the crisis facing American families today.

On September 1 the NNU will hold rallies at various locations on the theme “Tax Wall Street to Heal America.” More information on times and locations of these rallies will be available on the NNU’s website and on Talking Union.