Dispatch #1 from the NNU Convention by MNA delegate Sandy Eaton on Opening Night Reception
PHOENIX - RNs from across the US, with guests from as far away as Canada and South Africa, gathered Sunday evening for a reception preceding the founding convention of the National Nurses United, destined to be the largest RN union in the country's history. Among the states represented were California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Texas and Nevada. The District of Columbia was there.
Of prime significance was the presence of a delegation from the Veterans Affairs system represented by the United American Nurses. This national VA bargaining unit holds nurses from thirteen additional states. All warmly embraced, and many nurses, leaders and rank-and-filers together, took the mike to bring greetings and offer stirring insights. A nurse from Michigan told all not to forget the tragedy unfolding around us, with mounting unemployment and economic uncertainty. He bade the gathered nurse-activists to unite with fellow workers everywhere and become "the vanguard of the labor movement" in turning labor around to once again become the guardian of the well-being of all.
Mike D'Intinosanto from Massachusetts and Trande Philips from California approached the mike together, as a team, in a show of solidarity. Mike called for vigorous support for a national legislative agenda, including safe RN-to-patient ratios, real healthcare reform - single payer, and the Employee Free Choice Act. A delegate from Kentucky recalled that two years ago, while on strike against the Appalachian Health System, CNA and the UAN together brought real support. Having been dumped by the Kentucky Nurses Association at the end of the strike, those nurses have reconstituted themselves as the Southern Union of Nurses, and are now working on organizing all other front-line nurses.
Jean Sardo from Minnesota brought a touch of sardonic humor to the podium by thanking ANA president Becky Patton for showing her just how treacherous ANA is. A repeated theme throughout these spontaneous remarks was how long overdue this formation of a national voice for frontline nurses is. CNA-NNOC executive director Rose Ann DeMoro brought a sad bit of news, that AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka's mother lay gravely ill, so he will be replaced during the convention's opening ceremony by Stewart Aucuff, his special assistant.
Rose Ann hailed the VA nurses as working in a system that is a model of what US health reform should be all about, a system devoid of for-profit hospital chains. Rose Ann thanked the valiant staff from all participating organizations. Walt Frederickson, executive director of the United American Nurses, remarked how happy he was to be in a room full of friends, undoubtedly recalling the contentious, litigation-filled atmosphere that existing within the UAN in recent months.
Rose Ann introduced Massachusetts Nurses Association executive director Julie Pinkham as a person with attitude. Rose Ann concluded the evening's festivities by promising that next year's National Nurses Week celebration would be something unprecedented, as nurses take over the seat of power, bringing their demands to Congress.
Sandy Eaton, RN, MNA Delegate to the NNU Convention