Dispatch #2 From NNU Convention by MNA Delegate Sandy Eaton
PHOENIX - Following impassioned speeches by Stewart Acuff, special assistant to AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka, and Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Monday morning's business meeting moved quickly to adopt unanimously the draft NNU constitution.
The slate of officers proposed by the three merging nurses' unions, including three presidents and eleven vice presidents, was elected unanimously. Martha Kuhl, CNA-NNOC treasurer, was nominated for NNU secretary-treasurer from the floor and unanimously elected. Rose Ann DeMoro, CNA-NNOC executive director, prefaced Acuff's speech with the observation that "if you go after one of us, you go after all of us." She went on, referring to Acuff's Southern origins, "We need to turn the South from Red to Blue.
She then introduced him as "the father of the Employee Free Choice Act." Stewart Acuff then delivered his remarks in ringing tones described by one delegate as a "cross between a preacher and Bill Clinton." He referred to this convention as a "continental congress." He went on: "Our nation needs this assembly ... this unity ... An agenda to return health care from profit. Lead us toward a single-payer system of health care. Don't give up. Health care is a human right! Following your leadership, the time will come when no child needs to go to bed sick." Acuff bade attendees to recall September's AFL-CIO convention which endorsed single payer.
He pointed out that "four thousand years of human history, wisdom and sacred teaching" have been pushed aside in recent years in this country by such "snake oil salesmen" as Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Dick Armey." He quoted Jeremiah: "Render justice every morning." In stern tones he decried the current state of collective bargaining and union organizing, citing compelling reasons for EFCA. "We need you to have more power!"
Linda Silas, lamenting having to follow such an impassioned speaker, nevertheless, moved the convention with her wealth of knowledge and insights, and her own engaging style. She started by describing steps in the Canadian nurses' striving for greater unity. So far, the nurses of Quebec have remained apart, but now they are seriously considering joining the CFNU.
Linda pointed out that CFNU is currently 154,000 members strong, thanks to the inclusion of 25,000 student nurses. She stated that a prime objective now is to "develop a culture of safety." Referring to her own battles to drive back the privatizers and profiteers, she held up the bumper sticker produced by the Massachusetts Nurses Association which states "Nurses Rx Medicare for All."
In these historic battles, Linda pointed out, nurses cannot do it alone. That's "why we joined the House of Labor." On the international front, there are many issues the same the world over. Linda has found more and more nursing organizations asking how to become more effective, how to move away from the professional association model toward the union one.
She cited a Japanese organization of half a million nurses consulting with CFNU on how to make such a transformation. Linda related her experiences with the International Council of Nurses in July. She was on a panel with a nurse from Colombia, whose organization had changed to a union model in a country where two thousand union activists were killed last year. Linda referred to South Africa, where the Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa is the biggest nursing organization and leading the way. She expressed dismay at Germany's lack of nursing unions and at Sweden's trend to back away from a national contract toward having individual workplace contracts.
In Ireland, a thirty-five-hour work week is the target. The nurses in New South Wales are saying now that they need an international nurses labor movement. Linda wondered how to do that. Carve out a nursing section of the global labor federation? Nurses of the world unite! Sandy Eaton, RN, delegate from Massachusetts