Nursing on Beacon Hill: Legislative Update
What is YOUR New Year’s resolution?
As the MNA looks to 2011, we anticipate a very busy year. Many contracts are up for renegotiation and we expect many of them to be contentious. Undoubtedly, we will need the help of elected officials to put pressure on employers to bargain reasonably. We also expect the Legislature to take up critical issues that will affect the entire health care industry. As always, the MNA will pursue an aggressive legislative agenda to protect patients and health care professionals. Our national union, the NNU, will also be fighting for patient safety and to protect assaults on our practice and our retirement at the federal level.
Strengthening our political power in 2011 is more important than ever. How can you help? We encourage all our members to make at least one New Year’s resolution that will strengthen YOUR union’s political influence. Here are some ideas.
I resolve to …
1 Find out who my state representative and senator are— even if I think I already know The 2010 election resulted in more significant turnover in the Legislature than we have seen in over a decade. There are eight new members of the senate, and a whopping 39 new members of the House of Representatives! ALL MNA members should know the names of their state legislators. Go to www.capwiz.com/massnurses to find yours. Give them a ring and introduce yourself, and let them know you hope they will support bedside nurses in their struggle to improve the quality of patient care.
2 Educate my legislators on the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime This year, for the first time, the MNA has filed stand-alone legislation that will prohibit the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime. We regularly take small groups of MNA members—wearing scrubs— through the State House to distribute information on our bills and to educate legislators about why these issues are so important to us and our patients. Contact Riley Ohlson at 781.830.5740 or email@example.com to volunteer to lobby for our mandatory overtime bill.
3 Meet with my state legislators to talk about safe staffing The most effective lobbying strategy the MNA uses is to conduct What is YOUR New Year’s resolution? Massachusetts Nurse January 2011 5 meetings with elected officials in their local districts with MNA members. This helps to educate them about what we see every day at our hospitals and lets them know that people in their community care about these issues. We have conducted dozens of these meetings over the last four years with great results. The MNA has filed legislation to require safe RN staffing in the commonwealth’s hospitals again this year. Contact your MNA community organizer to participate in a meeting with your state legislator on this issue.
4 Call my congressman and tell him/her that cuts to Social Security should be OFF THE TABLE Registered nurses and other health care professionals exert themselves physically every day, moving and lifting patients, reaching and stretching for equipment, and running from room to room on hard hospital floors. Many RNs suffer musculoskeletal injuries from this activity. RNs have a hard enough time as it is making it to the Social Security’s retirement age. Now there are elected officials in Washington who want to raise the retirement age and cut benefits. It is not right, and your senator and congressional representative need to hear from you! You have worked hard and paid into the system. You deserve to retire at a reasonable age and receive the benefits you have earned. To find your senators’ and congressional representative’s phone numbers go to www.capwiz.com/massnurses and enter your address or zip code. It only takes a few minutes but it can make a huge difference.
5 Find out who my district attorney is and educate him/her on MNA’s efforts to pass workplace violence prevention legislation Last year, the MNA successfully led the effort to pass legislation that increased the penalties faced by those who assault nurses and health care professionals providing care. This year, we have again filed a bill that would require hospitals to implement procedures to prevent this horrific violence in the first place. In the past, some district attorneys have helped us advocate for this kind of legislation by speaking with other elected officials and providing testimony, and we are hoping to involve even more DAs this session. Contact your MNA community organizer to find out who your DA is and how you can help.
6 Sign up to go to Washington, D.C., in June to participate in the NNU Staff Nurse Assembly On June 5–8, 2011, the National Nurses United—the national union of over 160,000 bedside RNs we affiliated with last year—will have a Staff Nurse Assembly in Washington. During this empowering event, nurses will hear from numerous speakers, engage in an action at the local level, and lobby members of Congress on NNU bills, including our federal safe staffing and safe patient handling bills. Last year, over 150 members volunteered their time to travel to D.C. for this event and they universally reported a magnificent experience. To sign up, call your MNA community organizer.
7 Register to vote As an RN, you advocate for your patients at the bedside and through your contract negotiations. However, your voice needs to be heard by elected officials too. Decisions they make every day affect your hospital and your ability to provide patient care. The most fundamental way to ensure that your voice is heard is to register to vote so that on Election Day you can support those who work hard for you and vote for change when an elected official does not have the best interests of the patients and health care workers at heart. To register visit the Massachusetts secretary of state Web site (sec.state.ma.us) and follow the links to the Elections Division “How to Register to Vote.” You can also register in person at your city or town clerk’s office and at the Registry of Motor Vehicles when you renew your driver’s license.
8 Become a sustaining donor to the Mass Nurses Political Action Committee (PAC) The PAC board of directors is a group of bedside RNs elected by the MNA membership to review candidates for office and support those who embrace the patient safety goals of registered nurses and health care professionals. We need to provide financial support to new candidates for office who will advocate strongly for our issues as well as support those who are already on Beacon Hill fighting for us every day. By law, dues money cannot be given to candidates directly—only the political action committee can do this, and the PAC can only help candidates if members support it. So give today by contacting Maryanne McHugh at 781.830.5713 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
9 Become a sustaining donor to the NNU Political Action Committee (PAC) The NNU PAC does on the federal level what the Mass Nurses PAC does on the state level. It supports candidates for Congress who support our issues and our members. In this past election, the NNU PAC helped to elect Bill Keating to fill the congressional seat being vacated by William Delahunt. Keating supports our federal safe staffing bill, and pledged to vote against any increase in the Social Security retirement age. Keating’s opponent, on the other hand, voted against our safe staffing bill in Massachusetts twice, and pledged to support an increase in the retirement age. Keating won that congressional seat by a narrow margin, in part due to the support of the NNU PAC. Again, the PAC is only successful to the extent that our members support it. To find out how to become a sustaining donor to the NNU PAC, contact Andi Mullin at 781.830. 5716 or email@example.com.
10 Get involved in my local AFL-CIO Labor Council Local labor councils have supported nurses through difficult contract negotiations by coming to informational pickets, walking on the strike line with us and putting pressure on hospital management. They have also supported our efforts to prevent workplace violence and pass safe staffing up at the State House by testifying on our behalf and coming to our rallies and lobby days. In order to give back, and to ensure that our priorities remain among their priorities, we need RNs to get involved with their local council and let them know what we are working on, where we need help and how we can help out our brothers and sisters in other unions. Contact your MNA community organizer to find out how to get involved.
Contact your community organizer:
413.584.4607 or firstname.lastname@example.org
508.756.5800 x 103 or email@example.com
Barbara “Cookie” Cooke
508.345.9219 or firstname.lastname@example.org
781.584.4032 or email@example.com
781.830.5704 or firstname.lastname@example.org