National Nurses United Convention Calls for Stepped Up Push For Wall Street Transaction Tax to Fund Main Street Healing
Michael Moore to NNU: ‘Your Movement on It is Genius’
Delegates to the second convention of National Nurses United Friday called for a sweeping set of reforms to address the economic crisis swamping American families, and pledged to step up the campaign for a tax on Wall Street financial transactions to pay for Main Street reforms.
On the final night of its 2011 Convention, NNU delegates also heard from acclaimed filmmaker Michael Moore who praised “your initiative to tax Wall Street. It’s so necessary… your movement on it is genius, it has to happen.”
NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro presents film maker Michael Moore with a "Main Street Hero" Award.
“Nurses have a responsibility,” said Massachusetts RN Ann Marie McDonagh during the convention discussion “to ensure that members of our society have access to basic necessities such as living wages, adequate housing, healthcare, nutritious food, clean water and robust public facilities. Unfortunately, the numbers of individuals and families in our country losing access to these vital commodities are rapidly growing. This constitutes a public health crisis.”
“In my practice as a staff nurse in a downtown Boston teaching hospital, I am seeing the effects of this crisis every day,” said McDonaugh at the NNU convention in San Francisco. “More and more sick patients are coming through our doors sicker and sicker by the day. A nurses’ union must do so much more than just negotiate fair pay and decent working conditions. It must use its power to promote the overall well being of its members and the public they care for.”
The resolution, adopted unanimously by the delegates of NNU, the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses in U.S. history, cites the growing crisis in unemployment, hunger, poverty, homelessness, un-payable medical bills, and growing disparity in wealth. It emphasizes the need for immediate action, and reinforces a campaign launched by NNU in recent months to seek a tax on major Wall Street trades of stocks, bonds, foreign currency bets, derivatives, and other speculation. Ordinary consumer activity would not be affected.
“I watch as my community suffers from unemployment, foreclosures, and the loss of vital teachers, police and firefighters,” said another Massachusetts RN Karen Coughlin. “Nurses in Massachusetts are being asked ‘why are you doing this’. We, this country’s nurses have always had the courage to advocate for what is right, whether it is the care at the bedside, or now, the care for our country and the health of its future.”
NNU members have been holding actions across the U.S. this year in support of the program, which NNU calls a Main Street Contract for the American People. Actions have included major protests on Wall Street in New York across from the New York Stock Exchange, in front of the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, and, earlier this month, a variety of actions, from soup kitchens to sit ins, at 60 district Congressional offices in 21 states.
“Nurses see the depth of this crisis every day, in our patients willing to forego even life saving medical treatment because they have no job, they’ve lost their house, and they can’t afford to co-pays or deductibles. No one has to tell us there is an economic crisis and a nation in free fall,” said Jean Ross, NNU co-president in a welcoming address to the convention Thursday.
Taking on the fight for the Main Street reforms reflects a broad commitment by nurses, Ross said. “That’s what it means to be a society, to be a community, of people caring for each other. And that’s the very essence of what it means to be a nurse. Nurses know how to diagnose an illness, how to develop a care plan."
“That’s what our Main Street campaign is all about, along with our prescription of how to pay for it – by taxing those Wall Street banks and speculators who created this crisis. I am so proud that we have taken on this campaign, and I know all of you are too. It’s a fight for our future, and one we dare not lose,” Ross said.
On Friday, NNU presented a Main Street Hero to Moore, praising his lifetime of work, especially his far sighted indictment of the healthcare industry in “SiCKO.” “In Michaels’ world you take sides,” said NNU Co-president Deborah Burger, RN. “He is on the side of Main Street. Has been; always will be. That’s what makes him a Main Street hero.”
In his speech, Moore, who is on a tour with his new book “Here Comes Trouble,” described his horror during a speech the night before at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, when he saw the school president “hand out envelopes for the student emergency funds” to help the students, most of whom had to also work in full time jobs often at near minimum wage while in school, just to help them pay for gas or car repairs.
“It’s not my America where we have to beg for money for education for our children. It is immoral, it is wrong, and the same thing could be said when it comes to healthcare.”
Moore recalled how NNU members toured the U.S. with him for the premieres of “SiCKO” joining in public events promoting Medicare for all, single payer reform. “I was always relieved when the nurses showed up,” he said adding the themes of “SiCKO” are “still more than relevant four years later… The American people want real, universal healthcare, not semi-universal healthcare in 2014, and they want it now.”
Earlier on Friday, the convention also heard from a panel of international nurses talking about their campaigns for safer patient care and how the global economic crisis is affecting people around the world.
South Korean nurse leader Soon Ja Na, RN said conditions in Korea are “not much different than in the U.S., with attacks on working people and on health and welfare services.”
She noted that Korean nurses and U.S. nurses have issued joint opposition to the Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement which, she said, will “only make it easier for corporations to make money and worsen the lives of workers in both countries,” and hasten efforts by transnational healthcare corporations to push a U.S.-style privatized healthcare system in Korea.
Working people in the United Kingdom have been waging a similar fight, noted British RN Jayne Hornby. She cited mass protests against the government efforts to erode the UK’s National Health Service, “but we will not give up and not lose something so close to our hearts that is a foundation of a modern society.”
NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro praised the “power, commitment, courage and depth of nurses across the world. We all face the same story. You are the people who can breathe life in this world.”
DeMoro told of an NNU member being asked at a public rally in San Francisco for the Main Street campaign and Wall Street tax “why nurses are out here on this. He said, ‘to save your life’.” That’s the campaign nurses will continue, she said.