President's Column: Nurses standing up and speaking out for their beliefs
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
October/November 2011 Edition
Our President’s column this month is taken from the presidential address delivered at the MNA Convention on Oct. 5, 2011
By Donna Kelly-Williams
When I look over the past year of MNA activity, what resonates with me is the repeated image of nurses standing up and speaking out for what they believe in.
There is no doubt that the past year has been one of great turmoil for our country and continued economic insecurity for working people. In our workplaces, I see unprecedented changes, with massive consolidation and changes in ownership and affiliations among providers and our employers. I see the growing assault on nursing practice and workplace rights, both nationally and in our bargaining units, with the resurfacing of workplace redesign, the layoff of staff and the closing of services. I see other unions and organizations across the country shrinking from the challenge, talking about things like “shared sacrifice,” and efforts to capitulate and cajole their way into the future.
Then I look at the MNA/NNU and I see nurses rising up:
- I saw the nurses of Burbank Hospital and their colleagues from surrounding facilities fighting to prevent the closing of their psychiatric unit.
- I saw the nurses of St. Vincent Hospital and Tufts Medical Center fighting for safe staffing and for an end to mandatory overtime and unnecessary floating—a fight that they won.
- I saw the nurses at Cape Cod Hospital, Falmouth Hospital, Northeast Health Corp., Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Quincy Medical Center and Berkshire Medical Center ALL standing up, walking the line, fighting for safer staffing, and protecting their benefits and their union rights.
- I saw the Steward nurses, leading the fight of their lives, trying to hold onto something they were promised: a Taft-Hartley pension plan.
- And this year, I saw the growth and maturation of our affiliation with National
Nurses United, the largest and most important union for nurses in U.S. history. When the Tufts and St. V’s strikes were looming, the Massachusetts Hospital Association tried to undermine our cause in the public by taking out ads and making statements about this being part of some national agenda driven by the MNA and the NNU. Aside from helping raise the profile of the NNU, for which we offer our sincere thanks to the MHA, this tactic had no impact. And I have news for the MHA, and for the AHA, and for MONE: You are right. We do have an agenda. It is about nursing power, it is about safe patient care, and it is about justice for all in this country.
Now, when it comes to justice, the MNA and NNU are not talking about sharing any sacrifice for a crisis we had no part in creating. In fact, we have taken a leadership role in setting a new progressive agenda for the American people and for the labor movement. I am talking about our new campaign: the “Main Street Contract” for the American people.
I am so proud that we are part of this campaign, which seeks to hold Wall Street accountable for creating this crisis. Through our efforts we aim to restore “jobs at living wages” for everyone, health care for all, a secure retirement, equal access to quality public education, good housing and protection from hunger, a safe and healthy environment and a just taxation system where the corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.
We are the ones who need to lead this fight, because unlike other unions in this country, we have tremendous credibility with the American public. We are the most trusted professionals on the planet, and our license obligates us to advocate for our patients to ensure that they receive what they need to be well.
When I was in Washington for a recent NNU event, I picked up a bumper sticker that reads: “Save one life, you’re a hero; Save a hundred lives and you’re a nurse.” I want you—all of you nurses out there—to know that we truly are heroes. I cannot wait to see what happens in the year ahead! I thank you.