News & Events

Nurses Call for ‘Main Street Contract’ To Reverse National Priorities, Policies

Bureau of National Affairs
Health Care Employees

National Nurses United, the country’s largest union and professional association representing registered nurses, is launching a campaign to reverse national priorities and policies that have put the interests of Wall Street ahead of the crisis facing American families today, the union announced June 6.

The union, which represents some 170,000 registered nurses, with members in every state, is calling for a new contract for the American people, and has proposed a “Main Street Contract” that would rebuild communities with jobs, health care, education, and other urgent needs.

As part of the campaign, registered nurses represented by NNU plan to publicize how the current economic crisis has affected health and living standards for their patients and families.

During the first day of the 2011 NNU Staff Nurse Assembly, the three co-presidents of the union talked about how the economic crisis has been affecting the health of their patients.

“Every day patients call me to say they are putting off a procedure, like a colonoscopy, because they can’t afford the co-payment,” NNU co-president Deborah Burger told the assembly. “Employers change the terms of health insurance coverage, raising costs to workers, and many do not know it’s happened until they show up in need of care and are shocked and unable to pay,” she said.

Stress-Related Illnesses Are Up

“People are going without care at a time when stress-related illnesses are up,” said Jean Ross, an NNU co-president. “We see extreme angst in children—serious anxiety orders,” Ross said, because they are “worried about whether mom and dad have jobs and hear the talk about losing the house.”

Karen Higgins, the third co-president, talked about how stress-induced illnesses such as “gut disorders” are growing among people of all ages, including children. Instances of diabetes and obesity, particularly in young children, are on the rise, she said, adding that many of the diseases are caused by “stress from economic circumstances.”

In order to stop the economic decline as well as health deterioration that is occurring and to protect American families, the union is calling for a new contract for workers, NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro told some 800 RNs from 31 states attending the assembly.

Elements of the contract include jobs at living wages; equal access to quality, public education; guaranteed health care with a single standard of care; a secure retirement with the ability to retire in dignity; good housing; a safe and healthful environment; the right to collectively bargain and organize; and a “just taxation system where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.”

NNU to Urge Financial Transaction Tax

In order to pay for the contract, the union will be urging enactment of a tax on financial transactions, such as stock trades, DeMoro said. She added that NNU members along with other unions and allies plan to demonstrate June 22 on Wall Street as part of an international day of action to seek such a tax worldwide.

According to DeMoro, a financial transaction tax would generate some $350 billion annually that could be used to “reinvigorate this country.” She said some European countries already have implemented such a tax, and international unions are urging that such a tax be implemented on a global level.

In December 2009, legislation (H.R. 4191, S. 2927) was introduced in both the House and the Senate to impose a tax on certain securities transactions to fund job creation and deficit reduction. The legislation, however, did not even receive a hearing.

When asked whether NNU has members of Congress who are willing to introduce new legislation, DeMoro told BNA there currently are discussions taking place with several legislators.

Action Plan Outlined

Over the next two years, NNU members plan to engage in a number of activities, according to DeMoro, that include:

• holding all elected leaders and candidates accountable. DeMoro said labor has helped elect Democrats and “then we go away and don’t hold them accountable. We are passive, but we need to be more active.” She added the union will be asking politicians if they are on the side of Wall Street or Main Street. “If they are not with us, we’ll go after them,” DeMoro said. She added that this will be a nonpartisan campaign.

• sponsoring and promoting national and state legislation. DeMoro said NNU members will visit their members in Congress and then go back to their communities to organize their constituents around certain issues.

• calling on community groups, local governments, and labor bodies to support the Main Street contract. NNU plans to organize town hall meetings and community forums and demonstrate in front of legislators’ local offices. The members also plan to do “flash mobs” and sing songs of protest in order to “protest the corporations which created the crisis and are evading their obligations to America.”

The union also plans to publicize stories of nurses, patients, and others in the communities about what they are going through because of the economic crisis.

As part of their campaign, the nurses June 7 plan to rally outside the White House, picket the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hear from politicians during a rally on Capitol Hill, and then engage in legislative visits with their congressional representatives.

By Michelle Amber