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MNA, NNU RNs lead community rally in New York City to heal America

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
August 2011 Edition

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Thousands of MNA and NNU registered nurses, joined by labor and community leaders and activists, rallied in front of the New York Stock Exchange on June 22, calling for, among other things, a sales tax on Wall Street’s speculative activity—a tax that many estimate could raise the revenue required to rebuild the nation. The protest, held on the steps of Federal Hall at Wall and Broad streets, raised awareness of the direct ties financial speculation has on the present economic crisis. The protest was part of a greater MNA/NNU campaign to develop a “Main Street Contract for the American People,” which aims to reverse national priorities and policies that have placed the interests of Wall Street over those of American families.

Specifically, the goal of the campaign is to chart a “new contract” for the American people in order to guarantee a better life today and a more secure future for our children and for future generations. “We want to challenge today’s conventional wisdom that says working people must endlessly sacrifice, while those at the top—of Wall Street and of every Fortune 500 company—reap the benefits of those sacrifices,” said Karen Higgins, an RN at Boston Medical Center and NNU co-president. “Furthermore, we collectively oppose any push by legislators who emphasize additional budget cuts rather than restoration of programs to rebuild our communities.”

The rally was part of an International Day of Action, called on by the European Trade Union Confederation, with events scheduled throughout Europe in support of a similar tax on the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, credit default swaps, derivatives, and other major financial transactions. Great Britain and a number of other nations have such a tax, which has also been endorsed by the European Parliament.

In the U.S., hundreds of billions of dollars could be raised every year through such fees—which would easily be the revenue needed to repair the countless Main Street communities that have been so devastated by the abuses of Wall Street. “The money can be used to create jobs and fund health care, to improve education and housing, and to secure a dignified retirement for all working-class Americans,” added Beth Piknick, an MNA RN working at Cape Cod Hospital and an NNU vice president. “American families have suffered the consequences of an unrelenting economic crisis, and the time has come to end the cycle of ignoring the total influence Wall Street’s corporate greed has had on this crisis.”

The campaign also aims to end the proposed cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other bedrock programs while the government promotes new corporate tax cuts—an essential goal given that a recent General Accounting Office study found that 57 percent of U.S. companies paid no federal income taxes for at least one year during the past decade. “The modest pensions and health benefits we have earned, the pay that supports our families, the improved conditions for our patients did not deplete public treasuries or jeopardize the survival of our employers,” added Higgins. “The banks and other financial giants did—and were rewarded with bailouts and bonuses while our communities pay the price. Over the past 30 years, while wages have fallen or stagnated and insurance premiums and other basic costs skyrocketed, wealth has been shifted from working families to Wall Street. It is not shared sacrifice when only working people make concessions.”

Some of the shocking statistics that support Higgins’ argument include:

  • Corporate taxes are at historical lows. Yet at $1.6 trillion, corporate profits for the third quarter of 2010 were the highest on record.
  • Hospitals nationally recorded $34 billion in profits in 2009, the second highest ever.
  • 42 percent of U.S. companies paid no U.S. income taxes for two or more years from 1998 to 2005.
  • The 400 richest Americans control more wealth than 150 million Americans combined.

The protest was sponsored by National Nurses United as well as the AFL-CIO, IBEW, National Jobs with Justice, UAW, TWU Local 100, NYPIRG, ATU, Working Families and other community and labor groups.

For details on upcoming protests, as well as complete details on the “Main Street Contract” campaign, visit