News & Events

President’s Column: It’s time for a Main Street Contract for America and it’s nurses who need to lead the fight

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
August 2011 Edition

President’s Column
By Donna Kelly-Williams

With continuing high employment, stagnating wages, skyrocketing health care costs, and tens of millions of Americans facing housing, nutrition and retirement insecurity, the American dream is slipping away for far too many. That is why NNU/MNA is pushing for a Main Street Contract for the American People, a new binding relationship for their security, for their families and for future generations. This issue of the Massachusetts Nurse Advocate provides our readers with an overview of this historic campaign, highlighting recent actions we have taken in this exciting effort to change this country for the good of working people. Please see the stories on pages 12–15 for all the details.

In my column this month I want to highlight why the NNU and the MNA are leading this fight for economic justice and security.

Why us?

We are witnesses to the trauma. As nurses, we all have personal experience every day in our practice in dealing with the casualties of this corporate war on working Americans. In our emergency rooms and on the floors of acute care facilities, in the homes served by our visiting nurse members, in the schools served by our school nurses, in the homeless shelters and mental health facilities where our members work in the public sector, we are seeing patients and families suffering the physical and mental illness associated with loss of work, increasing poverty, hunger, homelessness and economic stress.

This includes:

  • Stress-induced heart ailments in younger patients
  • Hypertension
  • Pancreatitis, including more cases in children due to high fat diets
  • “Gut” disorders, such as colitis
  • Obesity linked to poverty
  • Increased mental illnesses for all age groups; anxiety disorders among youth
  • Higher asthma rates
  • Deaths tied to delays in care, insurance obstacles

We are mandatory reporters. We see more and know more about the health impacts on the economy than anyone else in the society. We can’t afford to be silent as the vulnerable depend on us to blow the whistle on corporate greed and its impact on real people.

We are ethically obligated. Our code of ethics is our guiding principle. We are legally and ethically bound to advocate for our patients. When it is the very structure of our economic system that is harming our patients, advocacy does not stop at the walls of our hospitals, schools or nursing homes. In this case, the intervention that is needed is for fundamental changes to our society.

We are respected. According to the Gallup Poll, as well as MNA’s own polling, registered nurses have an 80 – 90 percent approval rating with the American public. The public trusts nurses more than any other segment of our society. We are perfectly positioned to serve as the lead messenger for this movement.

We are strong. The NNU, with 175,000 members and growing, is the largest union of registered nurses in U.S history. The MNA, with more than 23,000 members, is the largest and most powerful organization and union for RNs and health professionals in the commonwealth. We are in every community and work in every setting.

If not nurses, then who can lead this struggle for economic justice? If not now, then when? I urge every MNA member to become involved in this campaign. Read this issue of the magazine, visit to learn more and to join this fight.