From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
September/October 2012 Edition
By Donna Kelly-Williams
“Good afternoon fellow activists. It is my great honor and distinct privilege to stand here once again as president of the MNA and speak with you today.
“The past year has been one of great challenges for our members, for our communities, for our patients, and for our country. But through it all the MNA and the NNU have stood firm. We have not backed down from these challenges, we have not waivered in our determination to stand up and be counted, and—in a number of instances—we have made history.
“This happened at Taunton, where many of you helped to make a fundamental change in the debate over mental health issues in our state. While we did not save all the beds at Taunton State Hospital, we saved many. And through the formation of an independent commission to study this issue, we have the opportunity to get back those beds, and many more. This is the power of the MNA.
“Others of you held job actions at your facilities over the issue of mandatory overtime while still others made phone calls, sent emails, and visited legislators in an effort to ban this dangerous practice. As far back as 1997, nurses from Boston Medical Center, St. Vincent Hospital, Brockton Hospital, Morton Hospital, Tufts, Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital helped to put this issue on the map. But this year, every nurse in this state owes you a debt of gratitude because we passed a law − a law born of your sacrifice and your conviction— that bans the use of mandatory overtime as a staffing practice. Because of your work, as well as the work of the MNA and the NNU, every nurse will be able to provide safer care.
“We also need to thank our allies in the labor movement who stood with us to help achieve this victory. A few years ago there was a heated debate, which has not ended, about the wisdom of our joining the NNU and, with the NNU, the AFL-CIO. You need to know and understand that without the support we received from the NNU and AFL these great accomplishments would not have become a reality. Their expert lobbying support inside the State House was key to our ultimate victory.
“These victories also underscore the importance of, and the reason for, our legislative division and especially our MNA political action committee. I am often asked by members why the MNA endorses particular candidates. What matters to the MNA is not that a candidate belongs to a particular party, but whether that candidate supports and will stand up for and vote for issues that fit the mission and goals of the MNA and our profession. In these cases, we had legislative champions, such as Pat Haddad, Marc Pacheco and Jim O’Day, in our corner on the Taunton State campaign. And Denise Garlick and Steve Walsh, whom we helped elect, helped us push the mandatory overtime bill over the goal line.
“Over the course of the last 12 months we have also been active on several other fronts— fronts that represented new territory for the MNA, including the Occupy Movement, the Main Street Campaign, the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, our out-of-the-gate endorsement of Elizabeth Warren, and our fight against corporate giant Cerberus Steward Health Care.
“Some of you may have wondered how these initiatives are relevant to your bargaining unit. Here is my answer: Because the problems that impact you, and your patients, and your workplace are not isolated to your community or even our state.
“For our nurses in Steward hospitals, their problems are originating in Manhattan at the hands of a multi-billion dollar private equity firm that employs business practices that best serve the 1 percent. The same is happening in the central part of the state with our nurses who are working at Vanguard-owned facilities. This way of doing business holds true in every community, for both private and public employees alike. Always, the business model utilized harms nurses and their patients, but rewards the 1 percent.
“In pursuing our work with the NNU and the Main Street Campaign we are not neglecting or diminishing our efforts to wage fights in our own bargaining units. We at the MNA have always been strong, but we are stronger now. We are more respected now. And yes, we are more feared, because we are no longer just the MNA. We are part of a larger movement on the state level through our affiliation with the AFL-CIO, on a regional level with the formation and growth of the Northeast Nurses Association, and on a national level through the NNU.
“We have and will continue to be effective on all fronts. And we will need to be … as the coming year promises to be one of even greater challenge and opportunity.”