Solidarity: when the ‘ah ha moment’ hits
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
July/August 2010 Edition
By Jeanine Hickey, RN
Associate Director, Organizing
|The NNU job action at the Staff Nurse Assembly in May.|
You hear it all the time, “In solidarity.” But what does it really mean? The actual dictionary definition of solidarity describes it as the mutual support and agreement among individuals in a group that usually takes the form of collective action for something.
Over the past several months displays of solidarity and collective action have been evident at many MNA and NNU events where nurses have come together to fight for issues like preventing pension takeaways, mandatory overtime and benefit cutbacks as well as preserving affordable health care. In most cases the nurses have come away with the “ah ha moment” where they realize just how empowered they are while standing together to fight.
The nurses at Morton Hospital stood together recently as they faced contract issues that led them to the brink of striking. For them, solidarity meant they found the collective strength to stand up to their employer to protect their pensions and to get strong language protections on mandatory overtime. They stood united for the safety of their patients and for a just contract. And they were encouraged by the outpouring of support from community organizations, political leaders, other unions, and other MNA bargaining units—all of who supported them in their fight. Solidarity with their bargaining unit, yes!
The nurses at Tufts and Boston Medical Center (BMC) stood together to hold an informational picket over patient safety and safe staffing. The picket brought nurses from both campuses together to walk at BMC in the morning and in the afternoon at Tufts. At both events they were joined by MNA leadership and members from other MNA bargaining units as well as community and political leaders. The nurses at these two facilities found unity in a common issue and stood together to fight for their patients. Solidarity for safe patient care, yes!
The nurses at Quincy Medical Center (QMC) held an informational picket to call attention to the unfair treatment they are receiving from management in their current contract fight. The QMC nurses are taking a firm stand to fight cutbacks in wages, increases in health insurance costs, and the freezing of their pension benefits. In a great show of unity and solidarity, MNA members from other bargaining units as well as members of other unions and community groups joined the QMC nurses on their picket line. Their fight continues, but by empowering themselves they can continue the fight for a fair settlement. Solidarity against unfair treatment, yes!
In Washington, D.C., at the first NNU Staff Nurse Assembly the nurses at Washington Medical Center staged an informational picket to protest staffing and benefit cutbacks. Imagine the sense of support and solidarity they felt when busload after busload of NNU nurses showed up on their picket line. It was an unbelievable sight to see a picket line of about 70 Washington Medical Center nurses grow within minutes to well over 1,000! The nurses at Washington Medical Center had a big “ah ha moment” with the solidarity of over 1,000 NNU nurses walking the line with them chanting “Your fight is our fight.” The management team at this hospital must have experienced a big “oh no moment” when those buses unloaded in front of the hospital. Solidarity for nurses across the United States, yes!
The week of May 24 brought support and solidarity to our United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) brothers and sisters at Shaw’s warehouse who have been on strike for several weeks. The striking workers staged a five-day walk from Methuen to the State House in Boston to protest the unfair treatment they are receiving from their employer. Community groups and other unions, including the MNA, joined them to support their struggle, to bring attention to their strike and to help them win a fair contract.
The MNA supported the UFCW workers on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by making the MNA mobile unit and provisions available to them as they walked many miles in record heat and humidity. Solidarity and unity were evident not only from the MNA but from other unions and community groups as their five-day walk culminated in a mass rally outside the State House on May 27, followed by a march to the Shaw’s at the Prudential Center.
These workers were unified in their struggle and their work to gain public support for a just settlement to their contract fight. They were so appreciative of the MNA’s assistance and support on their journey that they publicly thanked the MNA during both a speech at their rally and by a rousing chant of “thanks to MNA.” Solidarity and unity with other workers, yes!
Unity and solidarity: The “ah ha moments” of empowerment! Have you had your “ah ha moment” yet? Try it! You will likely find that it feels great.