We are living through unprecedented times, a moment unlike any other most of us have experienced in our lifetimes. Events in our hospitals, our communities and our nation are unfolding fast: an insurrection in our nation’s capital, unemployment the likes of which this country has not seen since the Depression, and a worldwide pandemic that is surging again through the neighborhoods of New York. Taken together, they place before us a set of profound challenges.

A sense of hope

From what you took on in 2020, with remarkable skill, resilience and determination, I know that we can meet these challenges. 2021 — with all its hardships — will be the year in which we overcome obstacles and forge ahead to give the communities we serve confidence in the future and a sense of hope.

Last winter-spring, the COVID-19 virus reared its ugly head in New York. Before long, New York City was the world epicenter of the virus.

You met this extraordinary challenge with extraordinary courage.

You came to work in hospitals in NYC and around the state knowing every day that you faced the very real prospect of infection from the deadly virus.

This remarkable commitment has helped save more than 100,000 New Yorkers to date and curtailed the further spread of the virus. We showed that nursing is not just a profession, it is a calling.

Now we are faced with a second wave of the coronavirus. By identifying shortages of supplies and inadequate equipment in our hospitals, we put management and government on notice: public health is at risk. OSHA has been formally notified based upon accounts you’ve filed. Strikes were held (on December 1 and December 1-2, respectively, see pp. 6-9) for Unfair Labor Practices and staffing shortages.

A source of great strength

We were not alone. Nurses in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and California walked the line over lack of PPE and unsafe staffing.

On December 17, the New York Times reported that in New York “nurses and other healthcare workers in the state have begun to warn about the conditions in hospitals, as virus patients are checking in at an alarming rate.”

You spoke with clarity and passion. No one knows the inner-workings of the hospitals better than you and your colleagues. Your professionalism, solidarity and moral courage have proved to be a source of great strength for NYSNA members and beyond.

You led by example on the frontlines at the epicenter of a savage pandemic, the embodiment of commitment — to the health and well-being of our patients, our members, the communities we live in, and to our nation at large. You represent what is best in our Democracy.

Our allies are a tremendous force unto themselves. We are in regular and engaged dialogue with elected leaders, many of whom we helped, boots on the ground, to win office. The exchange of ideas and coordination of actions are critical to our future. In a new initiative, we are working with other unions and allies to endorse candidates for New York City Council.

We share many of the values of our sisters and brothers in other unions. The solidarity of this bond translates into concrete action: from matters pertaining to safety issues during the pandemic to the general health and welfare of the people of New York. Our numbers are greatly multiplied when we speak as one with our union allies.

Our allies in organizations that stand for the protection of the public’s health, for racial justice, for the rights of LGBTQIA+ communities, for immigrant rights and others, bring us a more complete perspective on society’s needs.

Healthcare is a human right

Together, we form a powerful alliance based upon principles of fairness and justice. We have a strong voice gaining even greater resonance.

Our members — hailing from diverse backgrounds, faiths, creeds, and ethnicities — know that illness does not discriminate, and neither should access to healthcare.

There is opportunity in times of crisis. We stand tall behind our support for our Democratic institutions, for good jobs and a living wage, for decent housing, a clean environment and climate justice and for our unwavering belief that quality healthcare is a human right not a privilege!

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