One of the most famous quotes in US history is John F. Kennedy’s appeal to the American people when he said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
The ’60s ushered in an age of idealism. Many people saw JFK as an icon of hope, right or wrong. More importantly, people all over the world were in motion: fighting injustice, promoting free thinking, working together to make a better world.
Times are different now. Many young people don’t envision a wonderful future. Older Americans fear for their jobs and worry about surviving as they age. We can and we must recover that sense of collectivity and unity that permeated our culture and inspired us 50 years ago.
When our nurses join NYSNA it is more than a pre-requisite to working in our hospitals. We see our role in creating something more than a vehicle for salary increases or a new pair of eyeglasses. In this age of austerity, with bosses demanding givebacks and pleading poverty, we can choose to take the offensive.
“Union” means we’re together, we build community, we create a culture of strength and camaraderie. That doesn’t happen without recognizing the importance of collective action and participation. Just ask a nurse who worked in a non-union hospital. There is no job security, no contract, no obligation on the Employer’s part to treat you fairly.
The union is the tool to address our issues; the vehicle that we, the members, drive to the destination of our choice. It is not a “thing” separate from us. It is what we make it.
A powerful force
Our Employers would like for us to believe that we are helpless, bound by limits and definitions that they set for us. They want us to be on the defensive, to thank them for employing us. They say they’re losing money while paying their CEOs millions; that we must tighten our belts while they waste money on expensive consultants and unproven technologies; that we’re greedy as they merge and acquire facilities, expand and monopolize the health care market.
We cannot let them get away with this farce. Recent contract settlements, while not perfect, have demanded and won salary increases without givebacks, among other improvements. Approximately 15,000 NY nurses are entering or engaged in negotiations right now. Every nurse should be a member or supporter of facility Contract Action Teams, a key tool to winning decent contracts. We are a powerful force for change in health care delivery for our patients and in demanding justice on the job and in our contracts.
We just have to believe it.
Attend the Biennial
For these reasons it’s critical that you sign up for the NYSNA Biennial Meeting at Javits Center in NYC September 16 and 17. We have a big surprise planned for our Employers on that Wednesday – you won’t want to miss it.