During two days in September, converging at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, 1,800 NYSNA members met, reviewed the year, attended a slew of workshop offerings and heard from elected officials. Some members attended Voting Body and Congress. Less than two months from the November elections, there was talk of endorsements and the prospects for new laws in New York – for safe staffing and a single payer health system.
Politics was in the air, and on the podium. Public Advocate Tish James gave a rousing speech, recalling the care her mother received from a nurse. State Senators Bill Perkins and Ruth Hassell Thompson also spoke.
Members were engaged and enthusiastic. “It’s my first conference. It’s a great experience that reminds you that you are not alone, you are part of something larger,” said Donna Simons, RN, of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. “Staffing is a big issue, safety as well; we always seem to be understaffed. But I’m optimistic. If we keep with it and stay committed we’ll succeed.”
“The biggest challenge is empowering younger nurses, making them realize how much power they have, giving them a voice and creating a healthy work environment for them,” said Bernita Stewart, RN, Montefiore Medical Center. “With this union there’s very little ‘us and them,’ so nurses feel that they can decide the future, they feel that they are the union.”
March and rally
NYSNA was also in the streets during this Biennial. In the late morning of day two, September 17, NYSNA members marched on West 57th Street in Manhattan – outside the offices of the Greater New York Hospital Association and the NYC office of the Healthcare Association of New York State. More than a dozen elected officials and other union leaders joined several NYSNA board members before a large crowd of members and supporters. “Safe staffing” was the theme and that message was delivered loud and clear.