Landmark bill provides a pathway for staffing ratios

Eyes on the prize

One of the most difficult situations we face as nurses, workers, students, and as individuals in our everyday lives, is managing what can best be described as “Victory Pathways.”

Such pathways are not the ultimate solution to specific challenges we face. But they are most definitely building blocks toward a desired outcome. A negotiated contract is a perfect example of this, as is any compromise, or even passing one subject among many towards a degree.

Such victories must be celebrated—they’re always the result of hard work and perseverance. But we can’t become complacent with such successes. This is what’s meant by “keeping our eyes on the prize.”

Every victory provides a road to bigger successes — but it’s up to us to make those things materialize.

The historic staffing legislation put forward in the State Legislature has provided us with a map.

Staffing legislation 2021

Safe staffing is the most potent uniting issue among nurses and caregivers across the nation. NYSNA put forward staffing language over 17 years ago and members, leaders and staff have been struggling on every level imaginable to achieve minimum staffing ratios in law ever since.

It’s important to understand that the bulk of donors to politicians come from large corporations and billionaires (often the senior staff of these very corporations!) via a series of loopholes in finance law.

Among the biggest and most powerful corporations in the state of New York are — you guessed it — Large Hospital Systems, which are vehemently opposed to any staffing language at all, ever.

This is the main reason we’ve not been successful in realizing the goal of establishing minimum nurse/patient ratios as outlined in our bill: “The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.”

This is why candidates who run on a policy of refusing corporate donations are so important.

And this is why Campaign Finance Reform is a premier issue for NYSNA members and for all unions and community advocacy organizations.

NYSNA member fightback yielded results

In spite of the “power of the purse” that these hospital cartels leverage, the unrelenting actions of members, staff and leaders over the past year have resulted in a meaningful victory. Nurses have pushed the powerful forces of the state to do what our employers said would never happen: propose staffing legislation with specific metrics that will likely be signed into law.

This is an extraordinary milestone, in spite of its complex provisions and the amount of work that will be required to give it more meaning and muscle. While the details of the legislation will be explored elsewhere, one thing is clear: our work is cut out for us.

Town Halls, tutorials and workshops will be developed to arm us all with the necessary tools to utilize this language in the most effective ways. As we develop a statewide algorithm, each LBU will need to be activated to participate, engage and fight for the realization of the potential that is contained in every crevice of the language.

The traumas of the pandemic & its precursors

Any nurse can tell you that due to the decimation, fragmentation and “robotification” of our practice over the decades, the cutbacks in health care, the dysfunctionality of a for-profit health care system, the absence of mandatory staffing ratios and an OSHA standard on PPE, the horrific outcomes of the COVID period were inevitable.

The way forward

We still mourn our dead…and have yet to recover from our experiences and our own victimization — ongoing — of these utter failures of government, employer and regulatory agency alike. Protecting front line workers and the public requires all hands on deck. NYSNA is involved in such engagement on multiple levels.

The strength of our union lies with the involvement of our members. This is true no matter what the issue is. We can do a lot as individual leaders, but anything is possible when we are many and united.

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