The light of hope

Sometimes we lose hope. Chronically working short-staffed, lacking critical resources, bringing these issues forward to management’s unresponsive ears — we could resign ourselves to thinking that this is just the way it is. But without hope, without the belief that things can get better, what are we left with? Passive resignation that we simply have to accept things as they are and do our best to plod through each day? But that’s the same message we get when administrators tell us to “Do the best you can” — a euphemism for “I’m not going to get you another nurse.”

Legislated ratios passed a milestone!

Everyone said we would never get this bill out of committee. They said that the Corporate Health Systems lobby was too powerful, their pockets too deep, their control of the politicians too tight. Those things are true — but what no one realized was that nurses have power! In our testimonies, our POAs, our Staffing Captain reports, our phone calls, lobby visits, rallies, pickets, demonstrations, confrontations with management, town halls, visits to community events, media interviews, our dogged persistence in demanding that the issue of short staffing be addressed in a meaningful way — WE DID IT!

Not done yet…

Of course, the spotlight is now on the Senate. But the Senators know — and we are clear — that we can get this done. It took years to get the Mandatory Overtime law; just as many to get ratios in California. We are 15 years on this bill and we have made more progress in the last few years, especially this past year, than we have made in all previous years. Thanks to you, to all of you who have joined in this struggle to make our voices heard, the tragedy of understaffing is being recognized as a health care emergency in New York State.

And then there’s single payer…

Based on our research, observations and experiences with our dysfunctional profit-driven health care system, we moved on another initiative: the establishment of a Single Payer Health Care System– Improved and Enhanced Medicare for All. This growing movement across the country recognizes that having predator insurance and pharmaceutical companies determine health care delivery is hazardous to our future.

Thanks again to our members — in coalition with communities, providers and labor organizations — the Single Payer bill passed the Assembly this year as well! The funding mechanism to hire more nurses can be found when hospitals don’t waste so much money on advertising, administrative overhead, interpreting and accommodating insurers’ ridiculously complicated parameters, and competing over market share. That can only happen under a single payer system, such as exists in every developed country in the world — except ours.

And climate change?

NYSNA’s board of directors identified three key elements to focus on that are essential for a healthy state and nation:

  • Protecting our patients with safe staffing (the ratios bill);
  • Protecting our communities with universal access to health care (the single payer bill);
  • Protecting our planet by reducing our carbon footprint (the climate bill).

NYSNA members’ actions, in a broad coalition with environmental, social justice, labor union and scientific organizations, were successful in getting this bill passed as well in the Assembly. This bill would set specific goals to transform energy use to sustainable forms within a given time, provide for middle-class jobs for workers in the fossil fuel industry as part of that “just transition” to clean energy, and protect our most vulnerable communities from the toxic effects of polluted water, air and soil. Think Flint, Michigan — or, closer to home: Hoosick Falls and the Oil Train passageways.

Anything is possible

Many people think of “unions” as something not intrinsic to our lives. NYSNA nurses have proven that our union is a part of us. Just like our own selves, our union has strengths as well as flaws; sees victories as well as disappointments; matures and grows wiser with age. But the union is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The union is the combined strength and commitment of its members to make things better in meaningful ways. The union is, more than anything, hope.

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