The Global Nurses Solidarity Assembly drew 1,500 people, mostly nurses, to San Francisco for three days commencing September 12. It was an extraordinary gathering.
The event was organized by National Nurses United, the largest union of nurses in the U.S., with 185,000 members. NYSNA was honored to be invited and sent 35 participants representing upstate, downstate, public and private sector nurses. Truly an international effort, the Assembly hosted guests from 24 countries, all members of the global federation of nurses and healthcare workers unions, Global Nurses United. The problems we face, including austerity and privatization attacks on healthcare systems and other public services, the climate crisis, attacks on unions, safe nurse staffing and other nursing standards, and immigration and racial and gender justice issues—all were addressed and open to discussion.
Plenary Sessions at the Assembly included Global Health, Global Justice; Fighting Inhumane Immigration Policy; The Global Climate Emergency—The Fight for Environmental Justice. Breakout Sessions/Workshops were conducted on a range of topics, including Workplace violence, Veterans Health, and Racial and Gender Disparities in Healthcare and Organizing the Unorganized. Over the years NNU and NYSNA have shared our experiences coordinating collective bargaining to build stronger contracts for nurses. In organizing the unorganized we achieved great success adopting many of their tactics. Pre- and post-Janus efforts to strengthen internal union organizations are underway at both NNU and NYSNA—taking on the corporate union-busting assault. NNU has supported our organizing campaigns—Albany Med a key example. NYSNA, in turn, has supported theirs, recently at Johns Hopkins Medical Center.
On the critical fight for universal healthcare, NNU was instrumental in launching the national campaign for Medicare for All. We are both a part of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare. Here in New York, the New York Health Act, our state’s Medicare for All legislation, gains support. Recently, we were instrumental in helping Congressman Hakeem Jeffries reach a decision to sign on as a co-sponsor on HR 1384, the Jayaplan-Dingell House Medicare for All bill. NNU’s RNRN (Registered Nurse Response Network, which includes NNU members, other union RNs and non-union RNs) engages in disaster relief; we saw them in action after Katrina and in Haiti. They were here, volunteering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. They were also coordinating relief in Guatemala and on the border—our nurses joined both these medical missions. In this way, we were able to develop our New York Recovery Network (NYRN), now working with RNRN as well as launching relief missions of our own, most recently in Zimbabwe (see pages 12-13 for a report on our September mission there).
The common ground we share with NNU/GNU is big and broad, and our two unions continue to coordinate on many issues: NYSNA members have been active in working in support of key NNU-sponsored federal legislation, the Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Act and Safe Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patients. We joined NNU members in support of the employee fairness act, on the right to organize, and to win a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculation that would help fund programs like Medicare for All, for free college tuition, and for climate justice.
As we look ahead to 2020, the united voices of nurses—in New York, around the nation and the world with NNU/GNU—are growing stronger and louder.