Busloads of NYSNA nurses descended on our state’s capitol on February 13 to amp up support for our Safe Staffing legislation at this year’s New York State Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus. Held annually in February, the Caucus brings together elected and community leaders from around the state. This year’s theme, “Restoring Faith & Justice: In Pursuit of Empowering Our Communities,” set the tone for an exceptional day of activism and advocacy.
Building public support
To get the word out about our safe staffing campaign, NYSNA RNs hosted an educational table outside the Convention Center’s Meeting Rooms. Nurses handed out flyers and gathered hundreds of signatures in support of bringing the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act to a vote in both the Assembly and Senate this session.
After filling ever corner of our petitions with signatures, NYSNA nurses joined together to create a sea of red and presented the giant petitions to state legislators.
Throughout the day, NYSNA nurses continued to meet with elected and community leaders about the need to support the Safe Staffing for Quality Care and the New York Health (Healthcare for All) Acts. Legislators pledged to redouble their efforts to pass legislation that would help protect New York patients.
Linice Zambrano, RN at Bronx Lebanon Hospital, said, “The freezing temperatures couldn’t keep nurses away. NYSNA nurses were more united than ever in asking our Senators and Assembly members to support the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. We handed out flyers to both the community and elected representatives about the importance of the bill, and we had them sign our petitions.”
Nurses also attended workshops and panels focusing on issues central to NYSNA’s legislative agenda and the factors that contribute to community health: economic security and living wages; paid family leave; community input into healthcare funding; reforming the justice system; expanding affordable housing; maintaining collective bargaining rights; strategies to reduce gun violence; eliminating healthcare disparities and building healthcare equity; and containing the costs of prescription drugs, among many others.
Need for universal healthcare
Jalisa Saud, RN and NYSNA release time rep in the NYCH+H, represented NYSNA on a panel on single payer hosted by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Chair of the Health Committee. “The single payer panel was an important opportunity for NYSNA to address universal healthcare against the backdrop of inequalities in the system today. My comments stressed how single payer improves quality and safety in healthcare. Quality care means having enough qualified professionals at the bedside. And single payer truly is a win-win.”
At the labor lunch, Ms. Saud had another opportunity to take the podium when she presented the Beacon of Light award to Carmen Charles, President of AFSCME Local 420, NYC’s Municipal Hospitals Employees Union. Representing the solidarity between NYSNA nurses and AFSCME caregivers, Ms. Saud praised Ms. Charles’ “vision of empowering every union member through education and creating a higher level of activism and advocacy.”
Judith Cutchin, RN at Woodhull Medical Center, was moved by the experiences of the day. “Caucusing went very well,” she said. “We felt empowered to keep advocating for our patients and engaging our colleagues. There were nurses who were attending the caucus for the very first time. You could really feel the togetherness.”
More work to do
Ms. Zambrano concluded with a call for further action: “The caucus in Albany went well, but our work is not yet done, and that’s what we hope to accomplish on Lobby Day. We need more nurses, especially the younger ones to come out, get oriented on the issues that matter and join us so that we can ensure that our patients get the best quality care. We have a lot of work to do and we are definitely not done yet!”