A record 1.1 million visitors came to the 2016 New York State Fair, held August 25 through September 5 at the State Fairgrounds outside Syracuse. Thirty NYSNA members volunteered at our union’s booth throughout the fair.
The NYSNA booth was a popular stop in the fair’s Science and Industry Building, where members talked to the public about the need for safe staffing and single payer legislation. Thousands stopped by to learn about the issues and sign our petitions, including many elected leaders.
Adam O’Brien, an RN at both Montefiore and Westchester Medical Center, was a first-time volunteer this year. “I came because safe staffing is an issue that affects everyone in our state, and it’s important to educate the public on what’s happening in our hospitals.”
“It was wonderful to meet people from all over the state,” Mr. O’Brien said about his four days staffing the exhibit. “The level of support was overwhelming.”
Strong public support
The experience was equally positive for Karine Raymond, an RN at Montefiore and NYSNA Board Member, who also spent four days at the fair: “I met so many interesting people! I found that 99 percent of the people I spoke with signed our safe staffing bill petition. And I was really pleasantly surprised by the strong public support for the single payer bill.”
Ms. Raymond said the fair provided an opportunity for an Upstate-Downstate reunion of sorts. “I was able to reconnect with nurses I had met at lobby days and conventions but in a setting where we could get to know each other better and reaffirm that no matter where we work, we all face the same struggles and want the same things for our patients. As an added bonus, I had the chance to speak with nurses from St. Elizabeth, Nathan Littauer, and Samaritan right at the height of their contract negotiations and then settlements.”
Mary Smith Douglas, an RN for Onondaga County, lives in the area but like Mr. O’Brien and Ms. Raymond had not worked the fair in prior years. “The best part for me was meeting so many supportive people — including a surprising number of nurses! I met one nurse who had worked in California after it passed its staffing law and learned that it really works! And I got to hear from a member at St. Elizabeth about how happy she is with her new contract.”
All three members spoke highly of the experience and plan to return next year. Ms. Raymond recommends nurses bring their families along: “It’s a wonderful experience. There is absolutely something for everyone: great food, rides for the kids, and lots of new products and inventions to explore.” Ms. Smith Douglas added, “Just do it. Wear your red and use your voice. It’s fun and you’ll meet lots of people you wouldn’t otherwise meet.”