On Saturday, February 24, NYSNA joined with thousands of other union members in New York City and tens of thousands across the nation — from Buffalo to Chicago, Ohio and California — in support of our rights to have strong and powerful unions in advance of the upcoming Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. The many in attendance were jubilant, yet determined.
NYSNA nurses joined substantial delegations from TWU, SEIU 1199, AFSCME DC37, and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA). Among the many different elected officials in attendance were Governor Cuomo, NYC Mayor de Blasio, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and others.
Array of union speakers
Dozens of speakers, representing virtually all area unions, made it clear that everything we know as working people is under attack. As Mario Cilento stated, “The CEOs and corporate special interests behind the Janus case know when working people join together, they have the power to improve their wages, benefits, and working conditions and that is exactly what they are afraid of. They will not silence our voice, not now, not ever!”
NYSNA nurses echoed Cilento’s statements with their enthusiastic presence at the rally, where members from both the private and public sector made clear that we are not going to give up our rights. For nurses, the rights being threatened include fair discipline, pensions, safe staffing, and workplace safety. We will fight to protect our standards.
Labor rights threatened
Meanwhile, the New York Times on February 25, published, “Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors,” by reporters Noam Scheiber and Kenneth Vogel, on the forces footing the bill for the case. The Times’ article described a broader and concerted effort to weaken the power of all working people.
U.S. income inequality is the highest in over 80 years and more workers lack the security of real pensions, yet billionaires are pressing their campaign, coming down on the best tool we have: strong unions. Topping the list of anti-union forces are the Koch brothers and ultra-rich industrialist Richard Uihlein. “The Uihleins,” reported the Times, “appear to be preoccupied with state employee pensions and the unions that negotiate them.”
All of this points to a ferocious fight that lies ahead. But as the thousands of working people showed this weekend, our best weapon is people power. In the coming days, we are prepared to exercise it.