Through bargaining we achieve change one hospital or group of hospitals at a time. This is well and good. But some of our goals are broader than individual employers and even may be outside of the realm of bargaining. We can’t negotiate a single payer health system and statewide staffing ratios one hospital at a time; sweeping changes like these can only be achieved through legislation. This is why nurses must use the power of our voices in the political arena.
We clearly don’t have the billions of dollars that the Koch brothers use to sway influence in Washington and state houses (see page 9). But as union members, we have tools that if used to their full potential can be even more powerful: our voices and our votes. Learning to use them to greatest impact is the challenge we face in this post-Citizens United era of mounting spending by those who would use their checkbooks to try to circumvent the democratic process.
Nurses talk. People listen.
As nurses, we have another key advantage. Americans perennially name nurses as the most trusted profession (e.g. Dec. 2014 Gallop Poll: honesty and ethical standards of nurses were rated as “high” or “very high” by 80% of Americans vs. 46% for clergy and 17% for business executives). In fact, nurses are more trusted and respected than any other single profession. But if we don’t speak, our message is drowned out by others with less public trust.
NYSNA’s 2015-2016 NYS budget and legislative priorities include achieving a single payer health care payment system, implementing statewide safe staffing standards, keeping Wall Street out of our hospitals, strengthening New York’s Certificate of Need process, and ensuring professional and community input into decisions on DSRIP (Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program). These stand in sharp contrast to the agenda espoused by corporate interests. How can we expect to achieve a universal single payer system when there are forces with huge financial backing still trying to dismantle the ACA? The fact that the ACA has brought health care access to millions of Americans (and is making plenty of insurance companies rich) doesn’t mean a thing to ideologues like David and Charles Koch.
How do we win in this environment? We keep bargaining quality standards into our contracts while we use our political power to seek statewide and national changes that benefit all patients and protect our profession. We can’t compete with corporately funded Political Action Committees, but we fight for what we believe in from a position of strength: our voices. When nurses talk, people listen.
How we win
So do your part: participate in lobby day; speak up and share your stories; and educate your family, friends and neighbors on the issues and make sure they vote.
Get on board the bus to Albany on April 21.