A public health platform

NYSNA’s policies constitute a public health platform. As nurses, we see that proposals and laws have a fundamental connection to the health and safety of our patients and communities. In that light, wages, pollution, gun violence, safe staffing and universal healthcare are inextricably linked to public health.

With this month’s New York Nurse, we begin a months-long series highlighting leading candidates in the race for president of the United States. We start this month with the Democrats. (See pp. 7-15.) Candidates will be gauged based upon their commitment to NYSNA’s positions on the most significant issues.

Because safe staffing saves lives. The Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2019, sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown in the Senate and Rep. Jan Schakowsky in the House, would provide for minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and “amend the Public Health Service Act to establish direct care registered nurse-to-patient staffing ratio requirements in hospitals, and for other purposes.”

Because healthcare is a human right. We must fight to keep important aspects of the Affordable Care Act because to take them away will cost human lives and constitute a setback in our campaign for true universal healthcare.

Because we believe in patients over profits. We support the Medicare for All Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and 14 of his colleagues. In the U.S. House of Representatives, it is sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). Medicare for All represents a major step forward in lives of the vast majority of Americans who would receive quality care with no co-pays, no deductibles and no cost for prescription medicines by eliminating the insurance middleman.

Because we believe that opioid use is a major public health crisis. We support Congressional action to further investigate the role of Big Pharma and we further support increased funding for the treatment of the addicted and public health programs to educate the most vulnerable, all paid for by Big Pharma.

Because union jobs matter. We support the Green New Deal that was recently introduced by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Edward Markey (D-MA). With 102 supporters in Congress and 11 of the Democratic presidential candidates speaking in its favor, it is a boost to organized labor. In its current form, the Green New Deal includes a federal jobs guarantee, workforce retraining, strengthening of collective bargaining rights, retirement security, and universal healthcare. (See p. 16 for our reportage on the Green New Deal.)

Because without decent wages, people cannot live healthy lives. We support the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024. It’s sponsored by Bernie Sanders (D-VT) in the Senate and Bobby Scott (D-VA) in the House.

Because a healthy planet matters to public health. All Democrats seeking the party’s nomination agree that the U.S. must sign back on to the Paris Climate Accord. When discussing the paramount issue of pollution and its climate and public health consequences, many have invoked the Green New Deal as the fix. A slew of litigation has also challenged the Trump Administration’s rollbacks to the Clean Air Act.

Because workers’ rights matter. Support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (“PRO Act”) to strengthen protections for employees engaged in collective action, to facilitate collective bargaining, and to provide for stronger remedies for employees under the NLRA.

Because gun violence is at epidemic levels putting the public health in jeopardy. We are submerged in a culture of gun violence and our commitment to help stop it is a top priority. The Help Empower Americans to Respond (HEAR) Act was introduced in June by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). It bans the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer or possession of gun silencers or suppressors like the one used by the gunman in the recent VA Beach shooting.

Because trickled-down economics do not help alleviate poverty. All Democrats seeking the nomination see the Trump tax cuts as a giveaway to the nation’s elites. The Democrats would abolish the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 and return the country to a progressive tax system. Some have called for the elimination of the capital gains tax, invoking the argument that the sale of assets, particularly in the trading of stocks, should be taxed as regular income.

Because every woman should have the freedom to choose. Reproductive Rights affect us in several ways. Most of us at NYSNA are women and hold firm beliefs about the decisions that affect our bodies. As public health and patient advocates, we know that limiting abortion poses serious harm to most women, who must seek services outside licensed clinics and hospitals. The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2019 would protect abortion access from state-level bans and restrictions that threaten to eliminate access around the country. It has been introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and in the Senate by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The Democratic candidates for president all have various policy platform proposals around a woman’s right to choose and should be scrutinized.

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