Taking Stock

I’m writing this shortly before the NYSNA convention, which will conclude with our newly elected board taking office. We’ve had a remarkable year. Literally thousands of NYSNA members stepped up and got involved in the fight for safe staffing and quality healthcare for all New Yorkers.

Nurses are tough. We stare suffering in the face every day, and we don’t flinch. We just keep our professional promise and deliver compassionate, expert care, day in, day out. We have brought that same toughness to reforming our union.

Together, we have made NYSNA democratic. Every member now has a voice.

Taking new steps

We also have made NYSNA sharper. We brought our fight for healthcare to the public, marching in the streets for safe staffing and protesting time and again across New York City and the state to stop service cuts and hospital closings.

For the first time ever, we took a strong stand in the halls of political power. Busloads of nurses traveled to Albany to lobby for a safe staffing law and against allowing for-profit hospitals into New York. And, in another first, we made an endorsement for New York City mayor during the primary and helped make healthcare a key issue in the race.

Advocating for healthcare

Nursing isn’t just about bedside care. It’s about advocacy. We can’t give our patients the care they deserve if we’re stretched too thin and our hospitals are cutting services, and even closing. And that means participating as a union in politics. Together, we can descend in numbers on City Hall, Albany and any hospital where elected officials or administrators need reminding how much healthcare matters. Together, we can push for laws and budgets that reflect the needs of our communities.

That’s what we’re doing. And we’re seeing results.

We stopped Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith Medical Center from closing – and, in the process, won a moratorium on hospital closings statewide. We won a lot of support in Albany for a safe staffing law. We stopped a proposed law that would have let for-profits operate hospitals in New York and another that would have weakened the Certificate of Need process, a tool we count on to speak out when hospital administrators propose service changes that will hurt the communities we serve.

Building a movement

Our fight is far from over. Hospital closings will be a threat again. Wall Street interests will be back. We must turn support for safe staffing into enough votes to pass a law. But we’ve made a lot of progress — and we’re building a movement that’s tough enough to win.

It has been my great honor to stand with you. This is my last column as president, but I’m most certainly still in the fight with you. Together, we’ll prevail.

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