Nurses weren’t the only powerhouse union members at the NYSNA Convention this October. Joining the 1,200 RNs at the Javits Center were representatives and leaders from some of our nation’s most influential labor unions who came to show their solidarity.
As lunch wound down on Day Two of the 2017 NYSNA Convention, the Labor Rally began and the energy in the room turned electric.
Chris Shelton, the International President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), was first on stage. Speaking to a packed room, he got straight to the point: “You’re an unbelievable fighting force that can’t be beat,” he began. “And you’re gonna make New York the second state in the country to pass comprehensive safe staffing legislation,” he continued, to loud cheers and applause.
Estela Vasquez, RN, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU, our country’s largest healthcare union, stepped up next to raise awareness about how union solidarity can protect our nation’s most vulnerable. “America is strong when we have strong unions, when we have a strong working class, when we respect immigrants, and when we don’t hold DACA Dreamers hostage. We are the ones making America strong!”
Now more than ever, labor unions must unite in the fight for good jobs, social justice, equal opportunity, and healthcare for all. Between the 10 unions gathered at the convention, a collective force of 4,000,000 union members were represented, standing together on the issues that matter most.
Martha Kuhl, RN, Secretary Treasurer from National Nurses United acknowledged that especially in this political climate the fight for labor is difficult, “We are under attack because we have the power to threaten and challenge the fundamental errors in our society,” she said.
The President of the Doctors Council/SEIU, Dr. Frank Proscia, echoed her sentiment, evoking cheering from the audience, “Don’t give up, no matter how hard it gets. Keep fighting, keep pushing back!”
At the center of this year’s fight for union rights is the controversial vote on a New York State Constitutional Convention, a referendum to rewrite and amend the New York State Constitution in 2019 (see p. 4). Jake LaMonda, President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and Jason Ide from Teamsters Local 814 both spoke to the importance of voting NO on Proposition 1, Constitutional Convention, on November 7. “The Constitutional Convention is there for one purpose,” called out LaMonda, “and that’s to take away the rights we have fought for. The most important thing we can do is vote no. Let’s show New York that labor is alive and well!”
Secretary-Treasurer of NYS AFL-CIO Terry Melvin wrapped up the rally by celebrating NYSNA nurses, reminding attendees, “You are the conscience and the moral compass. Nurses rock and nurses rule this state.”
Other outstanding advocates for working people gave strong voice at Convention. Mario Cilento, President, NYS AFL-CIO was there, a steady voice of support for nurses and a presence at meetings, rallies and press conferences defending the role of labor and for safe staffing and single payer. Anthony Ciampa, RN, NYSNA Second Vice President, gave the “Solidarity Award” to Vincent Alvarez, President, NYC Central Labor Council—for his commitment to the city’s workers and helping keep New York a “union city.” President Alvarez is an outstanding advocate and has also been forthright in his denunciation of the Constitutional Convention and the forces of cynicism seeking to pass and hijack it this year.
Nina Turner, former State Senator from Ohio, dazzled our members with her special brand of inspiration. She called for action in the face of a national politics of hate and divisiveness. This was her second appearance seen by our members, as she attended a single payer conference in January with the same energy and effect.
NYSNA members know that protecting our patients requires advocacy beyond the bedside. We also know that the fight for guaranteed healthcare is impossible alone. That’s why every day we join with and support our labor brothers and sisters. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but when we fight together, we win.
Pictured Above: Estela Vasquez, RN, Executive Vice President, 1199SEIU; Mario Cilento, President, NYS AFL-CIO; Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator; Chris Shelton, International President, Communications Workers of America; Vincent Alvarez, President, NYC Central Labor Council; Martha Kuhl, RN, Secretary Treasurer, National Nurses United; Terry Melvin, Secretary-Treasurer, NYS AFL-CIO; Frank Proscia, President, Doctors Council/SEIU; Jason Ide, President, Teamsters Local 814; Jake LaMonda, President, Uniformed Fire Officers