This year’s Convention was one for the record books. I left after two days feeling exhausted and also incredibly proud and inspired by the work we have done together as a union. Being in the same room as NYSNA leaders from every part of the state and National Nurses United (NNU) leaders from every part of the country made me reflect on how we are truly building a national movement for nurses and health equity.
The Convention marked the one-year anniversary of NYSNA Convention delegates voting to affiliate with NNU. In the last year as an NNU co-president, I have traveled all over the country along with our members, participating in more federal advocacy than ever before.
Some National Highlights in 2023
In March, NYSNA nurses spoke out for federal safe staffing ratios at a congressional briefing and again in June when Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL) reintroduced the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act, federal legislation that would establish minimum registered nurse-to-patient ratios for every hospital unit, effective at all times.
That month, we also marched along with NNU nurses across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on the 58th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” to honor the ongoing struggle for civil rights.
In May, dozens of NYSNA members participated in a virtual lobby week, meeting with New York Congress members to advocate for safe staffing, protection from workplace violence, the right to organize unions, fairness for Veteran Administration nurses and Medicare for All. We also testified at a town hall in support of Medicare for All legislation with Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA) at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.
Nurses were likewise in attendance at press conferences when Sanders, Jayapal and Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI) introduced Medicare for All legislation in Congress. That same day, we spoke out in support of the FAMILY Act, which Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT) sponsored, that would guarantee paid family and medical leave to all workers.
In August, NYSNA nurses joined with NNU and other labor and civil rights activists from around the country for the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.
NYSNA joined national efforts to stop the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rollback of infection control guidelines. We made it known that the people who work on the front lines need a strong voice in decision-making.
Historic Congressional Hearing
In October, I became the first NYSNA president to testify at a congressional hearing when I testified at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Field Hearing, which Sanders convened, about the need for federal safe staffing ratios. With hundreds of nurses, healthcare workers and patient advocates packing the auditorium at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, it turned out to be the best-attended hearing the HELP Committee had ever called.
I testified alongside other nurse leaders, including United Steelworkers Local 420 President Judy Danella, RN, and Carol Tanzi, RN, who were leading the Robert Wood Johnson Memorial Hospital nurses on strike. NYSNA members got the opportunity to hear from them at our Convention, and we offered our encouragement and solidarity for their righteous fight for enforceable safe staffing ratios. In December, those nurses ratified a new contract — after more than 120 days on the picket line for safe staffing — and I could not be happier to see them fight and win.
I had an incredibly busy year, along with other NNU members and leaders. Overall, 2023 is on pace to be the most active year for healthcare worker strikes in a decade, largely led by the nurses. We are letting our employers know that enough is enough, and we are working hard nationally on solutions. We are looking back and honoring the pioneers for economic and racial justice who came before us and remind us that we will prevail. And we are looking bravely into the future and organizing, because it is through building a national movement of nurses — the backbone of our healthcare system — that we will save nursing and save healthcare.