This year, we’ve witnessed persistent understaffing, burnout of healthcare professionals and widespread societal issues. From gun violence to restrictions on reproductive rights to efforts to limit the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency in fighting climate change, there isn’t a shortage of issues competing for our time and attention. While the challenges before us are great, our hope in this moment is each other. We can accomplish more together than any of us could if we are alone.
That is why NYSNA continually looks for opportunities to strengthen our relationship with other unions as well as with elected leaders. We have formed partnerships within the labor movement to advocate for action on the climate crisis, safety on the job and a stronger position during statewide bargaining. We have participated in lobby days with National Nurses United because it is important for elected leaders to hear from all of us (nurses) on the issues impacting our and our patients’ lives.
Craving the Same Thing
We understand that our power comes not only from engagement within our union but from a strong labor movement. Further, we surveyed thousands of members, and we know the driving priorities for healthcare professionals in New York are similar to the primary concerns of nurses in states around the country. From coast to coast, nurses are concerned about safe staffing, job safety and security, wages and benefits, and being able to provide quality care. Healthcare professionals and workers broadly are also intrigued by the strength that comes in numbers. When the nation witnessed epic organizing campaigns by workers at companies such as Amazon, Apple and Starbucks and massive strikes or near strikes by healthcare workers, those efforts were an indication that workers are hungry for the benefits of a strong and unified voice on the job.
In many cases, the forces that workers, including healthcare professionals, are up against are national—not just regional or state-based. That is why healthcare professionals and other workers must advocate at every level of the government. For instance, this fall, NYSNA nurses will go to the bargaining table en masse. In total, more than 26,000 members will be at 12 different tables fighting for resources to better care for themselves and their patients.
We have grown as a Union in density and strength. NYSNA nurses have weathered a global pandemic and utter mismanagement by hospital and health systems. We have been able to leverage our political power to get staffing ratios implemented statewide. Our fight continues as we head into bargaining for most of our facilities. This is the time to bring our influence to a national arena and strengthen our relationship with Labor allies.
The central message for our times is that healthcare professionals must increasingly find ways to unite together for the good of our patients, our communities and ourselves. We must build relationships within the labor movement, with elected leaders and within the community because no one can stand alone. Nor should we have to.
Even when times are tough, we must remember that there are multiple pressure points we can tap at the local, state and national levels to ensure the boss understands our demands and is inclined to meet them. We also know that to exert leverage during bargaining, we must be engaged with the union; internal organizing builds power on the shop floor for nurses and for the communities we serve. Union power will ensure that our engagement with the communities we serve is beneficial and life-changing.
Rays of Hope
While we have seen many challenges, there have also been rays of hope. The safe staffing law is one such example. Staffing plans have been submitted, we are following up on concerns about the process and tweaking plans by facility. Upon its full implementation, the law will be a game changer in terms of keeping healthcare professionals and patients safe. And certainly, we will continue strategizing on other policies that could improve the nursing practice.
Over the next few months, we will undertake a huge endeavor to fight for the best contracts ever, enforce staffing levels, and join the larger Labor movement on a local, state, and national level. To be victorious we must maintain hope and refuse to back down. We are calling on all members of NYSNA to join us in this fight.
The central message for our times is that healthcare professionals must increasingly find ways to unite together.”