Those who are seeking reform of the woefully inadequate
health care system have a new and powerful ally that aims to put the bulk of
the country's registered nurses behind a drive to guarantee decent health care
to all Americans.
The drive will be led by an alliance of three of the
largest nurses' unions, the United American Nurses - National Nurses Organizing
Committee. It's an AFL-CIO affiliate formed recently by the California and
Massachusetts Nurses Associations, which have members in six states, and the
Maryland-based United American Nurses, with members in 12 states.
The alliance represents 150,000 registered nurses. That's
only a very small part of the nation's 2.5 million RNs, but an extensive
organizing drive planned by the alliance in conjunction with its drive to
improve health care is certain to unionize growing numbers of nurses and bring
other nurses' organizations into the alliance.
That is likely to spur organizing drives by the nine
other unions that represent RNs, as well as moves to coordinate the unions'
efforts to get better treatment for nurses and their patients. They want to
ultimately bring all RNs into a single union as part of an extensive and
tightly unified national nurses' movement that would be allied with other
health care unions and nurses' organizations worldwide.
High on the union alliance's agenda will be campaigning
nationwide and lobbying Congress for creation of a national single-payer health
Most of the alliance's other priorities also would help
the general public and patients, as well as RNs. That includes the improvements
the unions seek in nurses' working conditions that would at least indirectly
benefit patients and otherwise improve the overall state of health care.
The alliance, for instance, is seeking tighter limits on
the number of patients that individual nurses in hospitals and clinics are
assigned to care for, and other improvements that would make work safer and more
effective for both patients and their nurses.
"We feel our profession is under attack," says
President Beth Piknick of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, "and
because of that, patients are suffering. And for us, it's all about the
patients." She describes
alliance as "a group of like-minded organizations that will advocate for
The alliance's executive director, Rose Ann DeMoro from
the California Nurses Association, says the organization is putting together
"a unified legislative and regulatory program to win critical improvements
in patient care and working conditions for RNs."
There's no doubt that nurses want - and need - the
benefits of unionization, especially in these perilous economic times. Like
many others, they are facing layoffs and cutbacks in compensation.
Nurses are indispensable. Their jobs, which are among
society's most important, are stressful, often exhausting and dangerous.
They're well-educated and highly skilled. Yet they're generally paid less and
receive fewer benefits than many others whose work is not nearly as vital and
Many nurses do not even have health care and pension
benefits. The alliance is hoping to remedy that by winning creation of health
and pension plans that would cover RNs nationwide.
Nurses obviously deserve better treatment, and in
it, they are seeking better treatment for all of us.
Copyright (c) 2009 Dick Meister