Nurses require adequate staffing. | NNU/Twitter
Taking their long-standing campaign for safe staffing in the nation’s hospitals to the streets once again, thousands of members of National Nurses United staged coast-to-coast demonstrations on January 26 to dramatize the cause.
Personnel safety has been a particular focus of the NNU for more than a decade. He pushed safe staffing laws through the California and New York legislatures, lobbied for federal safe staffing standards, and used hospitals’ refusal to provide safe staffing to institutions to win representative elections.
This time, NNU registered nurses gathered at the Veterans Affairs Department hospital on East 23rd Street in Manhattan and two other VA hospitals in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia.
Their National Day of Action also featured information pickets in Los Angeles (three hospitals), Torrance, Oakland (two), San Francisco (two), San Bernardino and other California cities, and one hospital each in Tucson, Arizona, Largo and Trinity, Florida, a Catholic hospital in Wichita, Kansas, Research Medical Centers in Kansas City, Mo., Austin, Corpus Christi and El Paso, Texas, and the largest hospital in western North Carolina, in Asheville.
The Asheville information picket was particularly pertinent. Staff safety, or lack thereof, was the major winning issue in the union election campaign among that hospital’s 1,600 nurses, won in the normally hostile-to-union South.
And NNU’s newest affiliate, the New York State Nurses Association, has used the leverage of New York’s staffing law, wielded by pro-union governor Kathy Hochul (D), to coerce Montefiore’s three hospitals in the Bronx and the Mt Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, to resolve a recent three-day strike. Shortage of staff was also the main cause of that forced strike, before low pay.
Hospital bosses counter that greedy, profit-driven insurers are forcing them to cut costs by cutting treatment. NNU responds with studies revealing the multimillion-dollar salaries of honchos, the profits made by their institutions, and hospital overcharges for basic procedures, all while working RNs to the bone, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, one of the themes of the demonstrations was the growing need for safe staff to deal with yet another onslaught of multiple airborne diseases – what the union calls “a quad-demic” – as hospitals put profits on patients .
“This winter’s surge in patients with RSV, influenza and Covid-19 (coronavirus) has led to crisis conditions due to a decade-long campaign by hospitals to reduce inpatient beds, particularly in pediatric units and in units deemed less profitable, and in understaffed units to maximize profits,” the union said announcing the protests.
“We are the most trusted profession in America because we do everything in our power to care for our patients, both at the bedside and on the street to fight corporate greed,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “On our National Day of Action, NNU members are campaigning for staffing models that adequately protect patients, nurses and our communities from public health crises.”