Nurses Union Push for Safe Staffing at Nationwide Protests

WASHINGTON—More than 100 Washington nurses gathered in front of the capital’s City Hall on May 12 to demand the mayor and council back a real safe-staffing nurse-to-patient ratio ordinance.


National Nurses United (NNU), the leading union for registered nurses, in the Twin Cities, Chicago, Boston and Sacramento, organized the D.C. campaign. D.C. nurses added an extra NNU cause, with a second protest, in front of the Veterans Affairs Department, demanding collective bargaining rights for VA nurses.


They presented a petition with 4,000 names for those rights – and also detailing managerial resistance to change at the agency – to a top VA official, who then hosted six to 10 of the nurses’ leaders in his upstairs office to discuss the issues.


The protests in D.C. and the other cities focused on passage of safe-staffing legislation, at those levels and in Congress.  Safe-staffing bills, modeled on a law NNU pushed through the California legislature a decade ago, mandate that hospitals set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in various departments. Without such mandates, patients suffer and die and nurses burn out due to short-staffing, the nurses said.  Meanwhile, the hospitals build up their profits.


NNU members had two aims at the later VA protest: To support legislation by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., for national nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and by Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to restore full collective bargaining rights for nurses and other clinicians at the federal agency.  NNU represents 10,000 of the VA’s nurses.


They also wanted to convince the agency’s officials to back collective bargaining rights, a cause they took to Congress in lobbying in the afternoon.


At the D.C. protest, Irma Westmoreland, a VA registered nurse at the agency’s hospital in Augusta, Ga., told the official – Rob Nabors, the VA Secretary’s chief of staff – “we do talking, talking, talking about the problems at the hospitals and nothing’s been done.”

Source: PAI