NEW YORK NURSE: June 2009
by Nancy Webber
A well-prepared team of NYSNA staff and activist members journeyed to Washington, D.C., last month to begin lobbying for reform of pension plan legislation and to participate in the “RN Day of Action” sponsored by nurses’ unions from across the country.
The team split into groups of three and met with 13 key members of the New York Congressional delegation or their staff, as well as Senator Charles Schumer. At issue was the devastating effect of the sudden economic decline, coupled with the stringent funding requirements of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA).
The team met with these members of the House: José Serrano (D-Bronx); Jerrold Nadler (D-New York, Kings); Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx); Nita Lowey (D-Westchester, Rockland); Timothy Bishop (D-Suffolk); Eliot Engel (D-Bronx, Westchester, Rockland); Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau); Gregory Meeks (D-Queens); Yvette Clarke (D-Kings); Paul Tonko (D-Schenectady); Carolyn McCarthy (D-Nassau); and Michael McMahon (D-Richmond, Kings).
Some legislators recommended an extension of the Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA), which was enacted in December 2008 and provided a one-year relief from some of the requirements of the PPA. Legislators suggested that this is a possible route to buying more time while the economy remains volatile.
NYSNA also co-sponsored and participated in the National Day of RN Action. The event was launched on May 12 at a reception attended by close to 1,000 nurses from NYSNA, the California Nurses Association, Service Employees International Union, National Nurse Organizing Committee states, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the National Federation of Nurses, and the United American Nurses. Barbara Crane brought greetings to the group on behalf of the National Federation of Nurses.
Wednesday began with a welcome from John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO. NYSNA members and staff participated in several panel discussions covering issues such as staffing ratios, safe patient handling, and the Employee Free Choice Act.
Several legislators participated in the discussions, including U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (California), who that same day introduced the National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act; Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio); Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas); and Rep. Eric Massa (New York). “The morning was a powerful, unprecedented gathering of unity and strength, which carried a message of determination to build a national nurses movement in this country,” said Lorraine Seidel, director of the NYSNA Economic & General Welfare Program.
The nurses then marched to the Capitol along with other groups in support of Single Payer Health Care for All. Barbara Crane spoke once again for members of the NFN.
NYSNA members found the “day of action” to be an empowering event. “The issues were clear, the cooperation was splendid, and the unity was evident,” said John Hiltunen, member of the NYSNA Board of Directors.