NEW YORK NURSE: November 2009
Labor Day at NYSNA’s Convention provided inspiration in many forms for NYSNA members who are represented for collective bargaining.
“Today is a day to nurture our souls and to honor the work of NYSNA in a positive, celebratory way,” said Lorraine Seidel, director of NYSNA’s Economic and General Welfare (EGW) program, “This has been a year in which many members have chosen to become players rather than bystanders, being accountable and putting service over self interest.”
Setting the tone was the debut of “Leading the Way,” a video of the travels of NYSNA’s new RV during a two-week period in late September. In the video, members from bargaining units across the state cited examples of how “NYSNA is leading the way” in improving their work environments. The video soundtrack included a moving song on the same theme with words written by Latha Catlin, an associate director in the EGW Program. The song was featured throughout Convention.
“I hope you find today to be empowering and unifying,” said Sue Casadone, president of the Congress of Bargaining Unit Leaders, in her welcoming remarks. The Congress, which includes representatives from each local bargaining unit, re-elected John Hiltunen (St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center, Manhattan) as vice president and Carlene Daley (Kings County Hospital Center, Brooklyn) as secretary.
Hiltunen, who also serves as chair of the NYSNA Pension Member Mobilization committee, discussed the success of the campaign to retain the “green” status of the NYSNA pension plan, but stressed the need for federal legislation to achieve a long-term solution. He added that many lawmakers in Washington said they weren’t familiar with the issue until NYSNA brought it to their attention.
Barry Rellaford, featured speaker at the Congress meeting, posed the question: “If developed and leveraged, one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. That one thing is trust.” Rellaford described how trust can increase an organization’s credibility and productivity, encourage others, and build relationships.
Barbara Crane, president of the National Federation of Nurses (NFN), reported to the Congress that the NFN was invited, along with 11 other nurses’ unions, to participate in a recent International Council of Nurses Workforce Forum. President Crane observed that RNs throughout the world “suffer from the same problems as nurses in the U.S.”
Crane and Seidel joined a panel discussion during the Labor Day Unity Brunch on how the NFN and its member nursing labor organizations have been working on issues such as staffing, mandatory overtime, and workplace safety. This activism creates opportunities for organizing more members.
The NFN gives its members a voice in national discussions about healthcare reform, amendments to the Pension Protection Act, and the Employee Free Choice Act.
Other panel members included:
“I do not separate my music from my heart, nor do I separate my ideas from my daily life,” said Holly Near in a lecture interspersed with stirring songs during the Delegate Assembly session. Near, a legendary performer, songwriter, and activist, shared stories from her life.
Near advised her audience to demystify activism and craft a message through the use of stories that have touched their lives. She encouraged RNs to become leaders in social change. “Just as a nurse must keep her skills sharp to be ready to handle what comes along, so must an activist stay in shape by always being involved,” Near said. “Even if things don’t go according to plan, put lessons learned into a personal toolbox for later use.”
“It was certainly a day for members to come together to celebrate nursing and our contribution to the labor movement,” said Rod Roca, president of the Delegate Assembly. “Many nurses complimented us on the day’s upbeat, relevant agenda and are looking forward to next year.”