NEW YORK NURSE: January/February 2010
by Erin Silk
Now more than ever, nurses are gaining political influence and advocating for change both locally and nationally. Political action at the local level has helped to shape larger organizations like the National Federation of Nurses (NFN) and bolster the legislative agenda of the American Nurses Association (ANA).
NYSNA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) is one such local effort, working to advance NYSNA’s political priorities, while strengthening the nursing profession as a whole.
Since its inception in 1992, the PAC has laid the groundwork to establish political clout on behalf of nurses in New York State. Through the PAC, NYSNA endorses candidates who champion the nursing profession and care about key issues like staffing ratios, violence against nurses, and safe patient handling.
David Curry, PAC chair and associate professor at SUNY Plattsburgh, explained how the PAC, “provides the tools to promote the legislative agenda put forth by the Council on Legislation (COL). The 11 members of the PAC Board of Trustees take the council’s priorities and examine the public positions and voting records of New York State representatives on those issues. We use that information to endorse candidates and provide monetary support to candidates and legislators who work on behalf of nursing to promote our legislative goals for all New Yorkers.”
Curry said he is proud of the work the PAC has done in his five years as a trustee. He said that, with the help of the Voting Body, “our financial base has doubled, making us a more potent force in the legislative process in Albany.” Curry reminded nurses that they are well respected by legislators and that NYSNA’s “endorsement alone is sought after, but the money we spend to send members to fundraisers and to support candidates is critical.”
The ultimate show of support happens when voters who are well-informed show up at the polls and vote to make a difference. John Berry, NYSNA’s associate director of governmental affairs for labor policy, acknowledged that when it comes to politics, “many people don’t feel they have a voice in elections.”
Berry cautioned that, with almost all offices up for election this year, it’s vital that nurses make themselves heard. He stressed that elections can be decided on just one vote and points to a tumultuous year ahead with virtually every program on the chopping block. “Given the state-of-the-state, every nurse should become involved to fight cuts to health care and help safeguard their profession. Nurses must be a part of the process,” said Berry.
To help determine political support for the 2010 elections, NYSNA will soon post a Candidate Questionnaire, requesting information from candidates running for office. Members will have access to voter resources such as endorsements, candidate platforms, and election year activities.
NYSNA CAN! (Campaign Activist Network) is a grassroots effort that began in 2008 to help candidates who support nursing get elected to state offices.
Volunteers are deployed to targeted regions in the state to campaign for NYSNA-endorsed candidates and help with phone banks, knocking on doors, and attending other visibility events.
For more information about how you can volunteer with NYSNA CAN!, contact the association’s Governmental Affairs department at 518-782-9400, ext. 283.