NEW YORK NURSE: September 2011
by Kelly Trautner, JD, Deputy Executive Officer, Labor Relations, Ohio Nurses Association
Solidarity is a word loosely thrown around throughout the labor community. But, when the rubber hits the road, what does it really mean to us? Dictionary.com defines solidarity as “union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, as between members of a group or classes.” In this time where the attention of thousands of people is simultaneously focused on the SB5 referendum efforts, it seems apropos to take a moment to reflect on some illustrations of real solidarity in action.
The day Senator Shannon Jones introduced Senate Bill 5 marked the beginning of a statewide movement toward solidarity. Nurses sat in fellowship with firefighters, janitors, and snowplow drivers, and together listened as the plan to silence public employees was rolled out for all of Ohio to hear. On that day and throughout the SB5 journey, nurses have been among thousands who have spoken with one voice against SB5, like with announcement of 1,298,301 signatures. Those experiences are remarkable and great; but there are also examples within your own nursing community that are equally as moving and worthy of reflection.
Shortly after the introduction of SB5, leadership from NFN and all its member states pledged assistance and support to Ohio nurses in what promised to be an epic struggle. And these offerings have proven to be more than just lip service. Executive leaders from NFN, Montana, Oregon, Washington and New York quickly joined ONA in a series of meetings aimed at using our combined expertise to formulate a plan of action that addressed the threat of SB5, while also allowing ONA to preserve its identity as the professional organization for nurses — no small task.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of delivering a presentation about labor reform to New York State Nurses Association’s Congress of Bargaining Unit Leaders. Co-presenting was Tracy Suprise, a nurse labor leader and staff nurse from Wisconsin, whose story of strife and struggle ran parallel to that of our own. The response from the nurse leaders in the room was overwhelming, as the emotional intensity was the same as if news being delivered would directly impact them. It was clear that each and every nurse in the room stands with us — in solidarity.
Without qualm or question, NFN and its member state nurses associations have given assistance ranging from public demonstrations of solidarity to offers to provide release staff to ONA. Financial contributions from NFN and Washington State Nurses Association have provided immense assistance in ensuring success of our SB5 referendum efforts. And planning with other NFN states promises a great deal of hands on support in the months ahead from nurses in Indiana, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington.
With support from within our borders and abroad, it is apparent that nurses everywhere stand with us in solidarity. The involvement and mobilization of the broader nursing community is vast and, at times, breathtaking. These times of struggle are by no means enjoyable. But the presence of outstretched helping hands lends comfort and support for our journey. Now, that’s solidarity.
Reprinted by permission of the Ohio Nurses Association.