Nearly 800 registered nurses last week gathered in Washington DC for National Nurses United Staff Assembly where the union that represents 165,000 registered nurses unveiled a national campaign to reshape national priorities and challenge today’s conventional wisdom that demands sacrifices from the working class so that Wall Street can enrich itself.
While workers in the US are being forced to take pay and benefit cuts and millions remain unemployed, US corporations recorded $1.6 trillion in profits for the third quarter of 2010, the third highest in history, according to the NNU website.
“Our message, which parallels the voices ringing out this year in the streets of Madison, Lansing, Columbus, and other embattled cities, is America’s workers built this country, and we’re going to take it back,” read a blog post at the NNU website.
NNU is calling its national campaign a Main Street Contract for the American People. The goal of the campaign is to build a grassroots campaign for a new economic and political contract between workers, employers, and the government–one that ensures economic and social justice for all and holds accountable those whose reckless conduct caused the economic crisis that resulted in high unemployment and falling wages.
“America has the wealth to end the despair and deprivation. It’s just being hoarded by those on Wall Street and corporate board rooms, and the politicians they elect and control to protect their privilege,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, NNU executive director. “To reclaim this nation, we have to start by making Wall Street pay to undo the damage that has caused immeasurable suffering while the high rollers on Wall Street, who created this crisis, are rewarded with bailouts, bonuses, tax cuts, and regulatory rollbacks.”
During their meeting at the nation’s capital, the nurses held demonstrations at the White House and the US Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s most prominent business lobby to serve notice of their intentions.
They plan another rally whose main theme is Heal America, Tax Wall Street on Wednesday, June 22 on the steps of Federal Hall at Wall Street and Broad Street where they will call for a tax on Wall Street speculative activity such as the trading of stocks, bonds, derivatives, credit default swaps, and other financial instruments.
“In the US, hundreds of billions of dollars could be raised every year through such (a tax) – revenue needed to repair the harm to Main Street communities so devastated by the abuses of Wall Street speculation and greed. The money can be used to create jobs and fund health care, education and housing,” read a NNU media release.
The demonstration is also being supported by the AFL-CIO, IBEW, National Jobs with Justice, UAW, TWU Local 100, NYPIRG, ATU, and Working Families, and other community and labor group.
The Wall Street rally is just the beginning of NNU’s Contract with Main Street America. After the gathering last week, nurses returned to their communities where they will begin urging labor and community groups and individuals to join their campaign, which calls for
- Jobs at a living wage for everyone,
- Equal access to quality, public education for all,
- Health care for all with a guaranteed standard
- Secure retirement for all
- Good housing and protection from hunger
- A safe and healthy environment, and
- A fair tax system in which corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share
NNU’s Contract with Main Street America expands the scope of the organization well beyond fighting for justice on the job, but the nurses say that their experience shows how important it is to take this step.
“America’s nurses see and feel broad declines in health and living standards for their patients, and their own families that are directly tied to the collapse in jobs, housing, health care, and other basics of what used to be called the American dream,” said NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN. “Nurses are calling for a change in priorities because they have seen enough and want to stop the bleeding now.”
NNU is collecting stories about how the economic downturn has affected the lives of working people, urging local labor and community groups to adopt a resolution supporting the goals of the Contract with Main Street, and asking individuals to ask their lawmakers to sign a pledge stating whether they stand with Main Street or Wall Street.
“Why nurses in the forefront of such a campaign?” wrote a blogger at the NNU web site. “Because they see and feel the broad declines in health and living standards for their patients, and their own families that are directly tied to the collapse in jobs, housing, healthcare, and other basics of what used to be called the American dream. Because they are located in every community and because they touch everyone’s lives. Because they have had enough, and want to stop the bleeding now.”