MEMBERS of National Nurses United (NNU), the US’s largest union of registered nurses, on Tuesday celebrated Senator Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire primary win, saying it shows voters want a president who fights for the people.
‘The people of New Hampshire have spoken, and nurses are so moved to know that their support is with Senator Bernie Sanders,’ said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN.
‘No one better embodies nurses’ values than Bernie. His platform is the strongest on protecting workers and strengthening the labour movement. He has stood by nurses’ side for decades in the fight for Medicare for All, and he is the only candidate who is building a grassroots movement to win on the issues that matter most to working people and families across America.’
‘I canvassed in New Hampshire with my fellow Maine nurses, and the support for Bernie was through the roof,’ said NNU Vice President Cokie Giles, of Bangor, Maine. ‘At one house, there was an older couple, and the woman was raising her fist in the air for Bernie. His platform really speaks to all generations and all walks of life.’
In addition to leading all the candidates on protecting workers and on Medicare for All, nurses say the New Hampshire results show the popularity of Sanders’ other progressive policy proposals, including his call for a Green New Deal; for climate, environmental, racial, and gender justice; for college for all and cancelling student debt; and for immigration reform.
Nurses in states with upcoming primaries say the New Hampshire vote also paves the way for a strong win for Sanders in their state.
‘The nurses of El Paso care for the border community in the middle of Chihuahuan desert, and it’s our duty to help and heal all people—including our asylum-seeking patients.
‘We are thrilled that New Hampshire set the stage for Texas to back Bernie in our March 3 primary. Nurses know that he is the candidate who will stand up for our American values to treat refugees and asylum-seekers with compassion and humanity,’ said Tishna Soto, RN, of El Paso, Texas.
‘Bernie’s New Hampshire win bolsters California nurses to keep canvassing and phone banking in the Golden State, so we can see him win here on March 3,’ said NNU President Deborah Burger, RN, of Santa Rosa, California.
‘The devastating wildfires our state has experienced in recent years have resulted in the loss of lives and homes of patients and nurses, and sickened people with toxic smoke. We know these deadly fires are fuelled by the climate crisis, and we need President Bernie Sanders to pass a Green New Deal now. Nurses thank New Hampshire voters for getting us one step closer.’
‘Nevadans are ready to build on the momentum from Bernie’s New Hampshire win,’ said Kari Deton, RN, of Las Vegas, Nevada, ahead of the state’s February 22 caucuses.
‘Eleven per cent of people in Nevada have no health insurance at all. Our patients – and patients across this country – shouldn’t have to face death just because they are priced out of preventative care. We need Medicare for All, and Bernie is the candidate to get it across the finish line!’
- Nearly 700 labour activists representing 700,000 federal and D.C. government employees from across the country and overseas are calling on lawmakers to support the work they do on the public’s behalf and reject the White House’s efforts to undermine their jobs and eliminate their rights.
By hearing from and visiting members of Congress and congressional staff, holding a silent vigil on Capitol Hill, and mobilising with fellow activists, union members attending the American Federation of Government Employees’ Legislative and Grassroots Mobilization Conference on Monday made it clear that they’re standing up for dignity, fairness, and respect on the job.
‘Ever since President Trump took office, we’ve faced escalating assaults on our workplace rights, because this president wants federal employees to put his personal interests above the Constitution and the American people,’ AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley told conference attendees.
‘The fact is this: For all of our victories last year, everything we’ve gained and everything we stand for remains at risk. This administration is still waging war on workers,’ Kelley said.
Even as Kelley spoke, the White House was unleashing a new round of attacks on federal employees through a proposed fiscal 2021 budget that would impose nearly $82 billion in cuts to workers’ retirement savings through 2030, shift more costs for health care plans onto employees and retirees, further suppress workers’ wages by denying them a meaningful pay rise next year, and slash overall spending for non-defence programmes.
The administration has already stripped employees of their negotiated rights at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, and it is attempting to prevent workers across the government from addressing unsafe workplaces, mismanagement, and other issues by evicting union officials from federal worksites under the guise of three executive orders issued by President Trump in May 2018. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, ordered union representatives to vacate their offices as of February 7.
Several hundred AFGE members held a vigil on Tuesday in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building, standing silent for 20 minutes to reflect the 20 months since the executive orders were issued.
As the conference was getting underway, attendees learned of the latest attack by this administration on workers’ collective bargaining rights – a January 29 memo from President Trump delegating to the Secretary of Defense the authority to remove any or all DoD employees from the law guaranteeing their right to organise.
Workers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who are in the midst of renewed contract negotiations with the administration’s political appointees, called for an EPA Workers’ Bill of Rights, raising signs during the conference that read, ‘Proud EPA Worker’ and ‘#ProtectEPA’ as they protested at the administration’s hostile treatment of federal workers.
Last month, EPA workers launched a campaign for an EPA Workers’ Bill of Rights to protect the EPA from ongoing attacks on its workers and its mission: to protect human health and the environment.
‘EPA employees have dedicated their careers to the vital mission of protecting human health and the environment. But right now, we’re facing down an administration that is hell-bent on attacking civil servants and the work that they do,’ said AFGE Council 238 President Gary Morton, speaking on behalf of 7,500 EPA workers nationwide.
‘We need a strong EPA now more than ever, and that means standing up for workers’ rights and scientific integrity.
‘That’s why we’re calling for an EPA Workers’ Bill of Rights. It’s time to end the attacks on our rights as employees – and on science itself. We’ll keep raising our voices until we win,’ he stressed.