Robin Hood for Treasury Secretary. The gift that keeps on giving!

Who wins: Robin Hood or the Grinch?

The holidays are traditionally a time of gift giving and concern for the less fortunate. As the effects of the Great Recession linger, including 4.9 million Americans without a job, and income equality at its highest level ever in the US, it seems 90% of us are among the less fortunate.

Nationwide Vigil for Robin Hood Tax 12/10/12
Nationwide vigils for Robin Hood Tax 12/10/12.

We know something is fundamentally wrong; even if holiday spending is up, the dream of shared prosperity seems more elusive. The National Journal reported recently that average wages for the 90% have gone up a bout 10% since 1979, while the top 10% have average wage gains of 125% (down from the peak gain of 150% as of 2008).

Around the world, poverty, hunger, and disease threaten global health. At this rate, the Grinch isn’t going to steal Christmas, he’s going to take away the possibility of a just society.

We know who has benefited from the economy of the last 30 years: the finance sector, Wall Street. They have accounted for 27-40% of all annual profits made in the US. They have received up to $27 trillion in bailouts, guarantees and loans since 2008. Wall Street has paid out more than ten times in employee bonuses than in fines for their misdeeds that collapsed the economy.

Vegas Robin Hood Vigil
Nurses picket Adelson, call for Rogin Hood Tax – Las Vegas 12/12/12.

It’s time to take back what they have taken from us. It’s time for Robin Hood, specifically a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street trades. It’s a simple idea: Add a sale tax on Wall Street trades of stocks, bonds, derivatives and other financial transactions. It’s like the sale tax you pay when buying a pair of shoes.
This should be the top priority of the next Treasury Secretary. In fact, who better to be the next Secretary of the Treasury than the advocate for working folk: Robin Hood! So he will be personally applying for the job at the Treasury Department (next to the White house) on December 20th. We hear the Grinch may greet him, but Robin Hood will not be deterred!

Help us deliver this message to the White House on December 20th: 202-456-1414.

Our proposal, H.R. 6411 (Ellison), is for a small tax of .5% or less on trading of stocks and other financial instruments. It adds up to big money — hundreds of billions every year to heal the U.S. and global economies.

Think of how that could help our country. It could fund 9 million new jobs that pay an average of $38,844 a year or save 1.7 million homes from foreclosure. Guaranteed healthcare for all. End HIV/AIDS in a generation, stop poverty and hunger, and fund the transition to a non-fossil fuel based economy.

For the issues we care most deeply about, to build a better life for ourselves and the next generations, to go beyond the demands for tax cuts for corporations and cuts to earned benefits and social investments, we need new resources for a new economy.

Yes, we know how to pay for it.

Join us December 20th by calling President Obama to urge him to appoint a Robin Hood Tax supporter as the next Treasury Secretary. (202-456-1414) Our message is simple: Heal America. Re-Build the Dream. Tax Wall Street.

Sincerely,

Deborah Burger, Co-President
National Nurses United
www.robinhoodtax.org
2000 Franklin Street
Oakland, CA 94612

Time to Act Now To Restore Our Ravaged Mental Healthcare System

Registered nurses across the country mourn the loss of life marked by the shooting of innocents in Connecticut. This should be a clear wake up call for the White House, Congress, and state and local legislators to take action to address causes of the violence, including restoring the devastating cuts that have occurred to mental health services across the U.S.

Every day a massive tragedy is being played out on a smaller scale everyday in emergency rooms, in mental health facilities, and on the streets across our country, where, with sometimes devastating consequences, mental health is underfunded to a shocking, and sometimes deadly degree.

Members of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, say it is time to act with both short term and long term responses. It is incumbent on all of us to:

  • Demand private healthcare systems reverse the pervasive cuts to mental health services, especially by profit-focused institutions which view mental health as an easy target for cuts because it is less profitable and has fewer public advocates.
  • Increase federal, state and local funding of public mental health programs and public health clinics, which play a crucial role in identifying persons with potentially violent mental health problems.
  • Require health insurance companies to provide full coverage for mental health services, and require parity in mental health coverage with other health services.
  • Restore school nurses and counselors who are frequently a first target of school budget cuts.
  • Challenge the stigma of mental health that undermines mental health programs and stigmatizes people needing mental health care, the overwhelming majority of whom are not violent.
  • Guarantee health care for everyone, including mental health services, based on patient need, not ability to pay, as in improving and expanding Medicare to cover everyone.

Sadly, this growing emergency comes as no surprise to America’s nurses who are on the front line of our nation’s mental health crisis. Why must it take such a catastrophe to convene a serious dialogue about the state of our nation’s mental health system? In communities from Maine to California, nurses deal with the fall out that comes from hospitals, schools, and clinics, who have cut their mental health services to the bone.

Evidence is in on the mental health crisis

Budget cuts for safety net programs and fundamental care services, from schools to health facilities, have a crucial impact on communities. In 2011, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, released a report documenting deep cuts to mental health services that led to significant reductions in both hospital and community services for vulnerable individuals with serious mental illness.

Across the country, as noted in this AlterNet commentary, states cut some $4.35 billion in public mental health spending  from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors – the most massive cut in funding since de-institutionalization in the 1960s and ’70s. More than $840 million of that occurred in 31 states in 2012 alone.  

In Connecticut, NAMI has reported, public mental health system currently provides coverage for less than one in five Connecticut residents with a serious mental health problem. The other four may not be able to afford to pay for those services on their own, particularly since mental health issues tend to disproportionately affect poor people

A 2010 National Institute for Mental Health study asserted that one in every three to four children suffers from a mental disorder and that about one in ten has a serious emotional disturbance, with few affected youth receiving adequate mental health care. It emphasized that common mental disorders among adults first emerge in childhood and adolescence further stressing the need for early intervention and prevention.

The National Health Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare reports that 60 percent of juvenile detention inmates have at least one mental disorder. Although home and community based services are more cost effective than warehousing youth in the juvenile justice system while they await treatment, the Council notes that these home and community services are “inadequately supported.”

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health,  Think Progress reported after the Connecticut shooting just 7.1 percent of U.S. adults receive mental health services. Out-of-pocket costs for inpatient and outpatient mental health services are staggeringly high.

While there is a national focus, rightly so, on the tragedy in Newtown today millions of people and their families in our country continue to suffer from mental illness and post traumatic stress from domestic and sexual violence who do not receive support or counseling.

These millions are the hidden face of mental trauma in the U.S., and the disgrace of a health care industry in particular that is focused on short term profit rather than therapeutic healing. Nurses will continue to advocate for the support and early intervention patients and all Americans deserve.

NNU nurses have been speaking out the mental health crisis for a long time.

“My first reaction when I heard the news was that he sounded like someone with an untreated mental illness,” said Adelena Marshall, RN who has worked in the mental health unit of the Chicago Veteran Affairs Hospital for the last 20 years and has become the voice of veterans and the expert on mental health matters at the VA.

Last May, Chicago VA RNs with the support NNU had to threaten to hold an informational picket with the Iraq Veterans against the War (IVAW) to decry the appalling staffing conditions on the mental health unit. A couple of weeks later, 20 positions were posted. 

“Nurses are on the front line of this issue and need to be part of the policy conversation,” said Michigan RN Jeanette Hokett who works in a 14-bed child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit. “They spend the most time at the bedside with the patients and families, and offer a perspective others, such as doctors, don’t have.”

Earlier this year, nurses concerns about access to mental health prompted NNU to convene a roundtable on mental health.  “Often, the emergency room is where desperate people end up,” said one participant, Diane Fagan, a Kaiser Permanente ER RN in Oakland, Ca. “In the eight years I have worked there, I have seen more and more untreated mental health patients coming into the emergency department and spending long hours waiting to see a psychiatrist because so many of our outpatient services have closed.”

Michigan RN Jeanette Hokett works in a 14-bed child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit at the University of Michigan Health System. She hears frustration from patients and families on a daily basis.

“There’s not enough for these families to get the support they need,” said Hokett. “I have seen patients come in sicker and stay shorter times. There are no beds. We have waiting lists for people who are trying to get a patient into our facility. While they wait, health care staff works with families to come up with a safe plan for them at home. It may mean a parent has to remove sharp knives from the house and sit with the child 24 hours until a bed becomes available.

“The reality is there are not enough treatment options and they are not always available for families because of financial constraints. If there was better access to mental health care, we would be able to improve the outcome for these patients and improve their lives,” she said.

Ultimately effectively challenging the mental health crisis is an integral part of solving our overall, ongoing healthcare emergency in the U.S.

Deborah Burger, RN

Deborah Burger is a registered nurse and a co-president of National Nurses United

NNU Celebrates Three Years

Every year, National Nurses United’s top RN leaders convene to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year as well as to strategize about how to build the national nurses movement and push back against the incessant forces of corporate healthcare in the year ahead.

NNU Co-presidents
Jean Ross, RN, Deborah Burger, RN, and Karen Higgins, RN, NNU Co-Presidents welcome delegates to the 2012 NNU Convention
 
This year, as NNU marked its third birthday, nurses devoted their three days to discussion of the corporate hospital industry’s attack against nursing and nursing standards, and to how they can further their advocacy for patients and for society at large through the unionization of America’s nurses and campaigns such as the Robin Hood Tax. The Robin Hood Tax, which currently is proposed in Congress by Rep. Keith Ellison as HR 6411, would be a small tax on Wall Street trades of stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments that could raise about $350 billion a year toward investment in the things that nurses know are needed to rebuild Main Street’s working-class communities: living wage jobs, expansion of healthcare, opportunities for education, and initiatives toward a sustainable and clean environment. The RNs at the convention were treated to a presentation by Robert Pollin, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor and noted progressive economist who is one of the country’s leading thinkers on the subject.

RoseAnn DeMoro, NNU Executive Director, welcomes delegates to the 2012 NNU Convention
RoseAnn DeMoro, NNU Executive Director, welcomes delegates to the 2012 NNU Convention
 
RNs also learned critical information about the landscape of the corporate hospital industry and right-wing attacks on the ability of nurses to advocate for patients. On Wednesday, they joined fellow union members from the Las Vegas culinary workers union on a lively picket line in front of the Venetian to protest billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson’s corruption of the democratic process through his outrageous political donations. For the recent November elections, Adelson gave more than $150 million to Republican political campaigns, the largest single contributor in election history, and has pledged to contribute even more in future campaign cycles to achieve an anti-democratic, anti-worker agenda for the country. “Adelson says double down, we say take him down,” shouted nurses as they marched.

Nurses dance in Robin Hood hats singing "All I want for Christmas" is to tax Wall Street.
Nurses dance in Robin Hood hats singing “All I want for Christmas” is to tax Wall Street. See video
 
Despite the money and corporate forces arrayed against nurses, many were still able to share stories of triumph, whether through successful unionization elections, wins of first contracts, or fight backs against management attempts to weaken the power of RNs. Their experiences served as inspiration and testament to what registered nurses can achieve if they stay organized and unified.

Don’t Push Seniors Off the ‘Fiscal Cliff’

December 3, 2012 by Chuck Idelson

With the November election rapidly fading into memory and the basic building blocks of a civil society once again under grave threat from Wall Street and their acolytes in Washington, nurses and other activists have, once again, had to step up the fight to protect basic programs and make the case for real revenue needed to build a sustainable future.

As December opened, National Nurses United unveiled a stark image of seniors precariously perched on the edge of the “fiscal cliff” and facing a questionable future as the White House and leaders in Congress debated their future.

“Don’t Push Seniors Off the ‘Fiscal Cliff.’ Tax Wall Street” is the message. NNU placed the image on more than 100 buses crisscrossing Washington, as well as on billboards in several cities across the U.S., part of a growing campaign by nurses and others insisting that Washington not throw seniors or American families in general under the “fiscal cliff” bus.

Concurrently, NNU is planning candlelight vigils outside some 20 Congressional offices, from Florida to California, on December 10, at some of them joining with members of a number of unions who are also pressing for a firm hand in Washington.

It won’t be the first time nurses have been in the streets since the election calling on Congress and the President to reject more punishing cuts demanded by those Nobel economist Paul Krugman calls “the deficit scolds,” and support for a meaningful tax on Wall Street speculation, the Robin Hood tax.

On November 14, nurses, HIV/AIDS activists, and other Robin Hood campaigners went to several Congressional offices with a similar message.

“This country has vast wealth but poor priorities,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the food stamp program are the economic bedrock of vast numbers of American families. To reduce these in any way is to do serious harm and lead to more poverty. We as nurses shudder at the thought of more harm to Americans. Don’t do it.”

There’s ample reason for concern. Despite pledges from the President, in meetings with labor and liberal policy groups since the election, and some tough language from a number of Democratic leaders, we’ve seen this movie before.

Nurses and other activists well remember the concessions made by President Obama and other Democratic leaders during first term debt ceiling discussions, and the President’s own statement during the first debate this fall that he and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, then titular leader of the “deficit scold” camp, had no real differences on Social Security. It was a statement that caused lots of angst on the left, and prompted a hurried response from the  campaign that “President Obama will never privatize Social Security or undermine retirement security for middle-class Americans.”

But the mixed signals from Washington in late November remained worrisome. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, probably as close to Obama as anyone in the Senate, has dropped broad hints that the White House and top Democrats will agree to at least $400 billion in “entitlement” cuts and probably far more as the carrot to get votes for tax increases for the wealthiest Americans. That’s the price demanded by intransigent Republicans, whose hard line, some seem to have trouble remembering, was fully repudiated by voters on November 6.

What will the cuts be? Presumably some combination, speculated Politico, of “means-testing, raising the retirement age and other ‘efficiencies’ to be named later.”

Those cuts are exactly what nurses and other activists hope to head off. Why?  Four years after Wall Street and the banksters crashed the U.S. and global economies, far too many families are still hurting. The priority in Washington should be economic recovery and revitalization, “building a sustainable full employment economy,” as PERI co-director Robert Pollin as aptly written, not further cuts in critical programs.

Whether emerging under the guise of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, or negotiations over the debt ceiling, “fiscal cliff,” or a “grand bargain,” nurses and other activists know too many of the proposed solutions would just cause far greater suffering in Main Street communities while once again rewarding the Wall Street gamblers and titans who are the ultimate recipients of any money thrown at the debt. Krugman put it well when he wrote: “The deficit-scold movement was never really about the deficit. Instead, it was about using deficit fears to shred the social safety net.”

There are allies in Congress, of course, who can be counted on to oppose this sham, such as Rep. Keith Ellison who in response to the reported deal said:

“Progressives will not support any deal that cuts benefits for families and seniors who rely on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to put food on the table or cover their health costs. Last year, over 80 members of the Progressive, Black, and Asian Pacific-Islander Caucuses stood united in opposing an agreement that cut benefits for these families, and 44 members have introduced a resolution demanding these cuts be off the table.

Instead of further bailouts for Wall Street, nurses say, it’s time to hold banks and investment firms accountable to revitalize the economies they did so much to damage. The best response is with a robust Robin Hood tax, HR 6411, the Inclusive Prosperity Act, introduced by Ellison for the Robin Hood campaign, which sets a small sales tax on the trading of stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, and other financial instruments, with a big bang for the economy, up to $350 billion every year for jobs, healthcare, and other vital needs.

That’s the message nurses are bringing to Washington, with the protests, and the latest ad campaign.

Ralph Nader on a simple way to avoid the fiscal cliff: Tax stock trades

By Ralph Nader, Published: November 30

In the debate over the “fiscal cliff,” President Obama and congressional Republicans have returned to the proposals that they were sparring over before the election. They remain at odds over key elements of revenue and spending. Yet both sides are unwilling to consider a minuscule tax on financial transactions that could be a major source of income.

A financial transaction tax would apply to purchases and sales of derivatives, options and stocks. The tax would be small, half a penny or less on each dollar of the transaction value, depending on the product. This idea is often called a “speculation tax,” because it would hit hardest at frothy high-volume trading as opposed to sober long-term investment.

Wall Street might object, but taxing its sales is hardly a radical idea. Americans in all but five states pay state sales taxes, ranging as high as 7 percent, every time they buy a car, an appliance, a pair of pants or piece of furniture, but a trader on Wall Street can buy and sell millions of dollars’ worth of financial products each day without paying a cent in sales taxes. A teacher or police officer who buys a $100 pair of shoes in the District or Maryland pays $6 in sales taxes. Meanwhile, if a financial speculation tax were applied to stock trades at a rate of 0.25 percent, a day trader would pay just 25 cents on every $100 worth of stock bought.

A speculation tax isn’t a new idea, either. Congress enacted one in 1914, and it remained in effect until 1966; initially it imposed a tax of 2 cents on every $100 sale or transfer of stock. The late Nobel Prize-winning economist James Tobin proposed a version to curb foreign exchange speculation in the 1970s. And I wrote about it a year ago, urging Congress to use it to show that it wasn’t deaf to the sentiments of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It is an idea whose time has come once again.

At the heart of the debate over the fiscal cliff is the need to shrink our nation’s deficit while safeguarding a lackluster economic recovery by limiting the financial impact on average Americans. A speculation tax could do just that by raising revenue while having little effect on most Americans’ pocketbooks and reducing the devastation of runaway speculative trading on Wall Street.

According to a joint report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Political Economy Research Institute, a speculation tax could raise as much as $350 billionannually. Even if we make the unrealistic assumption that such a tax would reduce trading volume on the stock market by half, it could still boost federal revenue by $175 billion a year.

Compare that with the policies being discussed in the fiscal cliff debate. Extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all but the top 2 percent — as Obama has suggested — would cost $171 billion a year in lost revenue. Patching the alternative minimum tax to ensure that millions more Americans are not affected by it would cost $40 billion. Continuing to pay emergency federal unemployment benefits would cost $26 billion. A speculation tax could pay for each and every one of these — and then some.

As if its deficit-reducing potential weren’t enough, a financial transaction tax could reduce risky speculative trading that diverts resources from productive economic activity and can be very destabilizing, as the 2008-2009 crash demonstrated. In fact, this summer, more than 50 financial industry professionals, including past and present executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chaseand Morgan Stanley, signed a letter to the Group of 20 and European leaders supporting a speculation tax. They pointed out that financial market activity has skyrocketed in the past few decades: The value of transactions is now 70 times greater than the size of the real global economy. Trading volume has grown exponentially, skyrocketing from 188 billion shares of stock traded on the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange in 1995 to nearly 1 trillion in 2011. Each year, the notional value of over-the-counter derivatives traded worldwide totals trillions more.

In their letter, these professionals cautioned that although the main purpose of financial markets is to raise investment capital, allocate resources efficiently and mitigate risk, today’s markets, full of computer-driven, high-frequency trading, often undermine those goals. The Capital Institute’s John Fullerton, a former managing director at JPMorgan, has estimated that nearly 70 percent of equity-trading volume is composed of these types of speculative strategies.

Critics claim that a speculation tax would harm ordinary investors. But here is a reality check: Many of the automatic spending cuts and tax increases on middle-class Americans that are at stake in the fiscal cliff debate would be many times more painful for these investors. And the harmful aspects of a speculation tax can be addressed. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have proposed a financial transaction tax with mechanisms to protect most ordinary investors, either by exempting individuals with incomes below $50,000 or by providing a credit for the first $100,000 of stock transactions each year.

Other critics worry that a speculation tax would drive trading and wealth to offshore tax havens. However, this argument ignores the fact that Britain already subjects stock trades to a financial transaction tax, which generates billions every year. Forty countries had such a tax in place in 2011. Germany and France have voiced support for implementing one across the European Union.

It is now more than four years since the beginning of the financial crisis, and Americans are still feeling the pain. Unemployment is just below 8 percent, and underemployment hovers around 15 percent.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has failed to hold the Wall Street banks that got us into this mess accountable. Instead, institutions such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley — whose speculative trading arms helped fuel the crisis — all received huge bailouts from Treasury and massive interest-free loans from the Federal Reserve. These banks have a bigger market share than ever. Derivatives remain largely unregulated. And too many firms are still gambling with other people’s money.

But the financial transaction tax isn’t a cudgel for retribution against these institutions. It’s a practical tool to avert the financial woes that economists are predicting if we slide over the fiscal cliff. This tiny tax can produce modest salutary effects on behavior while generating much-needed revenue.

The president and congressional leaders need to find something that hasn’t been present in Washington for quite some time: the courage to place the interests of American workers ahead of the influence of Wall Street.

What’s more, we can use the money. Now is the time to enact — or, more accurately, reenact — a financial transaction tax.

###

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate. His new book, “The Seventeen Solutions,” lays out his prescriptions for curing America’s social and economic ills.

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Nurses bring U.S. support for Robin Hood tax to global union movement

The worldwide campaign to enact Robin Hood taxes on financial speculation received a real boost in a major meeting of global union activists this week — with the help of U.S. nurses whose Robin Hood hats and messaging is becoming a familiar site at home.

Delegates representing 329 unions from 123 countries rallied today in the streets of Durban, South Africa for the Robin Hood Tax while also speaking out against austerity measures pushed by the same finance sectors that are the target of the tax.

jean ross, rn
NNU Co-Presidents Jean Ross, RN, and Deborah Burger, RN at a massive rally today in Durban, South Africa

psi1
The union leaders, representing 20 million workers, were in Durban attending the 29th World Congress of the Public Services International (PSI).

On Wednesday, PSI delegates heartily endorsed an NNU-sponsored resolution backing the Robin Hood tax — which sets a small fee on the trading of stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, and other financial instruments. Some 30 nations around the world already have a version of the tax, also known as a Financial Transaction Tax.

jean ross, rn
NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN at the PSI Convention in South Africa

“The Robin Hood Tax Campaign is vital because we need a movement dedicated to standing up for our communities– for jobs, for health care, for decent housing, education, a secure retirement and quality public services that all of us so desperately need,” Jean Ross, RN, co-president of National Nurses United, told the congress.

The resolution, entitled, “The Global Fight-Back Against Austerity,” said, “The Robin Hood Tax has the opportunity to turn the tide in a century whose first decade has witnessed an appalling assault on equality and community. The time for the financial sector to pay a fair sales tax on its trading is long past due.”

deborah burger, rn
NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN, addressing the congress

Speaking of the social and economic devastation caused by the world economic crisis worldwide, Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president, told the delegates:

“Working people did not cause this crisis, the bankers and the traders of the world’s financial markets did. Most of them have recouped their losses but the rest of us have paid the bill.

“It’s well known that it’s the poor and working class which are suffering – and deprivation has only intensified. This is a disgrace that requires not only our condemnation but our determined, united and collective action. The Robin Hood Tax Campaign is an essential part of that fight-back.”

The Robin Hood tax is, of course, making rapid advances around the world. France earlier this year implemented the tax and even banking industry-inspired critics of it admit it has proceded without the predicted fears.

Momentum continues to grow throughout Europe as well, as this report notes:

“Now Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia and Estonia have followed suit. Robin Hood Tax campaigners consider this a significant achievement after just three years of campaigning.”

The PSI Congress also passed an NNU-proposed resolution supporting minimum, mandatory, nurse-to-patient ratios.

Highlighting the successes of nurses in California and New South Wales and Victoria in Australia in getting laws passed imposing such ratios, Zenei Cortez, RN, co-president of the California Nurses Association and NNU Vice President, told the delegates:

“Winning such nurse-to-patient ratios requires collective patient advocacy and this resolution puts PSI firmly in support of this demand on a global basis. Through such collective efforts, we will saver the lives of thousands of patients who deserve to have quality and dedicated nursing care when they are in the hospital.”

nnu leaders
NNU leaders with leaders of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants Association.

The delegates to the Congress also elected Rosa Pavanelli as PSI’s new general secretary, the first woman ever elected to head the global union federation. Pavanelli, who was backed by NNU, is leader of the Italian public workers union, FP-CGIL, which is the largest union of nurses in Italy.

rosa pavanelli
Rosa Pavanelli at the NNU event in Chicago in May

Pavanelli, who joined with NNU nurses and other activists at the historic march and rally for the Robin Hood Tax in Chicago last May, and has been a leader pushing for a Robin Hood Tax in Europe, pledged to make the Robin Hood Tax Campaign a priority of PSI.

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101 Reasons For RN Unity: Why it’s a critical time to take our RN movement to the next level

By RoseAnn DeMoro, Executive Director of National Nurses United
Article from National Nurse Magazine - November 2012 Issue

If there was ever a critical moment for building a powerful, effective movement of all registered nurses to protect the interests of patients and nurses, that time has surely come. Here are 101 reasons for RN unity. All reflect the way in which nurses, their patients, practice, families, and communities are under attack. Let’s call this a partial list. Add your own reasons. I welcome your thoughts.

1. Budget-driven short staffing, regardless of patient need

2. Erosion of RNs’ ability to practice in the exclusive interest of patients rather than maximizing profits

3. Misleading “patient satisfaction” goals that substitute budget-driven scripting and rounding for actual care

4. Time spent on the caring process considered “non-productive” time

5. Needed patient services cut based on corporate business models to increase profit margins

6. “Evidence-based” medicine eroding care based on individual patients’ needs

7. Hospitals cutting back on basic equipment and supplies needed to provide good care

8. RNs being required to float to specialty units without proper clinical expertise or orientation

9. Replacement of specialist RN care with generalist RN care

10. Efforts to roll back California’s nurseto- patient ratio law

11. Hospital industry’s nationwide campaign against nurse-to-patient ratios

12. Medical redlining, i.e. hospitals cutting services for lower-income patients and communities

13. Long waits for emergency care

14. Patients being shifted from hospitals to outpatient and home settings where care is provided by non-RNs or family members

15. Laws and regulations that sacrifice patient safety to the bottom line and erode RN practice

16. Lack of protection for non-union RNs who advocate for better patient care

17. Deskilling of the nursing process by routinizing it, i.e. by fragmenting and standardizing it

18. Standardized clinical protocols that limit RN judgment

19. Manipulation of hospital census numbers to short staff and reduce RN hours

20. Speed-up through understaffing

21. RNs being denied meal and rest breaks via short staffing and manager coercion

22. Support staff cuts

23. Mandatory overtime

24. Attacks on RNs’ hard-won scheduling options

25. Increased employer discipline of nurses on pretexts

26. Exposure to antibiotic-resistant and other hospital-acquired infections

27. Hospitals failing to provide protective equipment or inform nurses of exposure to infected patients

28. Unsafe lift policies and other hazardous working conditions that increase injuries

29. Employers’ failure to enact measures to protect staff and patients from workplace violence

30. Lack of mentorship for new RNs

31. Lack of protection for non-union RNs who blow the whistle on unsafe hospital conditions or billing fraud

32. Crises of conscience for nurses unwilling to work in unsafe settings

33. Nurses leaving the profession due to stress, burnout, or employer-created hostile environment

34. Increased management control through workplace surveillance technologies

35. Surveillance of nurses’ use of social media, such as Facebook and YouTube

36. Use of information technology to displace RNs and override RN professional judgment

37. Technology-driven speed-up

38. Use of information technology to downgrade patient acuity to justify short staffing

39. Electronic charting that forces the RN to focus on a computer rather than on the patient

40. Telemedicine displacing hands-on patient care

41. Medical errors caused by electronic medical record systems and other health information technologies

42. RNs being scapegoated for medical errors actually caused by technology

43. Employers’ isolation of individual RNs through technology adoption and other tactics, undermining senses of unity and community

44. Loss of institutional memory of what nursing was prior to the advent of health IT and other management innovations

45. Federal government tying reimbursement to adoption of health information technology

46. Cuts in or elimination of employerpaid pensions (defined-benefit plans)

47. Employers eliminating health benefits or reducing them by increasing outof- pocket costs, among other changes

48. Reduction of sick leave so nurses are forced to work when sick, a risk to themselves and patients

49. Employers not paying overtime

50. Two-tier wage and benefit structures that pit new RNs against more experienced RNs

51. Reductions in paid continuing education leave for RNs

52. Unpaid hospital internships and preceptorships

53. Attacks on RNs’ hard-won seniority rights

54. Loss of contract-based due process and freedom of speech rights in the workplace

55. Lack of protection against unjust firing or other discipline for non-union RNs

56. Multi-tier healthcare system based on ability to pay

57. Skyrocketing insurance premiums, co-insurance, co-pays, and deductibles

58. Hospitals and physicians making medical decisions based upon insurance coverage

59. Poorer health barometers (such as lower life expectancy) than countries with national health systems

60. Patients delaying preventive care or necessary treatment due to high cost, leading to medical complications

61. Hospital price gouging, billing additional charges for labs, services, and personnel, often without advance patient consent

62. “Non-profit” hospital chains exploiting tax-exempt status for financial gain that vastly exceeds what they provide in community benefits or charity care

63. Medical credit screening being used to track patients based on ability to pay, including requiring advance payment from those least able to pay

64. Healthcare tourism, i.e. patients going out of the county for care 65. Federal government tying reimbursement to “patient satisfaction” scores

66. Hospitals subcontracting travel nurses from outside companies rather than employing RNs directly

67. Increased mergers and acquisitions by big corporate hospital chains resulting in fewer independent and locally-controlled hospitals

68. Hospital and emergency room closures 69. Privatization of public health facilities and services

70. Profitable hospital units being moved to independent medical specialty centers to extract concessions from unions based on budgetary considerations or to justify closing a hospital completely

71. Establishment of for-profit non-acute medical specialty centers to increase profits by evading public oversight

72. Private equity firms buying hospitals to squeeze them for profits, then leaving them drowning in debt

73. Inadequate funding for county and state hospitals and clinics

74. Private hospitals dumping low-income patients on underfunded public hospitals

75. Nurse executive organizations claiming to speak and legislate on behalf of directcare RNs

76. “Nurse leaders” disdainful of directcare nursing

77. Differentiated practice and ANA campaign for requiring BSNs

78. State nursing boards being stacked with employer representatives to reverse RN licensure and practice protections

79. Push for national Compact State Licensure to lower standards for all RNs to lowest state requirements

80. Expansion of scope of practice for LVNs/LPNs and unlicensed staff at the expense of RN scope and jobs, as well as patient safety

81. Layoffs and hiring freezes dictated by budget goals, not patient need

82. Hospitals trying to erode the public’s trust in RNs with ad campaigns attacking RNs as overpaid or unreasonable

83. Loss of collective voice through erosion of union rights

84. Non-RN unions seeking to represent RNs, resulting in low priority for RN practice and workplace needs

85. Weak and partner healthcare unions undermining RNs by accepting concessionary contracts

86. Cuts in nursing programs and reduced access for low-income nursing students

87. Private nursing education increasing debt for new RNs

88. Unemployment among nursing school graduates

89. Corruption of the democratic process by corporate/wealthy spending on lobbying and elections

90. Elimination of public regulatory oversight

91. Nurses supporting extended family members due to the economic crisis

92. Declining health due to economic crisis job loss, home foreclosure, high medical bills, and poor nutrition

93. Environmental degradation increasing preventable illnesses

94. Budget cuts for Medicaid and public health programs

95. Campaigns to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security

96. Deep, widespread cuts in mental health services

97. Anti-union “right-to-work” laws being extended to more states

98. Weak labor law penalties for employers who violate worker rights

99. Growth of healthcare anti-union industry, including management attorneys, consultants, and strike replacement firms

100. Prevalence of labor-management partnerships in which unions advocate for employers and against the interests of workers and the public

101. Lack of nurses and women generally in leadership roles

 

Thanksgiving for Hurricane Sandy RN Relief Efforts

Thank you so much to those who have responded to our Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN/National Nurses United) request following the Hurricane Sandy emergency.

Hurricane Sandy Recovery

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are truly grateful for the dedication of our volunteers.

Currently, these efforts are being handled by local organizations, with the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) taking a key leadership role.  If volunteers from out of the local area are needed, we will contact you. The affected RNs and patients are incredibly grateful for your continued support.

Make a Contribution to the RNRN fund established to support disaster relief services. To donate by mail: Make checks payable to CNF/RNRN and mail them to: CNF/RNRN, 2000 Franklin St. Oakland, CA 94612.
 
Nearly three weeks after the storm, the affected areas continue to have urgent, unmet medical and public health needs. FEMA and HHS officials have told volunteer nurses, doctors and health advocates that the federal government’s hands are tied until the city and state governments request more assistance.

See a video here on NYSNA’s response to Hurricane Sandy.

RNRN and NYSNA Response

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, a group of dedicated NYSNA nurse volunteers fanned out to the hardest hit communities. NYSNA opened up a deployment site that operated out of the organization’s RV located on Miller Field on Staten Island. They began sending RN teams door to door to determine people needs, and provided much needed care to many residents affected by the storm.  At this time they are filling the volunteer needs with New York City area RNs, but may need out of state RNs at a later date.
 
RNRN has been on the ground supporting the efforts of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) to assess the needs at different locations in order for RN volunteers to be fully utilized to fill the long-term public health care needs to the communities most affected.
 
Make shift clinics and door to door assessment teams have been organized by an array of community organizations ranging from Occupy Sandy, NYSNA, and Physicians for a National Health Plan, People’s Medical Relief, and Doctors without Borders to the neighborhood churches and synagogues.

Striking Similarities to Katrina—

There has been a lack of coordination by government and traditional disaster relief organizations such as the Red Cross, the Medical Reserve Corps, Department of Health, and FEMA. The outlying areas closest to the storm that were the hardest hit are still in dire need of basic services and there is a long-term public health need that RNs can fill.

Poor, middle and working class residents are left to their own devices, and makeshift “soup” kitchens pop up on block after block. Most apartments are abandoned, though there are still some residents, even on the lower floors where there is water.  There are many elderly residents who are of particular concern, especially the ones on the higher floors. The stairways are concrete, narrow and pitch black.

The lack of running water, heat and electricity that is slowly coming back to these communities after more than three weeks has created a public health crisis that will be around for a long time—the potential of hypothermia as the temperatures drop, lack of clean running water and fresh food.

NYSNA, along with PNHP, Occupy Sandy, and other community groups, held a press conference at City Hall on Friday, November 16 to send the message to Mayor Bloomberg that, “As RNs we do not accept the conditions patients are forced to live in. Ask that the city immediately request resources from the state and federal governments to: provide life-saving medications and supplies and provide financial and human resources to rebuild existing community health care infrastructures.”

Many hospitals and clinics have been closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy, and some won’t be open for weeks or months.

Thank you for your ongoing concern and support for those RNs and patients affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Contribute to the RNRN fund established to support disaster relief services.

To donate by mail: Make checks payable to CNF/RNRN and mail them to: CNF/RNRN, 2000 Franklin St. Oakland, CA 94612.

RNRN Disaster Relief Fund: National Nurses United and the Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) work to send nurses to disaster stricken areas both inside the U.S. and internationally. Please complete this secure donation form and share it with friends to ensure that RNs are among the first responders. RNRN is a project of the NNU and the California Nurses Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations are secure, and tax-deductible to the extent of the law.

Thank you,

Registered Nurse Response Network

California Nurses Foundation
2000 Franklin St.
Oakland, CA 94612

Robin Hood actions say ‘No to Cuts, Tax Wall Street to Spark Recovery’

Outside the district office of Rep. Charles Rangel, Robin Hood Tax Campaigners from National Nurses United (NNU) and Health GAP found an engaged audience today.  These residents of New York’s Harlem are wondering when the recovery will arrive.  

Their neighborhoods are a mix of shuttered brownstones and half-empty condos, a sign of the realty speculation that somehow, someway never brought decent, affordable housing to Manhattan’s northern-most community.  

It was one of four national Robin Hood actions today repeating the call for a different approach to addressing the economy, with a renewed call for a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street speculation to increase revenues, not more punishing austerity cuts, especially to the vital programs Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Robin Hood activists at New York office of Rep. Charles Rangel
Robin Hood activists at New York office of Rep. Charles Rangel

The spirit of speculation lives on in the trading floors and conference rooms of Wall Street.  Financialization, as opposed to a productive economy, is the model being sold, even after the collapse of financial markets in 2008.  

The bailout of these “too-big-to-fail” financial institutions ran up a bill in the trillions, much of it paid from federal tax coffers.   That money needs to be returned to places like Harlem—for jobs, rebuilding, decent retirement, good schools and clean environment.  

That is what the Robin Hood Tax is all about.  It is embodied in Rep. Keith Ellison’s Inclusive Prosperity Act, H.R. 6411, and the RHT Campaign made visits to Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, in addition to Rangel’s offices, to get pledges of support.

“The Robin Hood Tax would provide us with the resources we need to end the AIDS pandemic and fight back against climate change,” said Michael Tikili of Health GAP.  “With disasters like Hurricane Sandy looming, we can no longer look to spending cuts to fix our financial crisis. We need a Robin Hood Tax to give us the revenue we need to end AIDS and fight climate change now.”

Like their last visit to Mr. Rangel, RNs and Health GAP members sought an audience inside the congressman’s office.  No go.   “So we bargained with them to send someone down,” explained Jonathan Weitz of NNU.  
 
Special Assistant Isiah Horton spoke for 20 minutes, in the end explaining Mr. Rangel had spoken with Rep. Ellison and that he still had concerns on how the bill would supposedly affect pensions.
Special Assistant Isiah Horton spoke for 20 minutes, in the end explaining Mr. Rangel had spoken with Rep. Ellison and that he still had concerns on how the bill would supposedly affect pensions.  

“The RNs immediately fired back that the law would have a minimal or no effect, would raise up to $350 billion a year for healthcare, education and jobs.”   The Ellison bill in fact for the most part taxes the brokers who make the trade and exempts households with incomes below $75,000 per year.

Across the coast, in Los Angeles, some four dozen nurses and activists rallied outside the district office of Rep. Xavier Becerra.
Across the coast, in Los Angeles, some four dozen nurses and activists rallied outside the district office of Rep. Xavier Becerra.

Some were invited in to meet with Liz Saldivar, district director, who continued to hedge on the bill and said he’d like to see more sponsors of the bill. It already has 18 co-sponsors, a good number for a bill that was only introduced a few weeks ago.

Nurses, activists outside Los Angeles office of Rep. Xavier Becerra.
Nurses, activists outside Los Angeles office of Rep. Xavier Becerra.

Dozens more gathered outside the San Francisco district office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who earlier today announced plans to run for another term as House Minority Leader.

Outside San Francisco office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
Outside San Francisco office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi’s district director Dan Bernal dismissively told the RNs they had a “90 seconds” to talk to him.

Sherri Stoddard, RN (left) told him they were calling on Pelosi to be a leader and support the bill.
Sherri Stoddard, RN (left) told him they were calling on Pelosi to be a leader and support the bill.

Sherri Stoddard, RN told him they were calling on Pelosi to be a leader and support the bill.

The Robin Hood Tax Campaign was also saying at the actions that cuts to essential services – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the food stamp program – must not be carried out.  

“This country has vast wealth but poor priorities,” said Jean Ross, RN and co-president of National Nurses United, one the founding organizations of the Robin Hood Tax Campaign.  “Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Food Stamp program are the economic bedrock of vast numbers of American families.   To reduce these in any way is to do serious harm and lead to more poverty.   We, as nurses, shudder at the thought of more harm to Americans.  Don’t do it.”

In a meeting with leaders of labor and liberal advocacy groups Tuesday, the President pledged he was not going to “budge” on opposing extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and “seemed to agree that Social Security” should not be part of any grand bargain because it “didn’t add to the deficit.”

Yet, the President’s press secretary afterwards told reporters that the President “has put forward a very specific plan that will be what he brings to the table when he sits down with Congressional leaders.” That $4 trillion, 10-year plan includes the commitment to $1.1 trillion in spending cuts that agreed to during the debt ceiling negotiations last year as well as additional spending cuts that include $340 billion in savings from Medicare and Medicaid, the New York Times reported.

Further, in his press conference today, President Obama twice cited his support for “entitlement changes” as part of a fiscal cliff deal.

Robin Hood and company have a different message:

Austerity has no place in America.  It will have the same affects these draconian cuts have had in Europe:  demise, poverty and no growth.

Don’t the Europeans know it.  Millions hit the streets today to protest spending cuts they say have made the economic crisis worse.  General strikes were held in Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italty, with major strikes in France and Belgium and labor actions in cities across the continent.  Flights were cancelled, car factories and ports were at a standstill and trains barely ran in Spain and Portugal where unions held their first ever coordinated general strike.

HURRICANE SANDY: Help New York Nurses and Patients

Hurricane Sandy has left a path of devastation in New York and surrounding communities in the Tri-State area, where 670,000 homes and businesses remain without electricity.

The enduring effects include:

  • Thousands of people, among them nurses, who have been uprooted from flooded homes and forced to seek shelter.
  • Evacuations of several thousand patients from hospitals and nursing homes that experienced dangerous flooding. Many patients relocated to hospitals and temporary accommodations  distant from family and support systems.
  • Closures continue at many hospitals that serve the most vulnerable patient populations. These hospitals have provided essential services in New York’s public safety net system.
  • Thousands who are without jobs as a result of employers whose businesses have been disrupted by the storm’s destruction.

Many nurses who lost their homes, or suffered in other ways, are still on the job, caring for their patients!

Through Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), NNU is reaching out to support New York-area nurses who are on the front lines of the response to Hurricane Sandy, taking heroic measures to care for their patients.

RNRN sent a team of experts who coordinated the unprecedented RN response to the disasters of Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian Earthquake.  They will be working with NNU nurses from the Veterans Administration and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) who have been deployed to provide disaster relief to the communities most affected

How you can help these same caregivers and the patients they serve:

  1. Contribute to the RNRN fund established to support disaster relief services
  2. To donate by mail: Make checks payable to CNF/RNRN and mail them to: CNF/RNRN, 2000 Franklin St. Oakland, CA 94612.
  3. Volunteer to help in one of the disaster relief locations providing first aid and public health services.

RNRN Disaster Relief Fund: National Nurses United and the Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) work to send nurses to disaster stricken areas both inside the U.S. and internationally. Please complete this secure donation form and share it with friends to ensure that RNs are among the first responders. RNRN is a project of the NNU and the California Nurses Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations are secure, and tax-deductible to the extent of the law.

Thank you,

California Nurses Foundation
Registered Nurse Response Network
2000 Franklin St.
Oakland, CA 94612

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