Dear SEIU Nurses,
We are only three months into the year and already SEIU nurses seem to be everywhere at once. Whether on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, delivering water to families in Flint, or weighing in on Supreme Court cases that affect working families, we are hard at work fighting for quality healthcare across the nation.
In Iowa, Nevada, Virginia, and Florida nurses knocked on doors talking to voters about Clinton’s commitment to protect and preserve the Affordable Care Act. I was fortunate to join my fellow nurses in some states and what a great time we had doing this important work. Melody Hobert-Mellecker, a registered nurse and member of SEIU Local 199 in Iowa explained it well, "This is what needs to be done, this is how it happens. You don't just get to show up on Election Day and vote." This is the sort of enthusiasm I see from nurses all the time and it never fails to energize me.
As if the primaries are not keeping us busy enough, nurses saw first-hand how contaminated water has affected the families in Flint, Mich. We helped the local Red Cross deliver bottled water to homes, but more importantly, we listened to folks about the issues they face getting their water cleaned up as well as the long term help they will need in getting quality healthcare. They could face a lifetime of health issues for their families because of their exposure to lead. It is a tragic situation but a rewarding experience to have the opportunity to pitch in along with so many nurses, union brothers and sisters, churches, and community organizations.
Then there is the U.S. Supreme Court. Each year brings with it new arguments that undermine the progress around national health issues but this year is especially critical because of President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. With the Presidential elections coming up in November, there is so much at stake. The hateful anti-worker rhetoric coming from Senate leaders who have refused to grant Judge Garland a hearing is damaging to working families. We must demand Congress do it’s job and we are poised to take this fight to the ballot box this November. The American people deserve a Senate hearing and vote on his nomination.
Beyond the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice, SEIU nurses are lending our voices in support of access to affordable and preventive care in two cases before the court:Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and Zubik v. Burwell. We will be keeping a close eye on all the issues surround the Supreme Court as the year goes on.
With spring comes an end to the blizzards for a while (for East Coasters at least) but the work of nurses never ends. Let’s keep up the amazing work.
Dian Palmer, RN
Chair, Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare
Nurses have been in several states that have held their presidential primaries and caucuses. SEIU nurses, child care workers, janitors and home care providers were instrumental to Hillary Clinton’s wins by making phone calls and knocking on doors in several states that have held their presidential primaries and caucuses.
Here are some highlights:
In a blog post
about why he’s supporting Hillary Clinton’s vision of a healthier America, Sam Ruiz, an RN member of SEIU Local 1991 stated: "As part of a dedicated team that spends our days on medical helicopters caring for critically ill children, I have a very strong sense that if we work together, anything is possible. I believe Hillary Clinton does, too.”
Open Enrollment has come to a close and the numbers are in: The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports 20 million and counting now have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. That’s more than the population of New York City.
Now more Americans have health coverage than ever before, particularly people of color and young adults:
2.3 million young adults have gained coverage thanks to the provision that allows people under age 26 to stay on their parent’s plan.
The uninsured rate among Black, non-Hispanics dropped by more than 50 percent (from 22.4 to 10 percent); corresponding to about 3 million adults gaining coverage.
The uninsured rate among Hispanics dropped by more than 25 percent (from 41.8 to 30.5 percent), corresponding to about 4 million Hispanic adults gaining coverage.
For more than 40 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to make her own decision about her health and her family. In the latest political maneuver to prevent women from acting on these personal decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt - a case that would threaten the right for working women in Texas to access safe, legal abortion.
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania registered nurse, Denelle Weller, summarized how women’s healthcare at risk in this Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed: “I’ve worked in several departments within my hospital, but no matter the setting, I’ve come to appreciate that people need the ability to make the choice that is right for them and their families. My responsibility as a medical professional is to give them the best information and care possible.”
On March 23, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a case that challenges the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Although religious organizations can opt out of providing the cost of birth control, they are claiming filling out the paperwork for opting out imposes a “substantial burden” on their religion.
As obesity becomes a more common struggle for people in this country, Vicki Gonzalez, RN and Local 1991 member at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, has been working to keep patients safe and protect colleagues from injury on the job. Gonzalez is now the head of the Safe Patient Handling project at the Jackson Health System, which is installing 220 ceiling lifts and training nurses and hospital workers to use them. Most nursing assistants suffer injuries due to sprains, strains, or pain. They ranked fifth in professions with the highest rates of non-fatal, on-the-job injuries.
Hospitals are some of the most dangerous places to work according to recent studies. The rate of being a victim of serious violence where a worker requires time off is four times as common in a hospital than that of the private sector. Hospital staff are in “just as much danger as cops on the street.” This article offers some insight into what laws are being considered to protect both healthcare providers and patients.
“Only 17.4 percent of ambulatory care nurses reported compliance in all nine standard precautions for infection prevention, according to a study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.”
A nurse shares her experience about being hurt on the job: “Unfortunately many nurses just accept the fact that their back will hurt and they’ll just take a couple of pain pills. But this shouldn’t be acceptable. We need to do things differently.”