Human Rights

2019, A Year in Review

It’s always amazing just how much SEIU California nurses accomplish every year. You are union nurses, so doing amazing work is a daily occurrence. You spend every working day saving and improving people’s lives, so it’s not really a surprise; but it is certainly a source of tremendous pride. It’s also no surprise that nursing is once again the most trusted profession and that 2020 has been named the year of the nurse.
Here is just a small glimpse of what you’ve attained this year. It isn’t a complete list by any means because as SEIU nurses you are always doing what needs to be done for your patients, clients and communities that you serve. Your vision and advocacy go well beyond local issues, but also nationally and even internationally.

The Trump Administration’s so-called ‘conscience rule’ would have allowed health care workers, pharmacies, insurance plans and hospitals to refuse to provide care based on personal beliefs. This rule would have allowed healthcare providers to deny care to LGBTGI patients, women or anyone who they had a religious objection to or simply didn’t approve. SEIU Local 1021 RN Chair, Sasha Cuttler, RN, PhD led other nurses, healthcare workers and community allies to oppose the final rule change by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Our ‘No Hate in Healthcare’ campaign was successful in stopping the rule’s implementation through multiple press conferences/rallies, the federal court system and with added support from Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
Along with the SEIU endorsement of the Green New Deal, here in California and throughout the nation, SEIU nurses took on the issue of climate change and disaster relief. You continue to make the assurance of healthy communities, quality public health and equity a top priority; by providing Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, joining your work with other environmental justice coalitions and obtaining the qualifications to become disaster response nurses yourselves. We’re accomplishing this by entering into a memorandum of understanding with the International Medical Corp in order to participate in future disaster relief efforts; obtaining disaster response certification that can be used both personally and professionally.

As public health nurses, Shamika Ossey and Sharon Sylvers-Sidney, recognized the need for members of their Watts Community to be prepared for imminent disasters and started volunteering to provide CERT training. Today, they are providing this same training to ensure that their fellow nurses are also prepared, with the sponsorship of their Local 721 and SEIU Nurse Alliance of California. Our goal is to have hundreds of California nurses certified and able to join SEIU nurses across the nation in inevitable and vital relief efforts.

Speaking of SEIU Local 721 and Local 1021; these Locals lead our California environmental justice efforts to address climate change and minimize its negative effects on union members and all Californians, especially the under served and communities of color. Maribel Castillon, RN, PHN, the 2019 recipient of our Glenda Canfield award, is one example of a great nurse leader whose dedication improves the lives of those she serves and the community where she lives.

SEIU Nurse Alliance of California members continue to make preserving and improving the Affordable Care Act a reality for all Californians. You do this primarily in the public health system where most of our nurses work and by partnering with allies to address healthcare costs, quality and access through the state legislative or budget process. This could be in the foster care system or by lobbying for full practice authority for our Nurse Practitioners that would improve care to the under-served in California (AB 890 – Wood).

As union members you worked to ensure that hospitals follow Title 22 the staffing ratio law in order for nurses to provide safe patient care. SEIU Local 121RN (our private sector Local) led the way to the passage of SB 227 (Leyva), joining forces with all SEIU California nurses through State Council and the Nurse Alliance of California. This new law will cite hospitals that violate the law without having to put our patients at risk. You have nurses like Gayle Batiste, the nurses from her Local and actually all of your Locals to thank for SEIU nurses now having the ability to be the true patient advocates that you’ve always been so proud to be.

As patient advocates we recognize that our patients cannot be safe if the nurses that care for them aren’t; SEIU California nurses work to address safety standards through the Cal OSHA regulatory process. Your goal continues to be seeking regulations for safe ventilation during smoke generating procedures and workplace violence prevention – general industry. Nurses, like Marilyn Mara from SEIU Local 521, see the bigger picture as community advocates to protect immigrant families from the proposed Public Charge rule which rips away the medical and other critical programs that help families survive. She understands that this proposal is an attack on immigrant families and their right to healthcare, nutrition, housing and other vital services. Which is why she is using her most trusted voice as a nurse and professional to call out this injustice.

Our nurses advocate for their profession and patients through contract negotiations and memorandums of understanding with their employers that address safety issues, like mandatory overtime. Mandatory overtime was a condition of employment for our SEIU Local 1000’s state nurses. Nurses know that working excessive hours puts your patient’s safety and life at risk, not to mention the risk to the nurse’s well-being. You fought hard to eliminate this practice and we all look forward to the time when this practice is eliminated entirely.

You don’t limit your advocacy to just where you work or live. As nurse leaders, you address legislation on a national level by recognizing that the rights and protections that we enjoy here in California are needed nationally. Every nurse deserves to be able to practice their profession safely and every patient or client deserves to have safe, quality care. Registered Nurses, like Maria Elena Diaz, take that seriously when reaching out to members of Congress seeking support for The National Nurse Act of 2019 that would designate the Chief Nurse Officer of the US Public Health Service and elevate the authority and visibility of public health nursing. SEIU nurses have also lobbied on a national level for safe staffing and workplace violence prevention.

SEIU Nurse Alliance of California is proud to represent our 35,000 Registered Nurses and it’s impossible to highlight all of the amazing work that you do, but we wanted to give you an idea of what’s possible when you are a union nurse. SEIU nurses will continue to lead the way on issues that impact your patients, your practice, your health and safety or that of the communities you serve!

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SEIU, Flint Michigan, and YOU: Nurses in action to protect ourselves and our communities

It’s not an “over there” or “effecting them” issue; in fact, many communities are suffering at the hands of negligent leadership with respect to their drinking water.  The people of Flint are fighting for their health and for their communities, but most importantly, they are setting the stage for a national discussion on holding those we have elected to protect our infrastructure accountable, locally and nationally. Click here for a short presentation with helpful links to signs and symptoms you can look for in your day to day work (and home) environment.

The following summarizes some of the key points:

  • The timeline link shows the Flint drama unfolding from April 2014, when the water source was switched up through January of this year when the state of emergency was declared and the media coverage expanded from local, to regional and eventually to national coverage.
  • With the additional pressure by a vocal public, demanding awareness and scrutiny, a suspiciously corresponding outbreak of Legionaire’s Disease in the same region has been brought to light.
  • Mayo clinic has provided a guideline for signs and symptoms which you may leverage to say informed and vigilant.

FlintLivesMatterSo, what can we do about it as Nurses?

1/ Stay informed – Did you know that the National Patient Safety Foundation declared the week of March 13 – 19th as “National Patient Safety Week”, their website at http://www.unitedforpatientsafety.org/ has an informative blog containing news, and discussion pertaining to patient and community safety.

2/ Join the fight – This isn’t just about Flint. The Nurse Alliance of California wants you to know and be prepared for additional discoveries about local issues arising from leaders who are deliberately or ignorantly “asleep at the wheel”. Remember the Exide incident? The Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) has posted advice on preventing lead poisoning in children.

 

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The Time for Change is NOW: Nurse Alliance Stand Up

The movement is happening.  Between Black Lives Matter, the King v. Burwell ruling, or the Supreme court decision inspiring America to be lit up in rainbows, it has been quite a time into the beginning of July. We are now infinitely closer to true equality and peace on this planet, however, we all know, change doesn’t come easy, and it is through using our collective voice and inherent individual power to stand up for what we value.

Yes, the future is bright for unions, that is, as Margaret Mead would say, those individuals united and committed to higher goals than themselves.  Most inspiring is the overwhelming support to raise the minimum wage across the nation. A nationally local movement, we have seen cities take different stands on what they are committed to doing, with polls showing that 75% of Americans – including 53% of Republicans – supporting raising the national minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020. (1)  Recently, home care workers were approved for a $15 minimum in Massachusetts amidst national shortages for our aging populations. Locally, in Los Angeles, a minimum wage hike was approved on May 15, thanks in part from the organizing done by LAANE, RaisetheWage, and other organizations and individuals, who we stand in support with. While this progress is good, we must be committed to fighting for what all workers and citizens deserve.

 

Credit to LAANE

Ingela Dahlgren, Executive Director of SEIU Nurse Alliance of California, spoke at initial hearings before the $15 minimum was approved in Los Angeles and recently attended an Economic Development Committee meeting on the question of Paid Sick Leave. While there was a lot on the agenda, including Batman & Joker who joined the meeting to comment on the sorry state of affairs (more a distraction than anything) there was a huge turn out of support of workers, labor coalitions, and environmental organizations wearing face masks to show their support for workers that have no other choice than to go to work sick.  Rosa Lopez was one of those who spoke during public comment sharing how she was forced to work as a cook while she had the stomach flu despite her employer and colleagues knowing that she was sick. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the lack of paid sick leave as a public health crises. The public comment was limited to 10 minutes, 5 from each side, so we did not have the chance to share the nurse perspective, of all those individuals who have found themselves in a crises from being overworked and underpaid. However, you may read our public letter of support here.

For a low-income family, going just three days without wages is the equivalent to losing a month’s worth of groceries, not to mention the lack of affordable housing, just see this infographic. In contrast, it only costs employers an average of 26 cents an hour to provide paid sick leave. (2) As well, 90% of Los Angeles residents support mandatory paid sick leave. Despite the overwhelming support, the Council postponed voting on this measure until July 21st.

No doubt, we will continue to see many changes take place, as unions become more relevant than ever for organizing all to speak up for change against persistent institutions and protocols that are no longer relevant in this new landscape.  As we organize around our values, for the health and wellbeing of all, we will see a real positive influence. Feel free to share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook. We use the hashtag #NurseStrong in solidarity.

 

(1) http://www.raisetheminimumwage.com/blog/entry/new-poll-shows-overwhelming-support-for-substantial-minimum-wage-increase/

(2) http://www.laraisethewage.org/license

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Lifting LA: The Local Push Forward for Living Wages

Community Art for a Vision for the Future!

Community Art for a Vision for the Future!

There is no doubt you have heard about the fight for living wages by now, as protests sweep across the country to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. It seems like a no-brainer to those of us who have ever struggled to make ends meet, or even those of us who have witnessed the rising costs of living, especially in the metropolis of Los Angeles. Not to mention the lack of time-off, wage theft enforcement, and guaranteed sick days, as if these are all optional human considerations in this day and age.

Last week, Voices from the Valley and Well LA organized a story sharing of individuals who have witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of today’s working conditions. Ingela Dahlgren, SEIU Nurse Alliance of California’s Executive Director, was among the panel of participants who shared particularly moving and uniting stories that had everyone ready to protest and stand up for their rights by the end. The gathering was hosted at MEND Center for Poverty in Pacoima, CA, a lean nonprofit dedicated to providing food, clothing, healthcare, job services, and more to help break the bonds of poverty and create a self-reliant, caring community in the San Fernando Valley (SFV).

Voices from the Valley Panel from Right to Left: Lydia Flores, Single Mother, Mike Prysner, Veteran, Ingela Dahlgren, Nurse, Luke Ipolito, Moderator and MEND Volunteer, Galindo Lupe, Student, Laura Macias, Mother, Community Member, & McDonald's Employee

Voices from the Valley Panel from Right to Left: Lydia Flores (Single Mother), Mike Prysner (Veteran), Ingela Dahlgren (Nurse), Luke Ippolitto (Moderator and MEND Volunteer), Lupe Galindo (Student), Laura Macias (Mother, Community Member, & McDonald’s Employee)

The event kicked off with Council member Felipe Martinez speaking on his commitment to his community and constituents to raise the minimum wage. Listen on as we share the stories of your neighbors:

Lydia Flores is a single mother of an Autistic child and works as a Cashier at Smart & Final. Her work provides no sick days and she struggles with taking her child to the hospital yet also having enough to pay the bills. A mother shouldn’t have to chose between her child and surviving, especially when working full-time. This needs to change.

Mike Prysner is a recent veteran who was unable to find a job after coming home from service despite his best efforts. This is due to the lack of transition we have for our veterans in translating their combat skills to today’s world. Veterans are twice as likely to be unemployed, and 20% of those unemployed in this country are actually female veterans. This should not be the case for our hardworking brothers and sisters who come back after service to this country. This should be recognized.

Ingela Dahlgren had a few stories to share about the cases she has witnessed as a nurse, such as seeing four little girls come in progressively ill from a cold transforming into bronchitis and infections simply because their father and mother were unable to take any days off without risking being laid off. Another gentlemen lost his foot from progressive development of diabetes because he was unable to take off his work to get it checked out. The tragedy is that his right foot was his source of livelihood for controlling the forklift. She also spoke of her co-worker Rosa, who continually had to come in sick because her contracting company did not allow paid sick leave. It is unacceptable for any individual to disregard health issues for themselves or their family because their employers refuse to recognize the importance of personal safety and health. This is a grave disregard.

Lupe Galindo had a particularly emotional testimony as a student who was born and raised in SFV. She comes from a family who has struggled and her father was a victim of wage theft, the illegal withholding of wages or benefits that are rightfully owed. She told us all that, “I know there are families everyday who attend to others but cannot attend to themselves or their own family.” This is injustice.

Laura Macias had much to say in Spanish that was fortunately translated for all of us to understand, including her two children proudly listening in. She currently works at two separate McDonalds despite their poor treatment and stressful work environment. She has lived in Pacoima for 10 years and recalled that before moving there, all she heard about were how many problems there were in Pacoima, but that this wasn’t true in actuality. Their local high school graduation rate happens to be over 99%, one of the highest in the nation, with 95% going on to college, a true example of what community service and goodwill can accomplish. One day, when Laura asked her employer if she could leave her shift early to take her sick son to see the doctor, she was coldly told she would have to let them know a month in advance. Despite being an upstanding employee, her management retaliated by lowering her hours and not providing a single raise for three years. When the minimum wage was finally raised in 2009, her wage received only a .05 cent increase to match. Despite her calm poise at sharing this event, the shock and fury of the crowd was palpable . This cruel behavior should never be tolerated in the workplace and these corporations should be held accountable for their inhumane attitudes towards the employees who make their success possible. This will change.

By the end, we were all in agreement that this is our time to speak powerfully and that we should be proud to share our stories, never ashamed. Indeed, it is our right to live a good life, to be able to spend time with our families, and live stress free. As a union of California nurses, we are committed to standing up for the rights of all individuals and protecting their health and safety, including raising the minimum wage to provide relief to those who may be suffering. There is a shift developing; locally, nationally, and globally. This is just the beginning.

 

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Participating Community Members and Various Interfaith and Labor Organizations

 

Click here to sign Mayor Garcetti’s petition to #RAISETHEWAGELA

Check out RaisetheMinimumWage.com, a project of the National Employment Law Project, for more facts, media, and campaign resources.

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