Legislative

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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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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The ACA is Here to Stay

WASHINGTON, D.C.–SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry issued this statement today in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in King v. Burwell that upholds the availability of tax credits through the Affordable Care Act for eligible Americans in all 50 states to purchase health insurance.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold the tax credits affirms that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Nearly 90 percent of the men, women, and children in this country now have access to affordable insurance and can get the preventive care they need, and refill lifesaving medications. This ruling should send a strong message to Republican leaders in Congress, once and for all, just how out of touch they are in their ongoing efforts to undermine the law, and it’s time to get to work on expanding care to the 10 percent left out.”

“In the last five years, extremist Republicans have tried and failed through two Supreme Court cases and 56 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and have no plan for a replacement. Not one man or woman, grandparent or child, has gained healthcare coverage from these efforts. It’s the very law that extremists are trying to do away with–Obamacare– that has increased access to care for millions.

“Despite the relentless attacks by extremist Republicans to undermine the Affordable Care Act, there is no denying the law’s success: more Americans have healthcare coverage than at any time on record; individuals can no longer be dropped by an insurance company because of a pre-existing condition such as asthma or high blood pressure; women can no longer be charged more for their coverage; and 137 million women and men are benefiting from preventive care.

“After her husband passed away five years ago from a lengthy illness that forced the family into bankruptcy, Claudette Newsome of Houston, Texas, wanted nothing more than to stay healthy for her two young daughters. Thanks to the $385 per month tax credit she receives, she’s been able to afford insurance for her whole family, while continuing to pay student loans from the classes she’s taken to further her career. Now, because of this decision, she can continue to take charge of her health, keeping her healthcare coverage, her scheduled checkups and regular mammograms.

“And for Marilyn Ralat-Albernas, a registered nurse in Florida, the law isn’t about politics. It’s about the noticeable improvements in babies’ health and moms’ readiness to care for their infants because amilies have access to affordable coverage. Women are having regular prenatal exams, ultrasounds to track fetal development, and are becoming better educated about caring for their baby following delivery.

“Millions of Americans regardless of political party are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act and it’s time for congressional Republicans to stop trying to take away health and financial peace of mind the law brings to our country’s working families.

“Working families will remember who fought against the ACA, who greased the gears for attacks against it in the courts, and which politicians have voted to repeal the law without offering a single plausible plan as a replacement. In 2016, the extremists who are risking the healthcare of millions of people will be held responsible.”

Call 855-728-5215 right now to tell Republicans in Congress it’s time to stop playing politics. Obamacare is working and it’s time to move forward. 

Share the good news on Facebook with this graphic.

8 million Americans still covered after King v. Burwell ruling

 

 

For Media Inquiries:

Karen Backus: 404-229-7592, karen.backus@seiu.org; Beau Boughamer: 202-765-9143, beau.boughamer@seiu.org

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King v. Burwell: Nurses Stand for Affordable Healthcare

Washington, D.C. – A group of healthcare professionals and SEIU members submitted an amicus brief in King v. Burwell on Wednesday to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of working families throughout America. The case under consideration challenges the power of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to issue tax credits to millions of working Americans who enroll in private health insurance through the federal healthcare exchange. The tax credits have meant that millions of working women and men in approximately 36 states have gained affordable, quality healthcare under the law and can now see a doctor, afford lifesaving prescription drugs, and be free of the fear of medical bankruptcy.

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The healthcare professionals are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), America’s largest healthcare union, which joined them in filing the brief.

The “friend of the court” brief takes apart the so-called “carrot and stick” premise presented by the petitioners of the court by making it clear that Congress never intended to present a “carrot” to incentivize states, nor a “stick” to penalize Americans in states that did not create and run their own state exchanges. Furthermore, the brief shows this theory is simply a politically motivated fabrication, not supported by the text of the law, by its purpose, by its legislative history, or by the understanding of any state when making the choice whether to create and operate its own state exchange.

SEIU member Marcus Sandling, M.D, signed on to the amicus brief to tell the court the risks are too high for the patients he sees in his internal medicine residency in a New Jersey hospital. “When patients can actually afford health insurance, it makes it much easier for them to develop a real relationship with their doctor,” Sandling said. “Patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes or hypertension become much more proactive about getting preventive care because they know they can afford to do it. In short, the law is working and as a physician, I’d hate to see these gains jeopardized by a court case.”

According to healthcare experts, healthcare coverage for more than 8 million working people hangs in the balance in this case, as well as the risk that healthcare premiums would increase dramatically–by as much as 35 percent–for many more Americans.

The court will hear oral arguments in the case March 4 and SEIU nurses, doctors and healthcare workers will be there to share their stories of how the law is improving the health of their patients.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said, “We are confident the law was written to improve the lives of all Americans, no matter where they live or where they work, and the court will not allow a political agenda to endanger the health of so many working people who are counting on the affordable healthcare the law delivers.”

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