Nurses Chart Course for New National Organization 

Leaders of 60,000 RNs Adopt Principles, Goals for New Group

[The following press release was posted on the Internet May 23, 2001. It is particularly significant that the principles of the new organization include: “Support for universal health care, with establishment of a single-payer style national healthcare program.” That demand, which is a central part of the Labor Party program, has found a strong advocate in the California Nurses Association (CNA), a Labor Party founder and ongoing affiliate. The CNA has also played an instrumental role in current moves toward a new, more militant national nurses organization.]

Leaders of nurses organizations representing over 60,000 registered nurses in California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Missouri met in Baltimore today to chart a course for creating a new national organization of direct care registered nurses (RNs).

Top elected representatives of the California Nurses Association, Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA), and United Health Care Workers (UHCW) of Greater St. Louis, participated in the Baltimore meeting.

Together the RN leaders endorsed the goal of establishing a national organization, a patient advocacy set of principles, and initial actions each group will recommend to its members for adoption. The next meeting of the leaders will be June 22 in Chicago.

Key goals include initiating national legislation to address the specific needs of direct care nurses, such as HR 1289, a national bill to ban mandatory overtime that the groups are already sponsoring, and promoting union organizing of unrepresented nurses.

One first step would be to establish an organizing institute to train nurse activists on how to achieve union representation in non-union facilities and to assist collective activity for nurses who are already represented.

Among other functions would be to coordinate communications, public relations, education and research, and support for collective bargaining campaigns, especially in battles with multi-state employers.

Proposed principles of the new organization include:

Leaders of the groups enthusiastically welcomed the results of the meeting.

“It’s time to build a new, powerful national voice for the nurses who are on the front line providing hands-on patient care 24 hours a day,” said CNA President Kay McVay, RN.

“With the relentless assault by managed care and the health care industry on patient care conditions and working nurses, it is vital that nurses have their own organization to advocate for the changes we need for our patients and our profession.”

“Today’s step will fill the long existing void for the voice of the registered nurses providing direct care,” said Denise Garlick, RN, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “0As nurse activists and patient advocates, the MNA welcomes the new progressive and unequivocal voice to be expressed by clear initiatives targeted to meet the needs of direct care nurses and their patients.”  

“Nurses and their organizations are building new alliances with one another and the public to once again have a health care system that places patients before profits and the bottom line,” said Teri Evans, RN, president of PASNAP.

“Maine nurses want national visibility,” said Pat Philbrook, RN, executive director of the Maine State Nurses Association. “We’re looking for partners who share our goals: a ban on mandatory overtime, a ban on latex gloves, which cause allergies to patients and nurses, nurse patient ratios according to acuity, and money for nursing education loans.”

“UHCW is proud to have the opportunity to work on a national level with some of the most progressive nurse leaders in this nation,” said Sharon Penrod, RN, UHCW president. “This new organization will be instrumental in establishing health care reform and gaining the respect and dignity that nurses deserve. Florence Nightingale would be proud.”

“I see this as an exciting time with staff nurses standing strong and united nationally,” said Karen Higgins, RN, chair of the MNA’s Cabinet for Labor Relations. “We are moving forward, taking a progressive stand in the health care arena to assure patients safe care, and that nurses will be at the bedside delivering that care.”

The move to create a new national organization follows recent votes by both the Massachusetts and Maine RNs to disaffiliate from the American Nurses Association (ANA), an organization both groups said does not adequately address the concerns of direct care nurses. MNA members voted by 83%, Maine nurses by 89% to leave the ANA.

HR 1289, which would prohibit mandatory overtime for licensed health care employees, typifies the more forceful approach that is needed, the organizations say, to crack down on dangerous working conditions that threaten patient safety and drive frustrated nurses away from the hospital bedside, contributing to a national hospital nursing shortage. Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), and Hilda Solis (D-CA) introduced the bill at the request of CNA, MNA, and PASNAP.

Similarly, the organizations are exchanging information and assisting with national and statewide approaches to require safe staffing standards, and other legislation, nursing practice reforms, and collective bargaining strategies to improve patient care conditions, and the ability of nurses to advocate for their patients.  

Contacts: Charles Idelson, California Nurses Association, 510-273-2246.
David Schildmeier, Massachusetts Nurses Association, 781-830-5717.
Teri Evans or Bill Cruice, Pennsylvania, 610-567-2907.
Pat Philbrook, Maine State Nurses Association, 207-622-1057.
Sharon Penrod, Missouri, 314-531-2900.