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Nurses Open Letter to Wisconsinites – Carry on!

, 6/4/11

The fight in Wisconsin continues to be an on-going an inspiration to the entire nation. As a registered nurse for 37 years, I have been part of a proud tradition of protest as well. My number one priority, as it is for all nurses, is to advocate for my patients. This is a daily struggle we must wage against corporate insurance and hospitals that care more about the bottom line than patient care. As nurses we fight every day for our patients—by marching on our administrators, disrupting our halls of government, and protesting in the streets.

Our victories benefit our patients and our communities. In  just the last week NNU nurses around the country have waged fights and won improved standards for patients and gains for nurses  at two large public university hospital systems in Chicago and California. These victories came after long fights by nurses to defend their patients and themselves, in the public sector where many workers have been wrongly forced to accept concessions. Nurses won when we waged a long fight in California for the first safe staffing legislation in the country. And when then Governor Schwarzenegger tried to stop it in the courts, we fought back by shaming him at every public event he went to around the country. We won, protecting patient safe staffing levels and setting a standard for the nation.

Democracy goes far beyond voting and recalls. In order to protect and preserve our rights under a democracy we have an obligation to stand against injustice, to hold those we elect accountable to protect the public good.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker and other corporate-backed Republicans tricked the public by saying nothing about their “Reverse Robbin’ Hood” agenda during their campaign – unleashing their attacks only after Walker was safely in office. This budget is not for the public good, and it’s not about the deficit. It’s about taking from the most vulnerable; seniors, students, disabled, farmers, and the poor, and giving to corporations and the rich, and increasing spending to make that happen.

This all out assault on Wisconsin’s values goes so far as to consolidate this governor intent to sell off our public utilities for corporate gain, with no protections on future rate increases for consumers.  Why not instead raise $2 billion dollars by closing corporate tax loopholes and ensuring banks that caused the crisis pay their bills. When we see policies that are morally bankrupt, we must speak out and take action.

Protest to stop this budget is happening right now, in the hearing rooms and outside the capitol,  following in the footsteps of the Wisconsin farmer’s 1933 statewide milk strike for fair prices, the Madison Teachers’ 1976  strike forcing the state to adopt binding arbitration, and the 1999 five-day sit-in by students at UW-Madison to adopt anti-sweatshop policies. Our rich history shows we win through organized resistance and it is a roadmap for us today. We continued to build that history and a movement for social justice when we refused to leave the capitol and continue to protest the budget.

While the corporate interests that oppose us have deep pockets, we are the people and there’s more of us than them. If we stand for our community and the public good, we will build this movement to win today and for years to come. Join us to stop this morally bankrupt budget and fight for a contract for Main Street NOT Wall Street.

 Jean Ross, RN, is a co-president for National Nurses United. With 170,000 RNs in every state, (including more than 2,000 in WI,) NNU is the largest union and professional association for RNs in U.S. history.
With the erosion of living standards for many, and new attacks almost daily from Wall Street-funded politicians, all Americans need a new contract, a binding relationship for their security, for their families, and for future generations. To achieve these goals, NNU has launched a Main Street Campaign for the American People. For more information: http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/mainstreet

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