Historic NNU delegation to G20 protests in Europe

By Jill Furillo, RN
November 3, 2011

NNU has entered a new era in becoming part of an international campaign to advocate on behalf of not only our patients and Main Street communities at home, but people in crisis around the world, and to hold Wall Street and other global financial institutions accountable to heal our nations.

Activities by an NNU delegation to the G-20 summit of world leaders in France November 3 capped the final leg of three days of international actions, organized by an unprecedented number of trade union, environmental, NGO, student, and anti-poverty organizations, all protesting the G-20 summit and the global economic crisis. Nurse organizations from four continents, at the initiative of NNU, were front and center in these actions.

Our year long campaign calling for a tax on Wall Street financial transactions to help raise needed revenue to fund programs like healthcare for all, good jobs, quality public education and other social needs to address the plight of American communities has converged incredibly with global efforts by the international labor community, and non-governmental (NGO) organizations like Oxfam and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to pass a “Robin Hood” financial transaction tax (FTT) to address needs including poverty and social development.

In France
Jill Furillo, RN and other NNU nurses march in Cannes, France to urge
international support for a Financial Transaction Tax. See more images here.

On Tuesday, November 1, an international delegation of nurses, including RNs from France, Korea, Ireland, Australia, and the US (NNU) lead the contingent of the CGT, a trade union confederation representing over 700,000 French workers, in a massive march through the streets of Nice, protesting the G-20.

NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro addressed the crowd from a flatbed truck, calling upon the G-20 countries to pass the FTT to fund social services throughout the world, and was loudly cheered by environmental, trade union, and community groups – all ecstatic that we were all fighting the same fight.

On Wednesday, our delegation participated in an a.m. press conference in a large hospital in Cannes, organized by the CFDT – another huge trade union federation representing over 825,000 workers in France. Together, all of the nurses spoke in support of the French nurses and healthcare workers who are fighting the austerity plans of French President Sarkozy, who proposes to cut 10% of healthcare services, eroding staffing standards and harming the national healthcare system.

French press conference
An international group of nurses and Oxfam spokesman and actor Bill
Nighy during a press conference at the G20 summit in Cannes, France
promoting a Financial Transaction Tax.
See more images here.

Each group spoke to the importance of solidarity in our commitment to push for the FTT in the international arena. Our group participated in several discussions with these unions about strategies for future actions and shared stories of our recent actions that have built this movement in our respective countries to date. We met simultaneously with NGO's from numerous countries on collective strategies to move the FTT forward.

On Thursday, we gathered with representatives from   Public Services International, which represents 20 million public service workers in 150 countries,  the International Trade Union Confederation, the umbrella federation representing the labor movements in all the G-20 nations, WWF, and well known British actor and Oxfam Global Ambassador Bill Nighy, to host a press event. It featured a spirited skit displaying the unique role nurses are playing in advocating for the FTT, as a first step in funding social services, healthcare, a healthy environment, and jobs and education programs.

Nurses petition Senate FInance
Nurses present more than 300,000 petition signatures to staffers of the Senate
Finance Committee in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 3 as part a global day of action
in support of a Financial Transaction Tax. See more images here.

Our actions garnered extensive press. We were also invited to address an international gathering of the ITUC who applauded our leadership in building momentum for passage of the FTT. We also had a great meeting with the leadership of the Robin Hood Tax group who frankly, love the nurses.

These events have placed NNU at the center of the international movement to pass the FTT. Many of the groups mentioned above have been watching our work on this issue in the United States with our Main Street Contract campaign, our marches in front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in May, our large rally on Wall Street in June, our Sept. 1 events in front of 60 Congressional offices, and our work in supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement – including providing first aid to occupiers while bringing the message of the FTT to that movement.

As we concluded the international events on November 3, nurses rallied simultaneously in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles, again, garnering national and international press coverage.

Nurses call for Financial Transaction Tax
Nurses march in Los Angeles as part of a global day of action November 3
to push political leaders to support a FInancial Transaction Tax. See more images here.

Our work on this issue is respected and admired globally, and we will continue to engage in the international arena because it will take international solidarity to hold Wall Street accountable and pass the FTT.

Building these international relationships will be fundamental to ensuring our success in challenging global corporate giants, from the banks to the healthcare industry,  to change national and international priorities, and ensure that policies are implemented throughout the world that put protect our communities.

Jill Furillo, RN, is the National Bargaining Director for National Nurses United