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Nurses rally again to ask that Wall Street be taxed

The Digital Journal, 9/16/11

By Jonathan Farrell.

San Francisco - Over 1,000 registered nurses from all over the U.S. rallied in San Francisco on September 15 near the Federal Reserve Bank in an effort to step up the campaign to place a tax on Wall Street.

This is the second organized rally held in San Francisco this month as well as other locations dramatically asking that government officials consider taxing Wall Street transactions as a way to restore the national budget and to end the debt crisis.

The Rally on Thursday afternoon which began at 1:00 PM was part of a three-day convention in San Francisco at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis at 55 Fourth Street. California Gov. Jerry Brown, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, Canadian nurses union leader Linda Silas, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom were among the featured speakers.

The rally was to highlight the NNU’s ongoing campaign for a tax on Wall Street financial speculation to provide revenue for Main Street reforms, including jobs at living wages, guaranteed health-care for all, and freedom from hunger, homelessness, and retirement insecurity.

Local National Nurses United organizers were disappointed that their earlier efforts on Sept. 1 were not embraced by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi when rally participants that day at the New Federal Building in San Francisco tried to make an appeal and schedule a meeting.

Even this reporter tried to get comment from Pelosi's office, yet no statement was offered or later provided. Pelosi serves the 8th District of California of which San Francisco is a part of. She has talked about health-care reform. But this idea as presented by the National Nurses United, Pelosi and her staff will not comment upon.

Media rep for National Nurses United, Michael Lighty said that on the Sept. 1 rally only five people were allowed into the congresswoman's San Francisco office and staff would not discuss the idea of Wall Street taxation in any detail.

Yet the NNU seems undaunted because two weeks later they hold another rally. Why the persistence? "As nurses, we are advocates for our patients, said Martha Kuhl, RN. She talked to this reporter by phone after the rally on Sept. 1. She is an active member of NNU and has served NNU in various administrative positions over the years.

"This economic recession has had an impact upon the well-being of many people," she said. "Each day our nurses are witness to heart-wrenching accounts of people impacted by the results of the downturn in the economy." Kuhl has been a registered nurse at Children's Hospital in Oakland for more than 20 years.

"If we as a union can struggle to get a fair contract for ourselves, she said, then as caregivers we should promulgate a contract for everyone in these difficult times," said Kuhl. Because as she noted these times are affecting everyone.

She as Lighty, also mentioned that many nurses have become the breadwinner for not only their own immediate family but for extended family members too. This adds more strain upon the various types of family units and then puts a strain upon the rest of society as outreach services and infrastructure is cut back due to the budget deficit.

"If the government can make the effort to bail out the banking industry, said Kuhl why not help bail out the failing health care system or other important outreach services?"

Today's rally near the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco seemed most appropriate in light of Kuhl's statement. She reiterated the main reason for the Sept. 1 nationwide rally event that took place in 61 cities in 21 states. "We had these rallies in front of congressional leaders' offices as a way to "bring it home and make it real," said Kuhl.

What frighten's NNU members most is the fact that they are seeing the numbers of those without health care insurance rise. Nearly 45,000 deaths in the U.S. every year are associated with lack of health insurance, according to a study this year by Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance published by the American Journal of Public Health. The NNU is hoping that their efforts to get the proposal to tax Wall Street will reach the highest ranking in government.

The three-day convention in San Francisco which began on Sept. 14 to Sept. 16 is one of many outreaching efforts the NNU, which is the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses representing over 170,000 RNs.

At the convention’s opening that Wednesday night, delegates heard from California Gov. Jerry Brown who praised the nurses as “a very powerful force to communicate the truth to the people.”

Brown said the “big problems we face are the direct result of the mortgage banks meltdown. It was not created by nurses, or teachers or firefighters or police. It was created by the bankers and mortgage lenders,” adding the problem is “not too much regulation, but too little. Canadian banks did better because they had more regulation.”

NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said nurses are increasingly alarmed at what they see happening with patients and families, including reports of suicide by people in economic distress. Too many people blame themselves, not Wall Street, for the economic crisis, she said, adding, that may be “the most extreme coup of Wall Street.”

This reporter tried to reach Gov. Jerry Brown's office in Sacramento for further comment on the convention and Thursday's rally. But the phone line was busy all day on Sept. 15, the day of the follow up rally on Main and Market Streets at the Embarcadero near San Francisco's Financial District.

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