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Nurses union urges Wall Street tax at NATO meeting

Modern Healthcare, 5/23/12

Former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello (center stage) performs at nurse rally to tax Wall Street in Chicago, May 18.

By Ashok Selvam,
Posted: May 18, 2012 - 3:30 pm ET

The country's largest nurses union Friday afternoon pushed for a tax of Wall Street profits before a crowd of thousands in downtown Chicago at a protest aimed at the NATO summit.

The National Nurses United rally concluded with an acoustic solo performance by former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who's known for his union support.

“It's overwhelming, this is a phenomenal demonstration of the frustration that's happening in society,” union Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said of the response on Chicago's Daley Plaza.

DeMoro previously said NNU paid to bring 900 nurses from across the country to protest the NATO meetings, which take place Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, not only did nurses wear their red scrubs—as they usually do during rallies or strikes—but this time many of them wore green felt hats with a feather meant to evoke Robin Hood, the fictional character who famously robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.

The union is pushing a Wall Street tax that would charge money on financial transactions, and they are using the archer as their mascot. Taxing the wealthy with a Robin Hood Tax would be the best way to eliminate government budget deficits, the union reasons.

Local Chicago community organizers, including members of the Occupy movement, Chicago teachers and the Nation organized labor reporter John Nichols appeared with DeMoro and union members onstage.

NNU decided to target Chicago late last year when the G8 summit was originally scheduled. Federal officials later moved that conference to Camp David in Maryland. DeMoro and other speakers at Friday's demonstration said G8 organizers were afraid of the nurses union. NNU took credit on Friday for forcing organizers to move the G8.

The crowd danced, chanted and sang under sunny skies with no outward signs of violence. Rally organizers struggled with securing permits before Chicago officials finally allowed the event to take place. Morello's former band is known for raucous crowds, and city officials had said they had safety concerns.

DeMoro and other union officials said the NATO summit provided an ideal forum for the union, especially as nurses aren't pro-war.

“I think that in general, nurses are a peaceful people, a loving people, and I don't think they like war,” DeMoro said. “I don't think you'll find a nurse that thinks war is good. Nurses are healers. They want the money to be in the hospitals and in the communities. They want people taken care of, they don't like war as a priority of this country.”

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