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Historic “Lone Star Rebellion” Organizing Drive Backdrop for 2011 Legislative Push By Texas RNs

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For Immediate Release
January 10, 2011

Nurses to Support Safe Staffing, Whistleblower Rights, Workplace Violence Prevention and Public Health Protections
RNs From Across State to Gather Simultaneously in El Paso in Support

Capping a historic year that saw nearly 2,000 registered nurses at five Texas hospitals vote to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas, an affiliate of National Nurses United, RNs will hold a media availability at the state Capitol on the legislature’s opening day to discuss their legislative agenda for 2011.  NNU now represents 160,000 nurses nationally, and is the fastest-growing union by far in the nation and the state.

Nurses from hospitals across the state will gather that same day in El Paso to announce broad-based support among Texas RNs  for the urgent patient safety legislation and proposals that will be unveiled in Austin.  Many of these same nurses will the next day enter negotiations for a new statewide contract with major hospital chain HCA.

WHAT: Members of Texas’ Nursing Union Hold Media Availability on 2010 Legislative Agenda
WHERE: Texas State Capitol, Room E1018, “House Conference Room A”
WHEN: Tuesday, January 11, 3:00 p.m. central
WHAT: RNs From Across Texas Gather to Support Lone Star Patient Safety Agenda
WHERE:
St. Francis Xavier Church, 519 S. Latta St., El Paso, TX
WHEN: Tuesday, January 11, 3:00 p.m. mountain


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The nurses will focus their legislative efforts this year on issues to strengthen patient safety and the state’s nursing corps, including:

  • A campaign to bring safe nurse-to-patient ratios to Texas hospitals. Research has proven decisively that when patients do not have appropriate access to their nurse, outcomes suffer.  Legislation to be introduced in Texas, and around the country, aims to guarantee appropriate nurse staffing by setting a maximum safe nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals.
  • A bill to protect nurse whistleblowers from retaliation by their doctor—or their hospital.  After a widely-reported scandal in Kermit, Texas has become a national symbol of the danger nurses can find themselves in for patient advocacy.  This danger places nurses in a terrible conundrum, whether to violate their professional obligation to stand up for their patients, or to put their jobs at risk.  The state’s current “Safe Harbor” law is a failure.
  • Legislation to prevent workplace violence, an ongoing epidemic for nurses in Texas.  In one 2002 study, for example, 82 percent of nurses in emergency departments indicated that they had been physically assaulted during the past year, while a 2004 study of Massachusetts nurses found more than 50 percent had been punched in the previous two years.
  • A demand that the state protect and improve the public health system that millions of Texans rely upon every year.  Nurses dismiss calls by some to dismantle or undermine Medicare and other programs as “heartless and dangerous.”


“Nurses have never had a voice in Texas, and we are excited now, finally, to have the chance to put forth a positive vision of a nurses’ agenda built on caring, compassion, and community.  For too long, patient safety has taken a back seat in the statehouse, and we will not allow that to continue,” said LaVaughn Renner, an RN from Corpus Christi.

“People say we can’t do it.  People say we cannot pass laws to protect patient in this state.  Well you know what?  People also said Texas would never become a new epicenter of national movement to unionize nurses, and they were wrong.  And here’s what we say—our patients, who are also voters, know that nurses are on their side and politicians aren’t.   We are going to bring these protections to Texas,” said Gwen Agbatekwe, an RN from Austin.

“People are hurting and our healthcare system is stretched thin,” said Chris Williams, an RN from Houston.  “Now is the time to invest in our people, invest in our communities, invest in our health, and make a commitment to do what is right.  This legislature will literally have life and death power over patients, and they must do the right thing.”

NNU leaders called the 2010 organizing sweep a milestone in the long held dream of working people to expand representation in the region and organize the South, key steps that are central to promoting the growth of unions and the advance of social reforms in the U.S., including these patient protections.

“This is a historic moment for nurses and patients in Texas and the nation,” said NNU co-President Deborah Burger, RN.  “The Texas RNs have broken through in achieving collective action and representation in Texas and the ultimate beneficiaries will be the patients whose outcomes improve from safer and sounder care.”

The largest RN union and professional association in U.S. history, NNU has also achieved a stunning string of election wins from Nevada to Texas to Florida since its founding in December, 2009 which united the nation’s leading RN organizations, the California Nurses Association/NNOC, Massachusetts Nurses Association, and United American Nurses.

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