NYSNA votes to join NNU
This historic affiliation grows the national movement of nurses, advancing interests of patients, RNs
By Chuleenan Svetvilas
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and National Nurses United (NNU) proudly announced in November that the New York nurses overwhelmingly voted to affiliate with NNU, to mutually grow and strengthen the power of nurses within the state and nationally to advocate for themselves and their patients. The vote came at NYSNA’s annual convention, where elected leaders in every NYSNA-represented facility in the state come together to decide the strategic direction of the union.
NYSNA’s nearly 42,000 members will increase NNU’s membership to nearly 225,000 nurses, and will also bring NYSNA into the AFL-CIO, of which NNU is already a member union. NYSNA, the oldest nurses association in the country and one of the most influential nurses unions, will gain greater resources and capacity, particularly in the federal arena, by joining NNU.
The two organizations are well aligned in their approaches to powerful representation on behalf of nurses and the profession, supporting efforts such as creating strong workplace standards to protect nurses from infectious diseases like Covid-19, establishing federal safe staffing laws, holding employers responsible for preventing workplace violence, and fighting for health care justice in our wider society.
NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, RN said, “Covid-19 has shown that nurses nationwide face the same issues and challenges at work. There is strength in numbers and a NYSNA affiliation with NNU will strengthen our fight to protect nurses, our patients, and our communities. It’s unifying us, making us stronger. We are thrilled that this affiliation connects us more closely to the national and international labor movement, which is essential to improving the lives of working people.”
“This is a huge victory for nurses across the country,” said Deborah Burger, RN and RN, and a member of NNU’s Council of Presidents. “Together we will have even more collective power to advance nursing and patient protections across the country. We really have the clout to bring many issues to the forefront. Health care executives and CEOs and the health insurance companies and big pharma should be terrified of it... because we have now joined forces, we’re essentially unstoppable.”
“This is a great day for nurses in New York and across the country,” said Jean Ross, RN, also an NNU president. “I don’t think you can overestimate the significance. NYSNA is already a powerhouse in its own right and has done such an amazing job representing nurses in New York. We are honored they have voted to join forces with us in building our national movement of nurses to fight for our profession, our patients, and the health of our communities.”
NYSNA First Vice President Dr. Judith Cutchin, RN of NYC Health+Hospitals/ Woodhull said, “Nurses throughout the country are rising up and demanding change. NNU is a trailblazing union that has a track record of winning respect for nurses and winning safe staffing ratios in California. Together, we will work to change policies and address important issues that affect nurses and our patients at the city, state, and national levels. This affiliation is going to really make a lot of difference for NYSNA.”
“This is really significant on the national level, the nurse labor movement level,” said Patricia Kane, RN and executive director of NYSNA. “But also for me, it’s really significant personally...I’ve been a member of NYSNA since 1986 and was really involved in the movement. When I joined NYSNA, we really weren’t part of any national union, we were part of the American Nurses Association. And I was really part of a movement with a group of nurses to become part of the broader labor movement. So for me...this feels like I’m coming home.”
“Nurses are stronger when we work collectively,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN and executive director of National Nurses United. “Our solidarity is what makes it possible to challenge injustice and inequity in our workplaces and in the health of our society. We could not be more proud to now be fighting this fight alongside New York nurses.”
NYSNA Second Vice President Marion Enright, RN, of Nathan Littauer Hospital, said, “Working in a hospital in a rural area of New York State that once had low union density, I know firsthand how building union power helps nurses win better conditions and advocate more effectively for their patients. Together, NYSNA and NNU have the power to fix our broken health care system, protect our patients, and put an end to the staffing crisis.”
“As one big union, we will be more successful because we will have strength in numbers, and we will have the loudest voice ever,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and an NNU president. “NYSNA has been known for their...elegant militancy, just like the nurses in NNU. We will be able to fight together for all the issues that we have been fighting for: social justice, Medicare for All, and equality overall.”
NYSNA Secretary Nella Pineda-Marcon, RN of Mount Sinai Morningside said, “NYSNA and NNU share the goal of transforming our health care system so that it puts patients over profits and delivers quality care to all. We are also committed to address and heal the broader social, economic, racial, and climate injustices that fuel illness in our patients and society.”
“I am so elated and excited to have NYSNA as part of the NNU family,” said Cathy Kennedy, RN and a president of California Nurses Association, an NNU affiliate. “This just makes us stronger. We are determined to have nurse-to-patient ratios across this nation along with workplace violence prevention protections so that they’re no different in California than they are in New York or Mississippi.”
NNU’s other affiliate nursing organizations include California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, District of Columbia Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, and Minnesota Nurses Association, which engaged in the largest nurses strike in U.S. history in September.
Chuleenan Svetvilas is a communications specialist at National Nurses United.