TIME FOR A MAIN STREET CONTRACT FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
- Jobs at living wages to reinvest in America
- Equal access to quality, public education
- Guaranteed healthcare for all
- A secure retirement, with the ability to retire in dignity
- Good housing and protection from hunger
- A safe, clean, and healthy environment
- A just taxation system where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share
RNs who are members of NNU write to us every week with moving stories about how the financial crisis has put a patient, loved one, or even themselves in a deeply vulnerable position - at risk of losing jobs, homes, and family members to untreated illnesses. We often share these stories (with permission only) with lawmakers to highlight the importance of taking action.
Read “Out of Work, Out of Luck”: Robert Kuttner on Robert Pollin’s Compelling New Book “Back to Full Employment”
The government has the tools to help remedy the jobs crisis, so why isn't it doing anything?
Jobs at living wages for everyone
Economic opportunity has become a mirage for far too many Americans, especially with the sharp drop in manufacturing jobs in this economy. While corporate profits have soared, and income disparity is at the highest point since the Great Depression, wages for most working people have fallen or stagnated. The “working poor” are fast becoming the norm — one in three American families lives at twice the poverty level or less — exactly why so many people struggle to meet housing costs, food, medical bills, and other basic needs. The “official” unemployment rate of nearly 9 percent fails to include the real long-term jobless rate, which exceeds 17 percent. Workers’ wages are not the problem — they are the drivers of our economy.
Guaranteed healthcare for all
Enactment of a national law has not solved the healthcare crisis. Healthcare costs for American families have doubled in the past nine years. Medical bills account for more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies. Big insurance giants deny more than one-fourth of all claims. More employers are dropping or reducing health coverage and shifting more costs to employees. Growing numbers of people delay basic medical care, waiting until they arrive in overcrowded emergency rooms. Children are showing symptoms of diseases long associated with adults. Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. Nurses have long fought for a more humane healthcare system, based on individual patient need, not ability to pay. The only solution remains expanding and improving Medicare to cover everyone, with a single standard of care for all.
A secure retirement, with the ability to retire in dignity
Nearly half of elderly Americans face a future at or below the poverty line. For African-American seniors that number is two in three. Yet leaders in both major parties have proposed big reductions in our most significant retirement programs, Social Security and Medicare, while state and city governments and private employers alike seek to sharply cut pensions and other retirement plans. We must keep the promise made to Americans and assure that we will never return to the days when our seniors, who have given a life of service, must work far into their retirement years or face a future of poverty, homelessness, and health insecurity. The pensions of workers, destroyed or undermined by Wall Street’s casino culture, should not be reduced to satisfy those same Wall Street financiers.
Equal access to a quality education
Mirroring other disparities in our society, slots in major universities and colleges are increasingly being taken by the wealthiest American families. Across the nation, public schools have seen budgets severely cut, and a number of governors and legislators are seeking to privatize or contract out education, limiting access for many. The U.S. continues to fall behind other countries in educational equality and opportunity, symbolized by the UNICEF report last December ranking the U.S. just 19th among industrial nations in education well-being for our children. Teachers are not the enemy, they are essential to quality public education.
Good housing and protection from hunger
One in five children in the U.S. today lives in poverty. Nearly 700,000 homes were foreclosed, just in the 10 most populous states, in the first quarter of 2011 alone. Homelessness, substandard housing, hunger, and near hunger exist in every American city and are on the rise. Some 15 percent of U.S. households, 17.4 million families or about 50 million people, were too poor to buy adequate food last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than a third of these households, with as many as one million children, were missing meals on a regular basis, the study found. Rising food prices are fueled by Wall Street speculation in commodities, enriching the financiers and increasing hunger.
A just taxation system where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share
Corporate profits in 2010 increased at the fastest rate in 60 years. Nearly 90 percent of the total income growth over the past 25 years has gone to the wealthiest 10 percent. CEOs now are paid as much as 344 times as much as the average worker. Yet Congress and the White House last December extended tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Many legislators continue to call for reducing corporate taxes — even though a General Accounting Office study found that 42 percent of large U.S. companies paid no U.S. income taxes for two or more years the past decade. U.S.-based corporations are rewarded for earning and reinvesting profits in foreign countries. It is long past time to restore a fair taxation system.
- TAKE THE PLEDGE for a better America
- SHARE YOUR STORY of Economic Hardship, and then READ STORIES from Main Street.
- WRITE a letter to your local newspaper
- DOWNLOAD the Main Street Contract toolkit
- SUGGEST community allies and groups
- FOLLOW @ProtestInTheUSA on Twitter, and KEEP UP TO DATE on actions at ProtestInTheUSA.org
- LEARN more about the Financial Transaction Tax
- SHARE this campaign with friends and social networks
What’s behind the attacks on working people?
The modest pensions and health benefits we have earned, the pay that supports our families, the improved conditions for our patients did not deplete public treasuries or jeopardize the survival of our employers. The banks and other financial giants did — and were rewarded with bailouts and bonuses while our communities pay the price. Over the past 30 years, while wages have fallen or stagnated and insurance premiums and other basic costs skyrocketed, wealth has been shifted from working families to Wall Street. It’s not shared sacrifice when only working people make concessions.
- Corporate taxes are at historical lows. Yet $1.6 trillion, corporate profits for the third quarter of 2010 were the highest on record.
- Hospitals nationally recorded $34 billion in profits in 2009, the second highest ever.
- 42 percent of U.S. companies paid no U.S. income taxes for two or more years from 1998 to 2005.
- The average CEO who was paid $27 for every dollar earned by an employee 25 years ago now gets a ratio of about $275 to $1.
Nurses on the Front Lines of the Struggle
From Wisconsin to Michigan to Maine, RNs are joining the fight to resist state laws and budget proposals to silence our collective voices, reduce our retirement security, our health coverage, and our living standards, and the federal attacks on Social Security and Medicare. Similar threats come from healthcare employers who seek to take advantage of the economic crisis to roll back achievements in RN staffing, pay, and benefits that nurses have fought so hard to win. The fight for our communities is our fight. Nurses know that when healthcare, pensions, safety net programs, or education is cut for anyone, everyone is harmed. Nurses bring patients into the world, now we must fight to protect them — and assure a better quality of life and a secure future for our communities, our patients, our families, and ourselves.