COVID-19 fallouts spurs action from National Nurses United
As firsthand witnesses and actual victims during this COVID-19 crisis of a health care and economic system that prioritizes money over people, registered nurse members of National Nurses United (NNU) held a National Day of Action on August 5, comprising more than 200 actions inside and outside hospital facilities in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia to demand that our elected leaders, government, and hospital employers take immediate action to save lives
“Nurses know that this country’s rampant social, economic, and racial injustice has been killing our patients all along. COVID-19 is just forcing us as a society to face these problems,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN and NNU executive director. “These recent COVID surges and uncontrolled infections and deaths, the failure of employers to protect our nurses and other workers, the outrageously high rates of unemployment and hunger, the totalitarian crackdown on protesters… every crisis we are seeing now can be traced back to our failure to value human lives over profit.”
Nurses advocate for their patients at all levels. Inside hospital walls, nurses want employers to protect nurses, other health care workers, and patients by following proper infection control practices, which include providing optimal PPE and a safe workload of patients. Outside hospital walls, nurses want Congress to help struggling households by urgently passing legislation to extend COVID economic benefits that expired in July, for our government to invest in the public health of our communities, and for a dismantling of the structural racism that prematurely and disproportionately ends the lives of Black, Indigenous, people of color — whether it is by COVID or at the hands of police violence.
RNs are demanding that the Senate pass the HEROES Act, a pending bill they are backing that would not only protect health care and other essential workers by ensuring domestic production of PPE through the Defense Production Act and by mandating that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration establish an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases, but also provide desperately needed economic help in the form of cash payments, extended unemployment benefits, and daycare subsidies through the end of 2020 to families on the brink.
“Nurses are still at risk,” said Mary C. Turner, an intensive care unit RN and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, whose members are participating in the actions. “We still reuse PPE that was meant to be discarded. We still care for COVID-19 patients and non-COVID patients at the same time. And we still struggle to protect ourselves so we can protect our patients.“
“COVID has exposed everything that has been wrong with our system,” said Zenei Cortez, RN and a president of NNU. “The old way was a huge failure. Now is the time to re-envision a world based on nurses’ values of caring, compassion, and community.”
National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the country, with more than 155,000 members nationwide.