What We Heard from the Leaders of the New National Nursing Union

December 10, 2009

By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, interim editor-in-chief

As we noted earlier this week, several major nursing unions have united to form a “superunion.” The National Nurses United (NNU) brings over 150,000 nurses together by combining the California Nurses Association (CNA)/National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) with the Massachusetts Nursing Association (MNA) and some members of the United American Nurses (UAN).

There are three co-presidents: Karen Higgins (from the MNA), Jean Ross (from the UAN), and Deborah Burger (from the CNA/NNOC).

Ross told me this:

  • The CNA/NNOC will cease behaving as a national union and, like the MNA, be a state union; both will be affiliates of the new NNU.
  • The UAN will cease to exist as a national union; those state associations that were members will automatically be members of NNU, unless they decide not to.
  • NNU will focus on health care reform, will advocate for a single-payer system, and will seek to organize all non-union staff nurses in the country

Ross had this to say as well: “People in this country have been waiting for a long time for nurses to come forward to make true health care reform a reality.”

Co-President Deborah Burger told me that NNU will pursue the main objectives of a “massive organizing campaign to organize all nurses nationally” and an aggressive “social justice” agenda focused on advocating for a single-payer health care system. They will also work for passage of federal staffing ratios legislation introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer.

Said Burger, “It’s a new day for labor. . . . NNU will go to all states to organize nurses nationally to put forth a social justice agenda of health care for all and to protect nursing practice.”

Rose Anne DeMoro (here’s a YouTube video of an interview she did a while back on PBS NOW) was named executive director; the union’s first activity as a fledgling (but not naïve group) was to stage a protest in support of nurse-to-patient ratios outside offices of the Arizona Healthcare and Hospital Association in Phoenix.

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