Congress Could Learn from Global Nursing Unions

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

New South Wales Nurses and Midwives' Association rally

New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association rally

In this month’s issue of AJN, we report on the formation of a new international organization of nurses and health care workers in June—Global Nurses United (GNU). Under the auspices of the California-based National Nurses United, unions from 14 countries agreed to work together to “stop the harmful effects of austerity measures, privatization, and cuts in health care services.” The organization also is actively involved in advocating for other issues supported by labor unions, such as a tax on certain financial firms (called the Robin Hood tax) that would raise revenues to help provide needed services. Saving jobs and making workplaces safer unite all unions.

On September 17, the group held an international day of action. Member unions in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe held marches to protest cuts in health services and advocate for better working conditions for nurses, better staffing ratios and the Robin Hood tax. Unions in some countries had additional agendas—in South Korea, it was to save the Jin Ju Medical Center; in Australia, mandatory minimum nurse–patient ratios was a demand; in Costa Rica, the member union called for nurses’ right to participate in collective bargaining.

Will these marches and protests yield any results? Will policy makers take note at the discontent of so many people or will they just nod and carry on, business as usual? 

For those of us in the United States, business as usual is no business, as the government continues in shutdown mode. According to a story reported this weekend, the current stance of some Congress members to use federal budget regulations to withhold funding for the health care law was actually a strategy planned not long after President Obama’s reelection.

I marvel at how quickly the GNU coordinated so many groups—and across borders—to come together around a basic set of priorities for all their constituents, despite some regional and local differences. The contrast with the divisive approach of some factions in the U.S. Congress could not be more stark.

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2016-11-21T13:06:23+00:00 October 7th, 2013|Nursing|0 Comments
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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