Nurses rally nationwide for safe staffing
Nurses call for adequate staffing. | NNU/Twitter

Carrying their long-time campaign for safe staffing at the nation’s hospitals to the streets, again, thousands of members of National Nurses United staged rallies from coast to coast on Jan. 26 to dramatize the cause.

Safe staffing has been a particular NNU goal for more than a decade. It’s pushed safe-staffing laws through the California and New York legislatures, lobbied for federal safe-staffing standards, and used hospitals’ refusal to safely staff institutions to win representation elections.

This time, NNU’s registered nurses rallied at the Veterans Affairs Department hospital on East 23rd Street in Manhattan and two other VA hospitals in Atlanta and Augusta, Ga.

Their National Day of Action also saw informational picket lines in Los Angeles (three hospitals), Torrance, Oakland (two), San Francisco (two), San Bernardino and other California cities, and one hospital each in Tucson, Ariz., Largo and Trinity, Fla., a Catholic hospital in Wichita, Kansas, Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., Austin, Corpus Christi and El Paso, Texas, and western North Carolina’s largest hospital, in Asheville.

The Asheville informational picketing was particularly pertinent. Safe staffing, or lack of it, was the top winning issue among in the union election campaign among that hospital’s 1,600 RNs, achieved in the normally union-hostile South.

And NNU’s newest affiliate, the New York State Nurses Association, used the lever of New York’s safe-staffing law, wielded by pro-union Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), to force Montefiore’s three hospitals in the Bronx and Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, to settle a recent three-day strike. Short-staffing was the top cause of that forced walkout, too, ahead of low pay.

Hospital bosses retort that greedy profit-oriented insurers force them to cut costs by cutting care. NNU replies with studies revealing the honchos’ multimillion dollar salaries, the profits their institutions make, and hospital overcharges for basic procedures, all while working RNs to the bone, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nurses call for adequate staffing. | NNU/Twitter

Indeed, a theme of the rallies was the increased need for safe staffing facing yet another onslaught of multiple airborne diseases—what the union calls “a quad-demic”—while hospitals put profits over patients.

“This winter’s surge in RSV, influenza, and Covid-19 (coronavirus) patients resulted in crisis conditions because of a decades-long campaign by hospitals to decrease inpatient beds– particularly in pediatric units and units deemed less profitable–and short-staff units to maximize profits,” the union said in announcing the protests.

“We’re the most trusted profession in America because we do everything in our power to take care of our patients, whether it’s at the bedside or on the streets to fight back against corporate greed,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “On our national day of action, NNU members stand up for staffing models that adequately protect patients, nurses, and our communities against public health crises.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.