PHOENIX -- To standing cheers, delegates to the founding convention of the National Nurses United (NNU) today unanimously endorsed the creation of the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in U.S. history - and projected a major escalation in campaigns to expand union representation of nurses and an expanded voice in healthcare reform.
"The promise of the future has arrived," said Karen Higgins, an RN from Massachusetts, and one of three newly elected presidents of the NNU, "with all the unlimited potential, creativity, vision, and power represented" by the delegates in the room, and the 150,000 members of the founding organizations.
NNU unites three of the most active, progressive organizations in the U.S.-and the major voices of unionized nurses-in the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, and Massachusetts Nurses Association.
In adopting a constitution and electing national officers, the NNU plans to quickly move forward on an active campaign to:
- Advance the interests of direct care nurses and patients across the U.S.
- Organize all direct care RNs "into a single organization capable of exercising influence over the healthcare industry, governments, and employers."
- Promote effective collective bargaining representation to all NNU affiliates to promote the economic and professional interests of all direct care RNs.
- Expand the voice of direct care RNs and patients in public policy, including the enactment of safe nurse to patient ratios and patient advocacy rights in Congress and every state.
- Win "healthcare justice, accessible, quality healthcare for all, as a human right."
"This is where we need to be, together as one, moving across the country," said Jean Ross, secretary-treasurer of the UAN, and new NNU co-president. "Some of us have been waiting our whole careers for this."
"This means we finally have (an organization and constitution) that directly challenges the role of corporations in healthcare delivery, instead of accommodating and enabling their control," said Minnesota Nurses Association President Linda Hamilton, RN.
"We are going to make sure we organize every single direct care RN in this country. RNs and our patients deserve to have a national nurses movement that can advocate for them," said Deborah Burger, RN of CNA/NNOC, and the third co-president of NNU.
"There are a few things in history that really stand out and make a difference, this is one of them," said Jeff Breslin, RN president of the Michigan Nurses Association.
"It's a new day in America," said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro, and "it is 100 years overdue."
Delegates to the convention were also greeted by Stewart Acuff, personal assistant to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, NNU is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, and Linda Silas, RN, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.
"You are going to make a difference for this country by uniting your power and strengthening your voice," said Acuff. The founding of the NNU is a major step forward in the fight to achieve "healthcare for every American regardless of ability to pay, socio-economic status, or accident of birth," and to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, Acuff said. "We can best lift America out of this recession by passing EFCA" and strengthening the ability of nurses and all workers to form unions and bargain collectively.
Silas hailed the creation of the NNU, and said she looks forward to working with NNU to build and support nurses unions around the world.