Staff Nurse Assembly 2012: Bringing the power home!

MNA members at the 2012 SNA

Over 60 MNA members joined thousands of RNs from around the world in Chicago at NNU’s Staff Nurse Assembly May 17-20. From the massive rally demanding a tax on Wall Street to the panels and continuing education events, the weekend was packed with thought- provoking ideas and powerful stories.

We asked MNA members to share what inspired them and the lessons they brought back to Michigan, where collective bargaining rights are under attack and nurses must fight every day to advocate for their profession and their patients.

Here are some of their responses. To share your own SNA experiences, please write to us at dawn.kettinger@minurses.org.

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Staff Nurse Assembly 2012: Terry Ballinger

Power comes from solidarity

Many people believe in the goodness of other people so they are fooled into believing that our corporate leaders are good people, too. They forget that the qualities to be a CEO are not necessarily goodness. With their power they can crush anyone.

The only way regular people can defend themselves is in groups.

Terry Ballinger, RN, Sparrow Hospital

Check out this short recap of the rally and keep an eye out for MNA members!

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Staff Nurse Assembly 2012: Katie Oppenheim

“We must constantly be in organizing mode” 

What lessons did you take back home?
Just how much work we have to do to oust the corporate hounds, many of whom are in elected office, especially here in Michigan.

What would you want fellow RNs to know about the power of nurses?
I know it has been said before, that although we don’t have a lot of money, we have numbers, big brains, respect, compassion … We can make a significant change for good in this world.

What did you learn about the need for collective bargaining rights? Overcoming corporate attacks against workers?
That we must constantly be in organizing mode. The fight is ongoing, not just at contract time. We all want our employer to stay in the black, but not off the backs of working people.

Katie Oppenheim, RN, University of Michigan Health System

Katie spoke to hundreds of nurses from around the world as part of a panel about the Coordinated Assault on Collective Bargaining at the SNA. See a short video of her talking about the successful U-M campaign here.

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Staff Nurse Assembly 2012: Carolyn Hietamaki

 “An attack on one is an attack on all”

What inspired me (was) all these nurses supporting each other in their issues and the issues of those we care for. What we are doing is right and we are not alone in any fight. We have nurses across the nation with us.

We have the power because of who we are and what we stand for. Who else is the most trusted profession over the years, because we are there when needed by anyone.

This Staff Nurse Assembly has only strengthened what we already know and practice daily within our groups. When one person speaks up they are alone; when a union member speaks up they are backed by their members.

“An attack on one is an attack on all!”

Carolyn Hietamaki, RN, Marquette General Hospital

Kristine Michaelson and Carolyn Hietamaki

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Staff Nurse Assembly 2012: Carol Kirtland

 “The full power of nurses working together”

The trip was special to me because my niece, a fellow nurse, came to Chicago. It was her first step into union activism.

She felt the emotion, the full power of nurses working together, very strongly. The best part was that I thought I would teach her, but she also taught me how the youth think, problem-solve and see “the union.”

Carol Kirtland marching to Daley Plaza

I learned as she did about the high-profit business that hospitals and health care have become. We talked openly about the difficulties in our own institution.I marched proudly to Daley Plaza with most of our Michigan delegation. I think I walked prouder and chanted louder than I have before at such events because I felt hope.

I saw the moving nurse line take on the city of Chicago. There were so many out to stop us, even before we started. Politics, politicians, other rallies and protests. We were focused and ready. (We delivered) a strong message about the financial transaction tax alongside international speakers and local leaders who supported our work.

The police presence was a little intimidating for a small town girl like me. I had a great deal of respect for them as well though. We knew how they felt; they were asked to step up and work harder to get the job done. Nurses do that every day. Just like the police nurses protect others, their patients!

I came back feeling stronger, empowered, ready.

Carol Kirtland, RN, Sparrow Hospital

 

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Staff Nurse Assembly 2012: Cheryl Weston

Nurses from Guatemala told their colleagues at the SNA about the violence they experienced when they spoke out

“I have taken a stand: My voice WILL NOT BE SILENCED”

One thing that struck me most to the heart was the struggles of the Guatemalan nurse and the many others that she worked with and stood next to in their public protests.

All this was done to make things better for the patients they serve. Some of the protesters were MURDERED because of this. What struck me was that the Guatemalans knew that they could be killed and yet they stood strong.

I thought about my own unit where many nurses are afraid to speak up for things like staffing concerns because they fear retaliation. I thought to myself, “We do not have to lose our life like the Guatemalans do, yet we do not always speak up and fight for our patients the way we should.”

Our vulnerable patients depend on us nurses, the most trusted profession in the world, to advocate for them and to fight for them.

After hearing and seeing the courage of the nurse from Guatemala, I have taken a stand and it is this: “My voice WILL NOT BE SILENCED” by fear of threats or acts of intimidation when I am advocating on behalf of my patients.

I pray that all nurses will stand strong and have the courage like that nurse from Guatemala.

Cheryl Weston, RN, McLaren Lapeer Region

Cheryl Weston and Annetta Segula all decked out for the march to Daley Plaza

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