Radical SCOTUS Eviscerates Our Rights

The radical right control of the Supreme Court turned the nation sharply right again today with its two final decisions of the term.  Both 5-4 votes they eviscerated more of our rights.  In the Hobby Lobby case they determined that closely held companies have the right to impose their extreme religious beliefs on their employees health care coverage.  The small, family owned stores decided they didn’t want to comply with the ACA mandate that their health care cover their employees birth control.  99% of all American women use birth control at some point in their lives.  Many use it because they could die if they get pregnant.  Women have been dying during birth since the dawn of man.  It isn’t a matter of choice for these women, it means life or death.

The Supreme Court decided today that their right to life is trumped by their employer’s radical religious agenda.  This opens all sorts of slippery slope consequences as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent.  If your employer in such a company doesn’t believe in immunizations, blood transfusions or other common medical practices they now have the right to impose those beliefs on you, their employee.  Be very careful if your employer is a Christian Scientist:  they don’t believe in medical care for anything.  These folks actually allow their children to die of common viruses rather than seek treatment.

Now, when you interview for a job you’d better ask hard questions about your potential employer’s religious beliefs before accepting employment offers.  I imagine this decision will make it very hard for such companies to attract and keep good employees.  I certainly hope so.  The rest of us need to be sure never to transact business with them.

In the second case home health care workers represented by SEIU in Illinois sued because they want to freeload on the system by accepting the negotiated benefits the union gets for them without paying union dues in return.  SCOTUS said they don’t.  This decision is a significant loss for unions.  These workers, who are earning higher wages because SEIU negotiated them now don’t have to pay dues to SEIU in return for this largesse.  This makes them freeloaders.

Elections have consequences and who we elect President has a direct effect on our everyday lives due to such radical right wing decisions by five Supreme Court Justices.  Chief Justice John Roberts (GW Bush appointee), Samuel Alito (likewise GW Bush), Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Thomas have shoved the nation far rights with sweeping decisions the past few years.  Worse, the two GW Bush Justices are quite young and could serve for decades.  Scalia and Thomas are getting long in the tooth and we have to hope they either die soon or decide to retire.  That isn’t likely until, if ever, a Republican gains the Oval Office again.  It is imperative to restore balance to the Court before these five drive America into third world status.  Or before a populist revolution takes their heads.  I’d be very fearful of that latter possibility if I were them or the Koch brothers.

Berks County Democrats Close Meeting, For Some

Berks County Chair Tom Herman opened this morning’s meeting of the County Democratic Party by declaring a closed Executive Session and ordered all non Committee members from the room, specifically the press.  While I and a few others departed others did not.  Others, like Tim Smith of Congressman Holden’s office, entered and were allowed to remain.  It is a violation of the DNC charter to close Party meetings.  It’s especially bad form after people are charged for admittance.  Declaring a closed meeting then allowing people to enter and/or remain in violation of Executive Session rules is not only an affront but perhaps a violation of law.  

Tom Herman keeps digging himself a deeper hole and cannot comprehend why others dislike him so fervently.

Candy Stitzman of State Committee got all in my face before the meeting upset about the palace revolt going public, blaming me.  I had nothing to do with what happened inside the Party, she was complaining to the wrong person.  I didn’t make this news I simply reported this.  That’s my job.  She did apologize.  She also explained that Tim Smith was allowed to be in the meeting as an elected official.  I asked her to which office he has been elected (he hasn’t).  This is yet another black eye for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Update:  Tim Smith reminds he is a sitting Committee person for Muhlenberg 1.  He isn’t listed on such on the Berks Dems website.  It was nice of him to drive all the way from his home in Cumberland County to be at the meeting.  Still, there were three others who remained in the meeting who weren’t eligible in an Executive Session.

Dem Chair: “Go Form Your Own Party!”

SEIU contract negotiator and Berks County Chair Tom Herman went on a 23 minute rant at the Democratic Party’s Fall dinner in October.  He was livid at criticism of President Barack Obama and told progressives and bloggers to leave the Party if they don’t like the President.  

Interestingly Democrats repeatedly reminded people from 2001-2009 that dissent was patriotic.  Now it’s treason.  I wish they’d make up their minds.

Herman, of course, is the Chair responsible for my leaving the Democratic Party after he willfully violated my civil rights under Pennsylvania election law.  Because I chose to support a candidate different from his in an unendorsed Democratic primary election (in which the Party serves as an agent of the State) he had me suspended as a Committee person.  He then created a Judiciary Committee and forced me to hire a civil rights attorney to defend my actions.

The election involved Rep. Thomas Caltagirone who had recently voted for Republican John Perzel for Pennsylvania House Speaker after Democrats finally gained a one vote advantage in the State House.  Michael Morrill, now Executive Director of Keystone Progress, chose to challenge him in the Democratic primary because of that vote.  I supported Morrill and joined his campaign committee.  Tom Herman took great offense to my criticism of Caltagirone and suspended me, an elected official, with no basis in law, by laws or rules.  He should have been impeached then by his Berks County Democratic Committee.

Now, as you can see, he’s at it again.  He brooks no criticism of the President, even when he is slashing programs for the poor, cutting hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs (many of which unions like his represent), and trying to cut Social Security and Medicare.  Heaven help any Democrat who isn’t a loyal, blind faith Party hack and dares to criticize the President for pushing a conservative, Republican agenda.  Herman won’t tolerate them in his Party and demanded they leave it and form their own.

They should.  If this is the attitude of Party leaders such as Tom Herman there’s no place for dissent and constructive criticism within a Party of jackasses.  Of course Obama isn’t compromising.  Compromising involves a negotiation where both sides give something in exchange for an agreement.  Since the President continually caves in to the other side while getting nothing in return people, including Democrats, are upset.  He is refusing to uphold and preserve core Democratic values and so is being justifiably criticized.  What once was dissent is now disloyalty.  It is a shame Democrats have sunk to this level.  Under Chair Herman the Berks County Party has shrunk to a fraction of its former effectiveness and membership.  Although having a substantial voter registration edge it cannot even field candidates much less win elections.

Rally Day In Harrisburg

It was a long day, up and out by 7:30 to get to Harrisburg for two rallies.  Both were directed at Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts.  The first at 10 AM was about $40 million cut for disability services.  The Rotunda steps were filled with people with intellectual disabilities and their care givers.  I’ll have the videos up tomorrow but meanwhile here are the pictures.  

Since the infamous Capitol Cafe is now closed (Aramark chose not to renew following the mouse infestations last year) I walked over to a local pub to grab some lunch and dump the video into my laptop.  That cleared the memory for the 1 PM CLEAR Rally sponsored by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.  Fortunately I received a press release yesterday otherwise I wouldn’t have known about this second event.  Seventy buses transported 5,000 union members to the steps of the Capitol.  Ironically a “school choice” rally (people who can choose to be ignorant) was going on simultaneously on the east side of the building.

I ran into former State Representative Rick Taylor at lunch and we had a nice chat during lunch.  Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley stopped by to say hello to Rick but rudely ignored me.  I also met a small group of teachers from Interboro School District while waiting for McGrath’s to open.  The five women and a handsome young guy were going to the CLEAR Rally.

The afternoon was a perfect spring day for a bug rally and the sun shone brightly as I came up State Street after dumping my laptop in the car.  The front of the building was nearly full and the various unions and locals were wearing their colors.  I made my way up to the press area in front of the podium and stood next to Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress as a laborite sang “We Are One” to warm up the crowd.  Various State Reps and Senators joined the event as it went on depending on their schedules.  Quite a few of them were in attendance, no Republicans however.  Not one GOP legislator came out to support the people today.

Steelworkers had erected a huge 250 pound banner atop a building directly across the street which said “Proud to be Union.”  I Tweeted all during the event and you can find them at my Twitter account:  JohnPMorgan.  Again, it will take until tomorrow to upload all the video from both events.  

The rest of the pictures from the labor rally are below the fold.

On Taking It Back, Or, Wisconsin Recalls, Explained

News is suddenly moving so fast that it’s becoming hard for me to keep up; that’s why we’re not finishing the story today that we just began Tuesday. You know, the one about Titan Cement suing two North Carolina residents who appear to be doing nothing more than speaking the truth.

Unfortunately, other important news has forced itself to the front of the line, and it’s going to demand that we break schedule, whether we like it or not.

That’s why today we’re going to be talking about Wisconsin, and how workers there are fighting back against the State’s Republican legislators and Governor, who seem to have gone out of their way this past three weeks to govern without the consent of the governed.

It’s kind of chilly today in Wisconsin…but I can assure you, things are heating up fast-and it ain’t because of spring.

“I will tell you this: Any business where two partners don’t trust each other, any business where one party says, ‘You need to do X, Y and Z because I told you,’ is a business that is not only not run well, it is a business that can never be as successful as it can be,”

–Former National Football League Players’ Association executive director DeMaurice Smith

As so often happens, we need a bit of background:

In Wisconsin, a recall involves first, the collection of signatures, then, if you get enough, a recall election.

Once the proper papers have been filed, those who want to recall an elected official have 60 days to gather signatures for a recall petition that equal 25% of the number of votes cast in the prior gubernatorial election in that “political subdivision”.

What that means in English is that if you’re looking to recall a State Senator and the last time a Governor ran, 50,000 votes were cast in that Senator’s District, you need to gather 12,500 signatures in 60 days to force a recall election in that District.

The election is not to ask the question: “Should this officeholder be recalled?”

Instead, the incumbent will run against other candidates, and whoever has the most votes either keeps or takes over the office.

It is possible that multiple candidates will emerge from within the same Party; if that happens a “recall primary” election is held.

A primary would take place four weeks after the signatures are turned in, the recall election itself would be six weeks after, and both elections would be held on a Tuesday; all of this according to Article XIII, Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution.

You can’t recall someone until after they’ve been in office for a year, so the Governor can’t be recalled…today…but because the Senate elects half of its Members every two years there are a group of State Senators who can be recalled; they were elected in 2008.

If three Republicans were to be recalled and replaced by Democrats, the State Senate would change from majority Republican to majority Democratic.

If you’ve ever been to Embarrass, Wisconsin (home of The Chair That Grew), you’ve visited Robert Cowles’ 2nd District. (For the record, it’s more or less 100 miles due north of Milwaukee, and there’s some football team that plays in Green Bay that’s also in his District.) He’s been a Senator since 1987, and in ’08 he ran unopposed. His District voted 52-46 for Obama over McCain in ’08, and chose Bush over Kerry by almost exactly the same margin in ’04.

I do not have a feel for who might run against him, but I have some calls out to try to get an answer; if I learn more, we’ll add it to the story.

One Senator who might be in trouble is Alberta Darling (so far as I know, she’s unrelated to cricket great Joe Darling), who represents District 8, which is basically Milwaukee’s northern suburbs.

In ’08 she only won by 1007 votes (of about 100,000 cast).

It’s worth noting, however, that her District cast the most votes for Governor in 2010; as a result her opponents will be required to gather more valid signatures than in any other District (20,343, by one reckoning).

Her opponent last time was Sheldon Wasserman; he’s a former State Representative, an OB/GYN from Milwaukee, and a member of the State’s Medical Examining Board.

(On a side note, it looks as though the Governor might be messing with the Board as well; he refused to allow two recent physician nominees selected by the Board to be seated, and he’s apparently looking to nominate his own people.)

Just as in District 2, this District voted for Obama in ’08, and Bush in ’04.

Sheila Harsdorf, who currently chairs the Senate Committee on State and Federal Relations and Information Technology, was sent to Madison to look after the interests of the State’s westernmost District, “The Fightin’ 10th“, as Sir Rev. Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, would say.

Even though she thinks State workers are taking too much from the public Treasury…her relationships with the Federal Government are so good that she had no problem taking in $195,000 in Federal farm subsidies over a ten-year period for Beldenville’s Trim-Bel Valley Farms, of which she just happened to be a 50% owner as recently as 2008 (for all I know, she may still be an owner, more current information was unavailable).

This is another one of those Districts that went for Obama in ’08 by about just the same margin as it went for Bush in ’04.

Luther Olsen of the 14th (located about 40 miles or so due north of Madison) is another farm owner; he owns 20% of Waushara’s Riverview Farm; they also happily accepted at least $58,502 of your money and mine, because Olsen, like Sheila Harsdorf, apparently believes that’s a better use of our money than, you know, paying a public school teacher or something.

(Fun Fact: did you know Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel, used to be a Milwaukee public school teacher?)

Olsen did not face an opponent in ’08…and once again, this District went Obama in ’08, Bush in ’04-although it went about 4 points farther for Bush than for Obama.

And that brings us to Randy Hopper.

This District (the 18th, which most notably includes Oshkosh and Fond Du Lac) is another one of those Republican seats that are considered among the most “gettable”; that’s because just 163 votes separated Hopper and his ’08 opponent, Jessica King.

There’s also this:

“I have a lot of correctional facilities, a couple universities, and a couple of tech schools [in my district]. I have the second largest population of state employees in the state.”

Hopper also chairs the Senate Education Committee…and there’s also a story going around that his wife is telling people that he’s been providing some “private lessons” to his 25-year-old mistress down in Madison; this according to the MAL Contends… blog-and that’s not going to help a family-values candidate.

He owns two radio stations, one an AM-talk Ag Report and Hannity broadcaster, the other an FM station that caters to the “music at work” market; this may allow him to mitigate some of the potentially-about-to-occur bad publicity, and certainly can’t hurt at election time.

Perhaps the most unrepentant Republican during this process has been Glen Grothman of the 20th (which actually, literally, includes Fredonia, and that has to have some deeper meaning…), and he can afford to take a strong stand.

This guy might well be a mortal lock in this District: the Sheboygan area is one of the most reliably Republican-voting regions of the State over the past 30 years, and of all the Senate candidates who faced opposition in ’08, he won with a larger margin of victory than any of ’em. (He didn’t get 61% of the vote in ’08…he won by 61% of the vote.)

(Fun Fact #2: Our friends at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel created these two most excellent voting trend maps for your dining and dancing pleasure; they illustrates how Wisconsin can swing wildly back and forth between Republican and Democratic “electoral domination”.)

Moving on: Mary Lazich, of the 28th, occupies another seat that is going to be tough to get-her District encompasses Milwaukee’s western suburbs (a reliably Republican voting region; in both ’04 and ’08 Republican Presidential candidates won with over 60% of the vote), she did not face an opponent in ’08, and this is another District that will require more than 20,000 signatures to force an election.

“…Fate has been hounding me like a Mormon missionary with an Amway franchise…”

–A. Whitney Brown, appearing on the television show Almost Live!

We’re going to complete today’s “Recall Roundup” with one of the most vulnerable of all the Senators: Dan Kapanke, the Senate Majority Caucus Chair (and a pretty good “get” if you’re running a recall campaign). He’s from the 32nd, which is all the way across the State from Milwaukee, on the Minnesota border, pretty much in Wisconsin’s southwest corner.

He won by less than 3 points in ’08, his District voted 61%-38% for Obama over McCain…and 53%-46% for Kerry over Bush in ’04, which is the largest margin of any of the 8 Republican Senators currently under recall threat. (Go back and have another look at those voting trend maps, and look at what’s happened to this corner of the State.)

He’s hard right on social issues, but the Farm Bureau loves him.

He is quoted as saying that he expects the signature gathering effort in his District to be successful (only about 15,400 signatures are needed) …and he’s also quoted as having the belief that there is such a thing as a Wisconsin State Senate arrest, despite the presence of an “immunity from arrest” clause in the Wisconsin Constitution.

As of March 8th, 57% of voters in the 32nd would rather have “generic” than Kapanke in a recall election, and they had to close the road outside his house on Friday to keep the hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered there safe.

Now before we close today…we need to offer “big ups” to DavidNYC, who posted a fantastic interactive results spreadsheet at the Swing State Project site; we’ve been referring to it a bunch in this story and you should have a look at it yourself.

And with all that said, that’s today’s “scorecard”, folks, and you can keep track of all the races-or volunteer to help-from one handy location: WisconsinRecall.net…so bookmark the spot, help out any way you can, and let’s start with Wisconsin…and then move on to Ohio and Indiana and Michigan next.

Does God send natural disasters as punishment?

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Labor $$ Supporting Medaglia

I traveled to Harrisburg yesterday to secure a copy of Larry Medaglia’s campaign finance report.  It is interesting as these always are.  He has only 20 individual supporters.  Other than Peter Giorgi of Giorgio Foods ($15,000) none are significant.  His money is coming from Senator Dominic Pileggi ($25,000) and the Pennsylvania Republican Party ($181,330) in in-kind contributions (direct mail pieces).  When going through Pileggi’s reports I noted dozens of organized labor unions contributing to the Republican Senator.  These include:

AFL-CIO,Carpenters, IBEW, IUPAT, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Steamfitters, SEIU, AFSCME, Teamsters, Plumbers Local 27, Iron Workers, cement masons, Western PA Laborers, Sprinkler Fitters, Bricklayers, Reinforced Iron Workers, IUEC, Asbestos Workers and Sheet Metal Workers.

Pileggi contributed $25,000 to Larry Medaglia.  Republicans all across the nation, in partnership with their GOP Governors, are now trying to attack worker’s rights to organize and engage in collective bargaining.  GOP State Senators in Wisconsin are leading this effort and this special election is going on in the shadow of those union busting efforts.

So why are so many labor unions supporting Republicans?  Their money is now flowing to someone who has avowed to bust public employee union pensions (though Medaglia will accept his own).

Groups Call For Corbett Resignation

As the latest BonusGate trials are set to begin and others delayed for a month Attorney General Tom Corbett is under more pressure to resign as he runs for Governor.  Prosecuting legislators, staffers and former Cabinet officials while crisscrossing the Commonwealth using his state employed driver and campaign cell phones to do state business (or is it the other way around, this gets so confusing) campaigning for Governor on his tough reputation for cracking corruption is an inherent conflict of interest.

This morning several groups (Keystone Progress, NOW, SEIU) called for Corbett to resign:

(HARRISBURG)-An ad hoc coalition of civic groups, unions and good government organizations held a news conference on Tuesday to call for the resignation of Attorney General Tom Corbett.

The organizations released a joint statement which state in part, “We have come to the conclusion that it is time for Mr. Corbett to resign as Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The people of the Commonwealth need to trust that the justice system will work impartially, but the clouds of accusation and suspicion that are engulfing Mr. Corbett are raising too many doubts.  We therefore urge Mr. Corbett to resign immediately.”  [Entire statement follows]

Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress said, “The Attorney General has the power to file criminal and civil charges that can end a person’s life, lock someone in prison away from family and friends, and impose penalties that can eradicate a life’s savings.  It is therefore incumbent upon the Attorney General to not only impartially prosecute the laws of the Commonwealth, it is vital that he avoid even the appearance of bias.  Unfortunately for the people of Pennsylvania, Mr. Corbett is losing credibility as charges and doubts about his impartiality continue to be raised.”

The other organizations joining in the statement include AFSCME District Council 47, RocktheCapital.org, Democracy Rising PA, Healthcare for America Now (HCAN), SEIU, Americans for Democratic Action and Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks.  Thousands of individuals have also signed the statement calling for Corbett’s resignation at a new website.

Marc Steir, of HCAN, added “Mr. Corbett has abused the power of his office for political purposes. That is grounds enough to justify our call for his resignation.”

“How many private employers pay their employees to look for another job on the company clock?” asked Eric Epstein from RocktheCapital.org.  “Tom Corbett should resign, and allow the Attorney General’s office to fully commit itself to aggressively prosecuting Bonusgate and other political corruption cases.”

Epstein and Tim Potts from Democracy Rising PA also called for the passage of a “resign to run” law that would require all elected to resign from their current office if they want to run for a different office.

The organizers of the news conference said they expected dozens more organizations to join their call for Corbett’s resignation.

The Attorney General’s conflict of interest is obvious:  he wants to be Governor in the worst way.  The worst way is by indicting and prosecuting Democratic officials and legislators so he can tell voters he’s tough on crime and corruption.  What he doesn’t tell them is how he allowed House Republicans two years to destroy evidence of the same crimes, how he indicted Democrats then went looking for statutes under which to prosecute them, how most of the charges he has levied have been dismissed either by Judges or juries, and how he is using this as a political ploy to gain the Governor’s Mansion.  His abuse of the system is reprehensible and he must resign.

SEIU Members Confront Pottstown Hospital Board

About 35 SEIU members who work at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center attended a public Board of Directors meeting last evening to discuss concerns over lack of progress in contract negotiations.  Their contract expired at the end of August and the health care professionals are on their second extension while negotiations with the PMMC Board are slogged down and accusations of negotiating in bad faith are being levied against Community Health Systems, owner of the hospital.  Mayor Sharon Thomas and Congressional candidate Doug Pike appeared to stand in solidarity with the SEIU members.  Pike had this to say on camera:

While calmly and politely presenting their questions and concerns one Board member stared resolutely at a blank wall rather than face these people.  I was told his name is Dr. Saylor.  I thought his actions went beyond disrespect to being downright ignorant.  If this indicative of the mentality directed at employees at Pottstown memorial Medical Center heaven help their patients.  Wait, I have been a patient there an, perhaps, this reveals why I hope never to be in that place again.  I grew up right outside Pottstown and remember how it was named.  Pottstown Hospital merged with Memorial Hospital and became PMMC with a new facility.  The problem was neither of the old places were good and the new one not much better.  With Board leadership like this I see why.

I was last there about ten years ago when a skinhead ran me down with his truck.  My shoulder was injured and to this day I have very limited mobility.  Perhaps that is because while in the PMMC ER no doctor even examined me.  Now their CEO says every ER patient will see a doctor within 30 minutes.  I saw doctors.  They walked past my examining room.  The problem was no doctor saw me.

Some of the PMMC employees have been there for 38 and 41 years and one nurse complained she cannot even get a short break.  As a patient we appreciate the tireless work ethic of nurses.  Maybe the PMMC Board might also.  This is the same Board which was sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act for its treatment of an attending physician.  No wonder SEIU members say they are doing everything possible not to negotiate in good faith.  

More video after the bump…

Sorry but I was seated directly behind this nurse so we only see the back of her head:

This nurse has been at the hospital for 41 years:

PJ McGill speaks about EMS:

After the event SEIU members discussed the action:

True Cost of Healthcare Event this Thursday

( – promoted by John Morgan)

This Thursday, March 26th, Change That Works is helping to highlight the true cost of healthcare with an event in Allentown.  Anyone who is interested in sending a message to Washington about the need for healthcare reform will have an opportunity to bring personal stories straight to Senator Specter’s office.  From 11 AM until noon, local citizens will be meeting outside Specter’s Allentown office at 5th and Hamilton to share their urgent concerns for reform.

This is our opportunity to really have our voice heard directly and be a part of the debate to improve healthcare for everybody.  President Obama is investing over $600 billion in his budget for healthcare reform, but we need to drive the debate.  Senator Specter’s office has been open with the Change that Works campaign and offered to listen to some people right after the collection of stories on Thursday.  This is a perfect chance to get your thoughts on healthcare directly to one of the key legislators in Washington.

When:  11 AM, Thursday March 26th

Where:  Outside at 5th and Hamilton, Allentown

Contact:  Tony Heyl, 215-219-5987

SEIU/CNA Reach Accord

Two unions battling for healthcare worker unionization have broken out the peace pipe and declared a truce.  Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) are moving forward together instead of warring it out through their organizing efforts.  Both unions have been obstructing healthcare reform however by adopting either failed incremental approaches or concentrating only on federal level reforms.

SEIU has decided to embrace incrementalism at the cost of a single payer reform model and CNA is obstructing single payer at the state level.  Since neither union is doing anything to help Pennsylvania adopt a truly comprehensive system to provide health care for everyone this announcement does nothing to spur progress in that crucial area.

The joint announcement:

OAKLAND, Calif. and WASHINGTON, March 19 PRNewswire-USNewswire — In a dramatic agreement likely to accelerate the drive to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and rapidly promote unionization in the healthcare sector, the Service Employees International Union and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee today announced the signing of a transformative cooperation agreement.

Under the pact SEIU and CNA/NNOC, the largest unions in the nation representing healthcare workers and registered nurses, respectively, will work together to bring union representation to all non-union RNs and other healthcare employees and step up efforts to enact Employee Free Choice.

Increased union representation in healthcare, say the unions, would play a huge role in strengthening the ability of nurses and other employees to fight for improved patient care standards, promote economic recovery through improved economic standards and sharply assist efforts to enact genuine healthcare reform nationally and in state capitols.

Concurrently, SEIU and CNA/NNOC jointly endorsed measures to allow states to adopt single-payer, or an expanded and updated Medicare for all, as a comprehensive, cost-effective healthcare reform.

“This marks the beginning of a new future for nurses and other healthcare workers and their patients throughout this nation,” said Andy Stern, president of SEIU, the nation’s largest healthcare union. “We are lining up to make sweeping changes to this country’s broken healthcare system, and as we wait for the starting gun it is imperative that we put the past behind us and move forward by putting all healthcare workers in the strongest possible position to define reform, move legislation and make the new healthcare system operational. Is this accord surprising? Perhaps, but those who recognize our shared value of making sure registered nurses and other healthcare workers have not only a say but a critical role in helping reshape a failed system into something that actually helps people know that this is the right step to help us meet the challenge and the call of this moment.”

“This is an exciting new day for nurses and patients across the nation,” said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. “This agreement provides a huge spark for the emergence of a more powerful, unified national movement that is needed to more effectively challenge healthcare industry layoffs and attacks on RN economic and professional standards and patient care conditions. It will also strengthen the ability of all direct care RNs to fight for real healthcare reform and advocate for improved patient care conditions and stronger patient safety legislation from coast to coast.”

Today’s agreement comes just three weeks after the announcement that CNA/NNOC, with 85,000 current members, will be uniting with the United American Nurses and the Massachusetts Nurses Union to form the largest RN union ever in the U.S. with 150,000 members. Steps to complete that unification are continuing.

Now, augmented by the joint campaigns with SEIU and its 2 million members, the creation of a much larger, stronger, national nurses union and RN movement, with sweeping implications for improving RN standards and patient care protections, is greatly hastened, said CNA/NNOC and SEIU today.

Among key elements of the pact:

   * The two unions will work together to organize non-union hospital workers throughout the country, with CNA/NNOC as the leading voice for RNs, and SEIU as the leading voice for all other hospital workers.

   * The unions will launch an intensive national organizing campaign with an initial focus on the nation’s largest hospital systems.

   * In addition to organizing, SEIU and CNA/NNOC will coordinate on a broad range of other issues from bargaining with common employers to the campaign to enact the Employee Free Choice Act.

   * SEIU and CNA/NNOC publicly endorse measures that allow states to adopt single-payer health care systems.

   * Both parties will refrain from “raiding,” seeking to displace the existing members of the other’s organization, or from interference in the other’s internal affairs.

   * The two unions will create a new joint RN organization in Florida to represent current and future RNs of both unions. In all other states, SEIU will continue to represent their current RN members in collective bargaining.

With 2 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America. Focused on uniting workers in three sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide, SEIU is the largest health care union, including hospitals, nursing homes, and home care; the largest property services union, including building cleaning and security; and the second largest public employee union.

CNA/NNOC is the nation’s largest organization of direct care RNs with 85,000 members in all 50 states.