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Service Employee Union's Latest Attack on RNs Parrots McCain's Attack on Obama's Health Plan

OAKLAND, Calif., June 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The Service Employees International Union is embracing the campaign rhetoric of Sen. John McCain's attack on Sen. Barack Obama's healthcare plan as a bludgeon to attack the nation's leading organization of registered nurses, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee noted today.

In a mailing to CNA/NNOC members this week, SEIU blasts CNA/NNOC for supporting a "government-run health care system." McCain has used almost identical language to disparage Obama's proposals for healthcare reform on an issue that will be a major focus of the fall campaign.

"By carelessly and cynically adopting the McCain language, SEIU is not only showing its contempt for the majority of Americans who have told pollsters that the government should guarantee healthcare for everyone as a solution to the healthcare crisis that has put so many of our families at risk.

"They are also giving aid, comfort, and ammunition to Sen. McCain whose own healthcare plan would be a disastrous continuation of the dismal and failed status quo," said CNA-NNOC co-president Malinda Markowitz, RN.

By using his language, SEIU is effectively "validating McCain's attack on Obama," she charged. "We can now expect that McCain will be able to quote SEIU as sharing his disgraceful attempts to subvert desperately needed efforts to transform our dysfunctional and broken healthcare system," she said.

SEIU's latest attack comes just days before a planned "mediation" session between SEIU and CNA/NNOC next week in Washington. But SEIU's tactics, said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro, "make success in this forum less likely."

SEIU, she said, "will be using the meeting as a staging ground to attempt to show Democratic Party officials that it wants to end its war on RNs, even while it is quoting McCain in its attacks on us."

What SEIU says it is proposing, she noted, is a "no-raid agreement," at the moment SEIU is actively campaigning to raid the New York State Nurses Association, other RN unions, the Puerto Rico Federation of Teachers, and other unions.

"SEIU's goal is to cannibalize all professional nurses' unions," said DeMoro, "while it is undermining the power of RNs to be patient advocates and colluding with employers against the interests of nurses and patients."

"For SEIU to represent any RNs is an injury and insult to all RNs," Markowitz said.

SEIU is a non-RN union -- only 1 percent of its members are RNs -- and has been steadily reducing representation for its remaining RNs, DeMoro noted.

Just this week at its national convention, SEIU adopted a plan to end workplace representation and force RNs and other members to phone call centers when they need help.

As one SEIU member told the New York Times, "sometimes you can't get through to these centers. It's like talking to an ATM." During debate on the resolution, several delegates expressed concerns about the centers, particularly those that handle calls for several locals. "I never dreamed outsourcing would be a good idea," one delegate said, adding, "we aren't a corporation," the Bureau of National Affairs reported today.

To obtain sweetheart deals with employers, SEIU has "routinely sacrificed patients," DeMoro noted. She cited, for example, an agreement with California nursing home operators under which SEIU agreed to back legislation impeding patients' rights to sue over nursing home abuses and oppose reforms to require better staffing for patient safety. SEIU also joined with the New York hospital industry to endorse the closure of hospitals and nursing homes.

On healthcare reform, CNA/NNOC's position "to demand genuine reform has been repeatedly directed by CNA/NNOC members in convention and other forums," said Markowitz, "because nurses daily witness the pain and suffering of our patients at the hands of the private insurance-run healthcare system which routinely denies needed medical care and exposes families to financial ruin in the pursuit of higher revenues and profits."

CNA/NNOC is a national leader in the campaign for a real reform, as embodied in a bill in Congress, HR 676, which would establish a single-payer system, such as an expanded and improved Medicare-for-all. HR 676 has more co-sponsors, 90, than any other reform proposal in Congress, and is endorsed by 430 labor organizations across the U.S.

Ironically, SEIU President Andy Stern claims to also support HR 676, even while he has attacked the concept and has been working with Wal-Mart and the nation's biggest insurers to promote plans that strengthen and reinforce "the chokehold of insurance companies on our health," Markowitz noted.

CNA/NNOC is joining with patients and healthcare activists in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and other cities from coast to coast June 19 for major protests against the insurance industry and a call for HR 676.

SOURCE California Nurses Association
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