On October 19, hundreds of our SEIU nurses from across the country, along with members of AFSCME and other unions, went to Capitol Hill with a blunt message for lawmakers: it’s time to stop playing political games and instead focus on creating jobs and saving lives.
As we gathered to rally and lobby prior to the Senate vote on Obama’s new smaller jobs bill which opted to provide states $35 billion to hire or retain teachers and emergency responders – we urged our lawmakers to stand strong against planned Medicare and Medicaid cuts and to pass this critical job creation legislation by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.
Cathy Stoddart, an RN at Allegheny General Hospital and Patrick Diguilio, an RN from Allegheny Valley Hospital in western PA, were among our members in attendance. In their own communities, they see the effects firsthand of the Great Recession through the amount of unemployed and the impact it has on the region’s healthcare delivery system.
Many people who lost their jobs also lost their health insurance so they depend on Medicaid or go without care – until they must show up in an emergency room. Not only will proposed cuts to Medicaid further deepen this crisis, failure to pass the jobs bill will continue to keep the unemployed and hurting communities on the brink of disaster.
“Our safety net will fall apart,” Cathy says. But just after 11:30 PM on Oct. 20, the Senate rejected the new smaller jobs bill on the heels of failing to pass Obama’s larger $447 billion plan the week before, which independent economists calculated would save or create more than a million jobs.
By asking the ultra rich to pay slightly more, this bill would have created jobs by keeping our communities safe and ensuring that our children have access to a high-quality education. Instead, we see that certain lawmakers are more concerned about their own political futures and the interests of big corporations rather than the needs of struggling Americans.
One way Cathy and Patrick were able to inform and educate their lawmakers on the risks associated with healthcare funding cuts was to set up lobby visits with their respective reps. You can do the same – it is time to act now and let our politicians know that they need to stop working for Wall Street and start working for us!