National Nurses United: The Cure for Good Patient Care
By Olivia Grady
The National Nurses United (NNU) was founded in 2009 by a conglomeration of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, the United American Nurses and the Massachusetts Nurses Association. It is the largest union of registered nurses in the country with close to 185,000 members.
In 2016, the union spent over $8 million on political spending, all of it going to Democrats. Over $4 million went to Senator Bernie Sanders alone, who the union had endorsed on August 8, 2015. They surprisingly never endorsed Hillary Clinton (even after Sanders conceded); the NNU is the only major union who didn’t endorse Clinton after the primary. The union also endorsed Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD), Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), and Representative Keith Ellison (MN), among others.
In addition to endorsing candidates, NNU also funds issue advocacy campaigns and endorses legislation. For example, it supports a Robin Hood Tax, which would tax certain Wall Street trades. On March 19, 2015, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) reintroduced the Robin Hood Tax idea as the Inclusive Prosperity Act (HR 1464), which taxes Wall Street trades for those who make over $75,000. The problem with this idea is that those that make $80,000 are Middle Class workers and families who have significant portions of their retirement in the stock market.
NNU also supports a single-payer, government-run healthcare system. As its website says:
NNU supports the American Health Security Act of 2015, H.R. 1200 and the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act, H.R. 676, that requires each participating state to set up and administer comprehensive healthcare services as an entitlement for all, through a progressively financed, single-payer system, administered by the states.
How has single-payer worked in other countries? A 2015 BBC News article, “NHS problems 'at their worst since 1990s'” described the many problems with the single-payer National Health Service (NHS) in Great Britain, including long wait times for cancer care. In fact, the NHS has been plagued with chronic funding problems, leading to supply shortages and rationed care. And the single-payer system in Britain has not been good for nurses -- as Nursing Times reported in 2013, "The NHS will experience a chronic shortage of nurses within the next three years."
In America, the NNU is spending its nurses’ dues on other causes that are unrelated to healthcare. For example, the union supports “Environmental Justice,” like the NO DAPL protests at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The protesters successfully halted the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would have carried oil underneath the Missouri River and across state lines in the safest manner possible. The Army Corps of engineers refused to grant an easement on December 4, 2016, after months of protests by American Indians and environmentalists (and the NNU, for some reason).
Finally, the NNU has written and spoken in support of very progressive, some would say radical, organizations. For example, on October 24, 2015 at the National Nurses Convention, NNU delegates passed resolutions continuing to promote Planned Parenthood (after the videos about the sale of baby body parts were released) and Black Lives Matter:
Resolutions were also passed in support of attacking the pervasive problems of racial and economic justice symbolized by the Black Lives Matter movement as well as opposing racial disparities in health, employment, environmental protections, and incarceration, and support for Planned Parenthood in the face of attacks on the organization with nurses noting the critical role of Planned Parenthood in providing essential women’s health care, and on ethical principles for RN professional practice.
NNU leaders also have endorsed anti-Second Amendment initiatives, like California’s Proposition 63 in 2016. The proposition, which was approved, created tougher restrictions on large-capacity ammunition magazines and required background checks to purchase ammunition.
The union's support of socialist and progressive policies seems to suggest that it supports wealth redistributive policies. But ironically NNU leaders actually make large enough salaries from the dues members are forced to pay to put them in the top 10 percent of wage earners. In 2013, Executive Director John Karebian was paid over $161,000, and AED Field Operations Cindy LaFountain was paid over $100,000, among others who were paid substantial salaries.
The diagnosis: Other unions are political, but the NNU is among the most radical and left-wing labor organizations in the United States.