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National Nurses United

EcoUnionist News #11

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 18, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Dispatches from Lima COP20:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

EcoUnionist News #10

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 17, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Urgent Action:

  • Philippines sugar organizer murdered - Act Now!

Dispatches from Lima COP20:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

5 Unions Oppose Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline and Efforts to Force Its Approval

By National Nurses United, 1199 SEIU Health Care Workers East, Amalgamated Transit Union, New York State Nurses Association, and National Domestic Workers Alliance - November 18, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We are five unions/workers organizations representing workers in nursing, health and domestic care, and public transport.

We are opposed to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. If fully constructed, it will bring dirty tar sands oil through the United States and to the global oil market at a time when we should be drawing the line against the most carbon polluting fossil fuel in order to protect public health, defend the rights of farmers, ranchers and native communities, and avoid out of control levels of global warming and climate instability.

Climate change is already wreaking havoc in areas of the world - like the Caribbean, the Philippines and Central and South America - where many of our members have families and loved ones. The present drought in California, the wildfires across the Western and Central United States, and killer storms like Katrina and Sandy are enough to demonstrate that climate change is also affecting the United States.

From the ground to the pipe to the refineries, Keystone XL's tar sands oil, with its thick, dirty, corrosive properties, poses a clear and present danger to public health. Toxic contaminants in the massive water needed for extraction are infecting clean water supplies, with towns nearby in Alberta experiencing spikes in cancer deaths, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. Huge pipeline spills near Marshall, MI and Mayflower, AR have led to respiratory ailments and other health ills. Pollutants from tar sands refineries are linked to heart and lung disease, asthma, and cancer. Federal policy should be guided by the precautionary principle and must uphold public health and safety above all else.

The Keystone XL jobs numbers claimed by the oil industry and its backers in Congress are not based on sound research. The southern leg of the pipeline has already been built, and yet the job numbers the oil industry and their political allies claim will be created by the project seem to keep on rising.

We are for jobs. There is no shortage of water and sewage pipelines that need to be fixed or replaced, bridges and tunnels that are in need of emergency repair, transportation infrastructure that needs to be renewed and developed. Many thousands of jobs could also be created in energy conservation, upgrading the grid, maintaining and expanding public transportation--jobs that can help us reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency.

Congress is not set up to be a permitting authority, and this pipeline doesn't even have an approved route. The ongoing review process should continue, and the decades-long precedent of having the Executive Branch make decisions on cross-border projects should not be overturned.

Work Is Killing Workers: Americans Are Working So Hard It’s Actually Killing People; The jobless recovery means massive speedups for many workers you depend on

By Esther Kaplan - The Nation, November 2, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Jessica Wheeler works the night shift as an oncology nurse at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in northeastern Pennsylvania—but her patients are usually wide awake. “When they have a new cancer diagnosis or they’re going to have a biopsy in the morning, they don’t sleep,” says the 25-year-old Wheeler (which is not her real name). “They’re scared.” Other patients are in their final hours of life, surrounded by grieving family. What she wants is to be there to comfort them, to talk them through those difficult hours, to hold their hands and attend to their pain. But, mostly, she can’t.

According to hospital policy, night nurses on her floor should care for no more than six and a half patients, but they typically have ten. When things go bad with one or two, the floor quickly tips into chaos.

Wheeler recalls one night when she had a patient who couldn’t breathe and several others under her care. “I called the supervisor to ask for anybody—a nursing assistant, anybody! And I didn’t get it, and my patient ended up coding.” Another night, Wheeler had a post-op patient who required constant attention; the patient was confused and sick, and she soon escaped her restraints and pulled out her drains, spraying fecal matter all over the wall. Early the next morning, her heartbeat became irregular just as another patient was dying. “Those nights are scary,” Wheeler says. “I think I’ve seen everybody on our floor cry.”

Another young nurse describes a shift when she had only been on the job a few months and was saddled with ten patients, including one whose incision was leaking badly, requiring her to administer blood all night long. “I was drowning,” the nurse says. She called for help multiple times, but it never came. At the 7 am shift change, she confused two patients’ blood-sugar numbers and medicated the wrong one.

Wilkes-Barre was not always this out of control. For decades, it was a nonprofit community hospital serving the onetime coal town. It was bought in 2009 by what is now the nation’s largest for-profit healthcare chain, Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, which operates 207 hospitals in twenty-nine states. The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), the nurses’ union, counts fifty-one fewer nurses since the CHS acquisition, a reduction of more than 10 percent—and that’s on top of the elimination of dozens of nursing aides and secretaries. The nurses are not only juggling more patients, says Fran Prusinski, a critical-care nurse who’s been at the hospital for thirty years, but “they have to change the linens, empty the garbage and answer the phones.”

Some of the job’s intensity is due to broad national trends in healthcare. The rise of HMOs and cost-cutting in the 1990s mean patients who are stable and ambulatory—some nurses call them “walkie-talkies”—are now quickly released, so those left in the hospital tend to be sicker and harder to care for. “The patients we’re taking care of on a general medical floor now were the patients twenty years ago we took care of in an ICU [intensive-care unit] with a 2-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio,” says Elaine Weale, an ER nurse who’s been at the hospital for thirty-three years. “Now that nurse may have five patients, six patients, seven patients.” And as technology has advanced, gravely ill patients who once would have died are now being kept alive, requiring constant care.

But the crush of work these nurses face also exemplifies a hidden side of the recent economic recovery: in industry after industry, speedups are turning work into a hazard, with increasing numbers of injuries and dangerous levels of stress. While 18.6 million people remain underemployed, millions of others are working more hours, and more intensely, than ever. This is especially true in certain industries, from oil refineries to retail to publishing, where federal data shows labor productivity has risen at double or more the national rate. A 2010 survey of people registered with Monster.com found that 53 percent of respondents had taken on additional duties since the start of the recession because co-workers had been laid off—almost all of them without any additional compensation. A 2010 report from the Center for American Progress and the Hastings Center for WorkLife Law found that overwork was a particular problem among professionals: 14 percent of women and 38 percent of men were working more than fifty hours a week. But it has become common in industrial occupations as well. “When time and a half for overtime was established by federal law, that was really a job-creation measure, so it would cost less to hire a new worker,” says Mike Wright, the United Steelworkers’ director of health and safety. “But starting in the late 1970s, the cost of benefits exceeded that extra pay cost, and it became cheaper to work your existing workers harder.”

* * *

American workers do work longer hours than we did a generation ago, according to some analyses, and hundreds more per year than our counterparts in France or Germany—the equivalent of six to eight extra weeks a year. We top the Eurozone nations in productivity by 18 percentage points. “Every month the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] releases its worker-productivity numbers, which measure output per labor hour worked,” says Celeste Monforton, a former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staffer. Montforton, now at the George Washington University School of Public Health, points out that the numbers “go up every month. And that’s because businesses are not hiring new workers; they’re just expecting the old workers to work more, and spitting them out after they get injured.” Some of these gains come from the adoption of new technologies, but others just come from pushing workers harder.

A 2013 survey of its own union reps by the United Steelworkers, which represents such blue-collar industries as oil and steel, found that production pressures, the increased pace of work and increased workloads topped workplace health concerns—outstripping more obvious risks such as poorly maintained equipment. When the reps were asked to give an example of a health or safety problem that had gotten worse over the past year, understaffing led the list. The jobless recovery, in other words, is sustained in part by aggressively overworking those with jobs.

Take the meatpacking industry. By age 39, Juan Martinez, who worked at a Cargill beef processing plant near Omaha, had hands so disfigured from making repetitive cuts that he could no longer work; he is now surviving on disability. He still experiences pain so intense it feels like nails are being hammered into his fingers. His crew had to slice up 4,600 twenty- to thirty-pound pieces per shift. In the four years he was at the plant, from 2003 to 2006, the number of people at his station dropped from eight to six or seven, while the parts kept coming. Since they couldn’t keep up with the line when someone took a bathroom break, supervisors responded by simply denying break requests. “There are people who would pee in their pants,” he told me, “because they didn’t give them permission to go.”

Another meatpacking worker, whom I’ll call Porfirio, worked on the kill line at XL Four Star Beef (now JBS) in Omaha for twenty-seven years. When he started, he says, they killed 1,000 cattle in a ten-hour shift; now they kill 1,100 in eight and a half hours. At night, when he goes to bed, his hands hurt so much that he has trouble falling asleep; when he wakes up in the morning, he can’t move them at all. Everyone talked about popping enormous doses of Tylenol; some talked about pressure so intense it left them depressed. “The Speed Kills You,” a 2009 report from the nonprofit organization Nebraska Appleseed, was based on a survey of 455 meatpacking workers; it cataloged a range of injuries, from cuts, falls and fractures to musculoskeletal and repetitive-strain injuries, attributed mainly to “uninterrupted line speed.” Three-quarters of respondents said line speed had increased in their plant over the past year.

Line speeds in meatpacking and poultry are federally regulated for food safety only, not worker safety. Last year, the USDA proposed to raise the cap on poultry line speeds from 140 to an almost unimaginable 175 birds a minute, even though hand and wrist injuries were already rampant in the industry. A government study of one poultry plant in March of this year found that 41 percent of the workers already exceed safe limits for hand activity, and 42 percent showed evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Nurses Union To Stage Strikes Over Ebola Protection: In addition to walkouts, nurses nationwide will engage in protests on Nov. 12, including picketing and staging bake sales to raise money for hazmat suits for nurses

By Sharon Bernstien - Reuters, November 2, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) – A California-based nurses union said Thursday it was organizing strikes and other protests against what it views as insufficient protection for nurses caring for patients stricken with the deadly Ebola virus.

The nurses have demanded better protection when treating Ebola patients for weeks, ever since two nurses in Texas became infected with the virus while treating Thomas Duncan, a Liberian who fell ill and died while visiting Dallas.

“Nurses, who have been willing to stand by the patients whether it’s the flu, whether it’s Ebola, whether it’s cancer, now they’re being asked to put themselves in harm’s way unprotected, unguarded,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, based in Oakland.

National Nurses United and its affiliate, the California Nurses Association (CNA), said nurses would walk off the job on Nov. 12, at 66 Kaiser Permanente facilities in California, and at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the walkouts, nurses at other facilities nationwide would engage in protests on Nov. 12, including picketing and staging bake sales to raise money for hazmat suits for nurses, DeMoro said.

The bulk of those walking out, about 18,000 nurses, are employees of Kaiser Permanente in Northern and Central California, where they are in the midst of acrimonious negotiations over a new labor contract.

Battling Ebola: Nursing in the Era of Climate Change

By Tamanna Rahma and Brendan Smith - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 26, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Nurses are asking all Americans to sign a petition demanding protection for frontline health care workers who are protecting us all from the threat of Ebola. Tamanna Rahman and Brendan Smith tell us why:

As the Ebola outbreak continues to dominate headlines, so too do the stories of health care workers fighting to contain the disease. The climate crisis is morphing into a public health crisis, forcing nurses to join the ranks of other workers on the front lines of climate change: firefighters battling ever more destructive fires, farmers struggling to coax crops from drought-ravaged fields, fishermen hauling empty nets from warming waters. The nature of work is changing and we’re not prepared.

For nurses, the risks became strikingly clear when news leaked out that Amber Vinson and Nina Pham, two nurses at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, had contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national infected with the disease. While both nurses thankfully recovered, their situation highlights nurses as a new generation of “climate workers” exposed to expanding dangers on the job.

Stunningly, instead of celebrating the bravery of a profession the nation regards as its most trusted and respected, politicians and media reacted to the Ebola outbreak by blaming nurses for their carelessness. In fact, it’s the policy makers and hospital administration, not nurses, who are being “careless” by failing to take the measures necessary to protect healthcare workers and patients.

After the Ebola outbreak, the NNU surveyed 3,000 nurses from 800 health facilities in 48 states and the District of Columbia. They report that “a shocking 84 percent say their hospital is still not holding the essential, interactive training programs, and more than a third cite inadequate supplies of protective gear.”

In California not one hospital is adequately prepared. According to RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United: “We cannot name a hospital that we feel comfortable with, for patients in the state…to attempt to have the appropriate response in an Ebola situation.” Last week the NNU put out a statement demanding action to protect healthcare workers and patients:

[N]ot one more patient, nurse, or healthcare worker should be put at risk due to a lack of healthcare facility preparedness. The United States should be setting the example on how to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus.

The World Health Organization has called Ebola “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” But can the outbreak be directly linked to the climate crisis? While a relation between Ebola and global warming is already hotly being debated, study after study shows that infectious diseases are becoming more virulent, and spreading faster, as a result of conditions directly related to a changing climate. The Ebola outbreak is a harbinger of the future.

Many of the most deadly diseases on earth — malaria, dengue and yellow fever, encephalitis and cholera — are highly climate sensitive, and are thriving as patterns of temperature, precipitation, and sea levels shift in their favor. They are spreading to new parts of the globe, including the U.S.

Dengue fever, which was wiped out in the U.S. in the World War II era, has now made a dramatic reappearance in the Florida Keys. Commonly called ‘breakbone fever’ because it causes pain so severe it feels like one’s bones are breaking, dengue is expected to spread over the next 60 years, exposing an additional two billion people.

Rodents, insects and other disease host populations are also exploding. Parasites and microbes are marching steadily northward, with infections such as Lyme disease increasing tenfold in the past 10 years.

As climate diseases escalate so does the need for global first responders. Nurses organizations, like the NNU, have stepped up to play this role. In the wake of Typhoon Yolanda, for example, over 500 RNs traveled to the Philippines to volunteer their skills. When Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake, 12,000 RNs from across the nation responded in a matter of days.

The climate crisis has changed the world of health care. Nurses have been at the forefront, and their role will only continue to expand. It is critical that we as a society figure out how to protect our health care workers as they step into the breach.

Tamanna Rahman is a registered nurse and former labor organizer. She is currently a graduate student in advanced practice nursing at Yale University. Brendan Smith is the co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability.

Nurses Warn of 'System Failure' as Ebola Spreads to US Healthcare Worker Privatized hospitals not providing proper training and equipment to front line workers, charges country's largest nurses union

By Lauren McCauley - Common Dreams, October 13, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Privatized U.S. hospitals are driving a "system failure" in the face of the Ebola epidemic, warn nurses, who say that healthcare facilities and workers across the country are ill-prepared because of poor training and oversight— putting those on the front lines at great risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed Sunday that a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital tested positive for the virus after treating Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of the disease last Wednesday.

Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden blamed what he called a "breach in protocol" on the part of the healthcare worker for the spread of the infection.

However, nurses across the country have warned for weeks that hospitals are not doing enough to prepare for the epidemic.

"We're seeing that caregivers who are not being adequately trained are being blamed," said registered nurse Katy Roemer during a Sunday press conference hosted by the country's largest nursing union, National Nurses United (NNU). Roemer said that the organization has been asking hospitals to provide hands-on training during which nurses can ask questions about the precaution measures, to no avail. "We cannot blame the healthcare providers who are on the front lines, risking their lives to help patients and then face possible infection themselves," Roemer continued.

"You don't scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak," agreed Bonnie Castillo, director of the Registered Nurses Response Network at NNU. "We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct."

Castillo and Roemer are among the voices expressing growing concern over the poor federal oversight of hospital preparedness, including proper staff training, in light of the Ebola crisis. "Because we have a privatized health care system it's all over the board," Castillo explained to CBS News. "There's no uniformity or enforcement mechanism."

By the CDC's own admission, they are unable to properly monitor hospitals and have no authority to make sure they comply with official guidelines.

In Chicago, Nurses Take Up Fight Against Petcoke Piles

Story and image by Kari Lydersen - Midwest Energy News, May 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. IWW member Tom Morello took part in this event!

“Stunning, just stunning, just stunning,” said Sheilah Garland, shaking her head as she stared out the window of the bus rolling along a dirt road next to towering black piles of petroleum coke on Chicago’s Southeast Side.

As an organizer of National Nurses United, a labor union representing about 6,000 nurses in Chicago and 185,000 nationwide, Garland has seen a lot. She represents nurses working in grueling and traumatic situations on a daily basis. And the union has picked fights with powerful politicians, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

But Garland was shocked by the piles of petcoke, about six stories high, located across the street from homes. She was also perturbed to see employees walking onsite without respiratory masks.

The nurses union has joined local residents’ fight to get petcoke transportation and storage banned in Chicago. They see it as a serious public health issue and part of their larger social justice advocacy mission.

Rallying At Koch-Owned Facility, Nurses Experience Petcoke Pollution Firsthand

By Emily Atkin - Think Progress, May 12, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Standing on South Burley avenue in southeast Chicago on Monday morning, Rolanda Watson-Clark began to feel droplets of moisture forming on her arms. But it wasn’t raining. The fluid being sprayed on nearby piles of petroleum coke was blowing on to her skin.

“It’s so scary,” Watson-Clark told ThinkProgress. “We were just standing there for a press conference taking pictures with our signs close to the plant, and we’re saying ‘Oh my God! Did you feel that?’ We’re feeling it dropping on us and we’re like — can we go now?”

Watson-Clark, a nurse at the Illinois-based Robbins Health Clinic, was part of a Monday rally demanding Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel put an immediate stop to petcoke — a dusty byproduct of tar sands oil refining — which is stored in large piles along the Calumet river on Chicago’s southeast side. The nurses and activists attending claim that, on windy days, the uncovered piles coat primarily low-income areas of Chicago with thick, black, oily dust that harms children’s respiratory systems and otherwise threatens public health.

“One of the women here is a mother with children, and when the wind blows her house is covered with this soot,” Watson-Clark said. “Her 5-year-old even knows that when it’s windy, she can’t go out and play.”

As part of the rally, members of National Nurses United, the Southeast Side Environmental Task Force, Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, and Progressive Democrats of America, took a bus tour of oil refineries that produce petcoke, and sites that store petcoke piles in the area. This included the controversial KCBX Terminals Company storage site on South Burley avenue, owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The brothers were recently threatened with a lawsuit over air pollution from the piles, some of which Watson-Clark said were six stories high.

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