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Registered Nurse Response Network Sends Nurse Volunteers on Second Deployment to Standing Rock

By Charles Idelson - National Nurses United, November 7, 2016

National Nurses United (NNU)’s Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a national network of volunteer nurses, will deploy a second team of RN volunteers to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation—to help with existing medical and first aid support for land and water protectors—NNU announced today.

“As a nurse, I understand the necessity of preserving and protecting our water. Water equals life, and the Dakota Access pipeline threatens the health and well being of millions of Americans,” said RNRN volunteer Amy Bowen, RN, who traveled to Standing Rock in October and will return again this month. “Nurses honor the sacrifices being made by the water protectors while they stand up for what is right, against corporate greed.”

RNRN volunteers will assist medic tents at the North/Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone camps. RNRN is also working with local partners to establish the Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) clinic to meet the ongoing healthcare needs of the Standing Rock Sioux community and the water protectors. Donations for the Mni Wiconi clinic can be made here: https://crowdfund.ucsf.edu/project/2913/updates/1

NNU has released several statements of solidarity with the standing Rock Sioux tribe and fellow water protectors, who, for months, have sought to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which nurses say poses great risk to public health. The nurses’ latest statement sharply condemns the violent attacks on protectors.

“This has become a seminal battle over the First Amendment protection of public protest. It is also a challenge for everyone who is concerned about the rights of First Nation people and their sacred sites and water sources, as well as the threat the pipeline poses to environmental degradation, public health, and to accelerating the climate crisis,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

“It is long past time to call into question all these dangerous pipeline projects that have become increasingly common, generally with far less public notice than the Dakota Access pipeline, or the similar successful campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline, has garnered. These projects pose a continual threat to public health from the extraction process through the transport to the refinery.”

Pipelines have proven to leak, including the recent Colonial Pipeline leak in Alabama and subsequent explosion at a second site. Nurses say spills from ruptured pipelines that contaminate water supplies can lead to numerous problems of respiratory ailments and other health symptoms associated with the spills.

RNRN Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, says nurses will continue to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock and condemn the violence committed against water protectors—with reports that clearly identified medics have also been attacked and arrested.

“Nurses will stand with the protectors at Standing Rock, and with our fellow caregivers, the medics — to say that DAPL is bad for public health, and those enforcing its construction cannot speak to its safety while simultaneously targeting for attack the very people with the power to heal,” said Castillo.

"As a registered nurse, it was a profoundly moving and humbling experience to live with and serve the water and land protectors at the Sacred Stone encampment on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,” said DeAnn McEwan, who volunteered at Standing Rock in October. “Nurses feel a moral commitment to lend our skills and do whatever we can do to help protect and promote their health and right to the fresh, pure water that sustains all our lives." 

RNRN is powered by NNU, the largest organization of registered nurses in the U.S.

National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

IWW Member Brenna Cain: Why I Am With Labor For Standing Rock

By Brenna Cain - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 3, 2016

Brenna Cain from IWW 610 talks about the importance of defending the human rights of Native Americans and supporting their efforts to protect the Missouri River.

Stand with Standing Rock: Pittsburgh Native Americans, healthcare workers to join #NoDAPL protest

By Sarah Anne Hughes - The Incline, October 31, 2016

A group of more than a dozen people including Native Americans and healthcare workers from the Pittsburgh area will travel to North Dakota this week to join a protest against a pipeline they say threatens a tribe’s drinking water and sacred land.

Jared McCray, a night-shift housekeeper at UPMC Mercy, is helping organize the trip. McCray said he had discussed the protests happening near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation with a co-worker and close friend who has Native American ancestry. She has a son with her boyfriend, who is also a Native American.

“This is something that’s very deeply rooted for her family,” McCray said. “She really wanted to try to get out there to bring supplies and to bring people to [show] support.”

McCray can’t make the trip to Standing Rock, but he started a GoFundMe page to help get others there. The delegation — which includes members of Pittsburgh’s Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center — has raised about half of its goal: $5,000 for transportation and shelter costs.

“We’re raising money to get them there to represent workers and the Native community in Pittsburgh and to show solidarity with Standing Rock,” McCray said.

In September, hundreds of activists gathered in Downtown Pittsburgh to protest the pipeline, which the Texas-based corporation Energy Transfer Partners wants to send under the Missouri River — the Standing Rock Sioux’s main drinking water source — as well as through sacred land and burial sites.

The tribe says the pipeline’s planned course puts its water at risk, and hundreds of indigenous people and allies have been camped for months near Standing Rock to block construction. Police have arrested more than 400 protesters, referred to as water protectors, since August; 141 people were arrested Oct. 27 alone, as law enforcement in riot gear shot people with beanbags and rubber bullets and deployed pepper spray and concussion grenades. Some of those arrested said they were kept in “dog kennels.”

UPMC workers like McCray are locked in a struggle of their own in Pittsburgh. Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize UPMC workers for several years, as the National Labor Relations Board has accused the hospital chain of violating workers’ rights.

Some of those who plan to go to Standing Rock, McCray said, are workers who are fighting to unionize and for a $15 minimum wage. McCray and his friend reached out to SEIU for support when organizing the trip, he said.

As a person who works in healthcare, McCray said the risk of a ruptured pipeline is a health concern.

“If that were to happen here, that would have a drastic impact,” he said.

McCray said he believes “we’re definitely at a critical point in history.” It’s time, he said, to take human rights seriously, to call for civil rights and environmental justice, and to show solidarity with people who are having their lives’ threatened.

“If we let people pollute water in North Dakota, they can pollute water anywhere.”

Nurses Condemn Attacks on Water Protectors Opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline Project

By staff - National Nurses United, October 27, 2016

National Nurses United today sharply condemned police and armed guard attacks on members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, other First Nations, environmental activists, and other protectors who have bravely participated in protests against the Dakota Access pipeline project.

Reports of police using pepper spray, military grade equipment, and other military style tactics follow physical attacks on protesters by armed security guards who have who have used dogs in ways reminiscent of assaults on peaceful protesters during the Civil Rights movement, as well as arrests of media covering the protests.

“This has become a seminal battle over the First Amendment protection of public protest. It is also a challenge for everyone who is concerned about the rights of First Nation people and their sacred sites and water sources, as well as the threat the pipeline poses to environmental degradation, public health, and to accelerating the climate crisis,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

NNU, through its Registered Nurse Response Network, a national network of volunteer RNs, has deployed nurse volunteers to assist with first aid needs for the land and water protectors. NNU remains committed to continuing that program in support of the DAPL protests as needed, said Ross.

“We are proud of those who are raising their voices for all of us. We are gratified to see the many public figures, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, who have stood with the Standing Rock Sioux and other protectors, as well as our union brothers and sisters in the Communications Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union, American Postal Workers Union, and Service Employees International Union who have also expressed solidarity for this historic fight,” Ross added.

NNU voiced its support for the protectors in early September, and also challenged claims that pipelines are a way to ensure safety of the transport of dirty, polluting crude oil.

“Contrary to claims of supporters, pipeline transportation of this volatile oil is far from safe. We have already witnessed many examples of pipeline spills from ruptured pipelines that have contaminated water supplies and led to numerous problems of respiratory ailments and other health symptoms associated with the spills,” Ross said.

We can have good jobs and healthy communities

By SEIU Healthcare Minnesota’s Indian Healthcare Board* - Medium, October 28, 2016

In too many communities across our country, children and families suffer from exorbitant asthma rates and other respiratory ailments from air pollution caused by corporate activities that burn fossil fuels and contaminate our air. Toxins leeched into our drinking and bathing water from this same fossil fuel industry causes serious skin, digestive, and even cancerous impacts on young and old alike. As healthcare workers, we stand on the front lines of trying to help families deal with these life-altering impacts.

Our families and children deserve clean air and water and we must do all that we can to stop allowing corporations to corrupt our livelihood unchecked. Where possible, we must choose clean alternative options so that our economy and our families can thrive. It is not a one or the other choice. We can have good jobs and healthy communities by shifting away from an economy dependent on fossil fuels to one that creates jobs for workers through a just transition to a clean energy economy.

We can and must be the change we want to see in the world and we have the chance to do it right now. In North and South Dakota, construction of a crude-oil pipeline, known as the Dakota Access Pipeline, threatens the lives and livelihoods of the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The pipeline would pass under the Missouri River (at Lake Oahe) which is just half a mile upstream from the boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation and provides their drinking water.

Over the last three years there have been over 200 known pipeline leaks in the United States. A spill at this site would be a health, economic and cultural catastrophe for Standing Rock Sioux families. Further, the pipeline would pass through incredibly precious culturally significant sacred lands, like burial grounds, for the tribe and infringe on their freedom to practice and protect their culture and beliefs.

We are so proud that our union, the Service Employees International Union, along with other labor unions, didn’t stand idly by and let this injustice prevail. Instead SEIU along with like-minded good jobs and justice-focused partners have stood strong with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Not only do the Standing Rock Sioux deserve the respect and protection of their sacred grounds, but they deserve to know the water they are drinking is uncontaminated and safe. This is yet another instance where a low income, community of color is subjected to contamination at the hands of powerful corporations and an unresponsive government. It’s a scenario that’s all too familiar to SEIU members, having struggled through the water crisis in Flint, MI and the recent flooding in Baton Rouge.

We stand with our union and the people of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, as well as the thousands of others who could be harmed by the construction of the pipeline. As energy technology and transportation infrastructures change to reduce harmful emissions, so should the focus of the unions that fight for a better future for all families. We can let go of environmentally and racially unjust practices and look to create the good jobs and safe communities of the future.

From asthma to cancer, America’s workers suffer at the hands of big polluters. We have a choice. We can find a solution that protects people’s health and good jobs and wages. The time is now. Our government must stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, protect the interests of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and transition the jobs of those whose lives and livelihoods could be impacted by ending this pipeline to good family-sustaining jobs of the future.

Toronto is now home to world's first harm-reduction workers' union

By Ella Bedard - Rabble.ca, December 8, 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.

Toronto is home to the world's first ever harm-reduction workers' union: THRWU.

On November 11, workers at South Riverdale and Central Toronto Community health centres told their employers that they had joined the Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union (THRWU) and demanded recognition.

With 50 members and counting, the union represents a wide range of professions including HIV/AIDS workers, workers involved in the distribution of safe usage tools, overdose prevention workers, peer workers, Hepatitis C workers, and nurses -- to name only a few.

While some THRWU members work in paid positions, others work as volunteers or are unemployed. 

Foregoing Labour Board certification and a conventional collective bargaining process, the THRWU is developing a distinct organizing model.

Hospitals in Australia riddled with asbestos and pose serious health risk, union officials say

By Matt Peacock - ABC News, November 3, 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.

Unions and lawyers are warning that hospitals across the country are riddled with asbestos.

Tanya Segelov represented late asbestos campaigner Bernie Banton and is still acting for sufferers of dust diseases.

"Hospitals throughout Australia were full of asbestos and many remain full of asbestos," Ms Segelov told the ABC's 7.30 program.

"All of the steam pipes are wrapped in asbestos, in the ceiling cavities there is asbestos sprayed.

"There are asbestos fire doors, it is in the boiler houses, it is in the laundry.

"Wherever there was heat, wherever there is steam, there was asbestos."

Annabel Crouch worked as a speech therapist at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital for three decades.

Her doctor recently told her she has the fatal and incurable asbestos cancer mesothelioma.

It is believed she contracted it from asbestos-lined service tunnels under the hospital.

"We went up and down the tunnel 10 times a day," Ms Crouch said.

"And there would always be people working on it, the pipes, there'd be plumbers doing things.

"No-one thought there would be asbestos or any danger.

"I mean, you do expect your work place is a fairly safe environment, so it's a bit of a shock when you find out that a hospital is full of asbestos.

"But of course in the last while I have learnt that many buildings are full of asbestos."

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.

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.