The results of the Presidential and Congressional elections present challenges to each of us as union members and as members of the communities where we live and work. Regardless of how you voted, I ask you to consider that the election results threaten our union and workplace rights, women’s health, access to health care for tens of millions of Americans, and the constitutional rights of many of our neighbors, family members, friends and co-workers. While we work to restore civility to our political conversations, we also must work to protect and promote the workplace and civil rights that are the bedrock of our democracy and quality of life.
As a nurse and union leader, I’ve spent over 40 years fighting for the rights of healthcare workers to have a voice in their workplace. I know that many HPAE members have done the same, in your workplaces and through political activism. I now fear that there will be concerted efforts to strangle the voices of working people on the job.
For example, as President, Donald Trump will nominate one or more Supreme Court Justices and the Senate is likely to confirm these nominations, which most likely will be much more conservative, and inclined to strip public sector workers of their hard-won collective bargaining rights.
As President, Donald Trump will appoint members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). While President Obama’s appointments to the NLRB have upheld and even strengthened our rights in the face of employer violations of our organizing and collective bargaining rights, we can expect President Trump appointees to undermine and constrict these rights.
Under a Trump Administration, I believe we will face a much more difficult time protecting our workplace rights and the voices of nurses and health professionals when they speak up against corporate practices that threaten patient and worker safety and quality of care.
I’ve fought to raise wages, both in unionized hospitals and through raising the minimum wage, so that workers can raise their families with dignity and we can build the middle class in this country. Without unions and legal protections, too many employers will begin a race to the bottom, destroying our progress and our middle class.
HPAE joined with countless citizen and labor groups and President Obama, to make great strides in expanding access to healthcare for uninsured Americans. Instead of improving Obamacare, Trump supports repeal of the law, which would cause millions of newly insured Americans, including many adult children still covered by parents’ health plans, to lose their coverage.
We must challenge the ‘normalizing’ of hate speech and attacks on women, the disabled, immigrants and others. I’ve been hearing people ask: “How do we talk to our children, our students, about the results of this election?” It is not an exaggeration that many parents and teachers are facing frightened children today, some of whom are from families under direct attack during the campaign.
One answer is that we will fight to protect them, their dignity and their rights, whoever they are. We need to re-commit to the principles of our union, and build broad coalitions with groups fighting for a decent and just society.
Equally important are the voices of our members, who share the frustrations of many Americans with candidates and policies that don’t speak to or for them. We need to listen to those voices, and work for new ways to bring those voices to our politics. It is critical for all of us to remember that our union is our best vehicle for raising these issues in a powerful way, bringing our principles of fairness and dignity for working families to the table.
At the same time, we need to work towards policies that actually address income inequality, rather than merely foster blame and division. We will join with our allies in the fight to protect workplace, civil and human rights for everyone. We will challenge our politicians, Democrats and Republicans, to fight to protect and strengthen the gains made in this country over the past 50 years.
As we fight to protect our hard-earned rights, we need to work to unify our union and our country. We won’t stop.