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Nader Visits WPIC Nurses' Strike
by Hal Smith Sunday, Sep. 26, 2004 at 12:30 AM

Nader speaks to a Unitarian church, then attends a strike at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. The strike has ended, but negotiations continue.


Ralph Nader and the WPIC Nurses' Strike

America is no longer a democracy- it is ruled by 2 parties who represent corporations, not people, Nader told a packed audience at the Unitarian church in Shadyside this September 11. He said that in the last 4 years in California, only one incumbent representative lost his office- Gary Condit after a major scandal. Most Americans want a national health plan, but it hasn't been enacted for 50 years. Most Americans opposed the invasion of Iraq, but the Congress endorsed it. And George Bush lost the 2000 election, but the Supreme Court appointed him President. "Bush is really a corporation posing as a human being."

But the Democratic party has become corporatized too. "No wonder so many people lose interest in politics! Bush has made so many horrible mistakes, Kerry should be wiping this guy out. Instead he adopted his platforms."

"Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich's campaigns shows what is expected of a loyal liberal Democrat. Kucinich had a good platform, like starting a Department of Peace, but when he got to the convention, he was told to support Kerry and in return he got nothing. None of his ideas were accepted. Antiwar signs were taken from delegates."

But looking around the church, Nader mentioned that "altogether the Unitarians and Quakers have only 300,000 members. They show what good a small but dedicated minority can do." And even with all the corporate control over politicians and the media, "there is nothing like the power of an informed and mobilized citizenry."

Nader had some interesting answers to questions. "I have a hard decision because I think Kerry is better than Bush, so what should I do?," one man asked. "

Nader replied that "Pennsylvania is a swing state, so you might want to look at the polls the day before. But independent voters in states like Texas and Massachusetts have no excuse for voting for the "lesser evil." Of course I believe that if everyone voted by their conscience we wouldn't have this problem. As the American Socialist Eugene Debs said in the 1900's, 'I would rather vote for something I wanted and not get it, than vote for something I didn't want and get it.'"

Afterwards Nader went to a strike by the nurses at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland. Richard Ressler, the vice-president of the nurse's union, told me that "The hospital managers live off corporate greed have the public bamboozled about hospitals. The hospital business is a big corporation, not a humanitarian service. They put profits before people and have a sorry attitude towards the workers. Their contract negotiator even bragged about the money they were making."

"Quality care is not profits for the hospital. Their bottom line is how to spare a buck. For the past ten years they've been firing a lot of people. Management is replacing nurses with little tasks, but it didn’t make things efficient."

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "UPMC-Presbyterian -- the unit to which Western Psychiatric belongs -- reported a $112 million profit last year."(1) Lois Cusick, the president of the nurses' union said that "The psychiatric nurses get paid 10 percent less than all the other hospitals' [nurses]."(2) And an article at the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center reported a vacancy level of 21% for nurses at WPIC, 3 times higher than the regional average. "Nurses at Western Psych work an average of 3 weeks of overtime a year in order to compensate for the vacancy," it said.(3)

The hospitol management's final offer at negotiations was a 3% wage raise. The nurses rejected the contract by a 97% margin. They went on strike and demanded a 4% wage raise. They also demanded incentives to retain nurses, and higher wages for nurses with more than 20 years of experience, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported.(4)

When Nader came to the rally, Ressler was happily surprised "I was dazzled that this guy would come out here after driving all around the country. He had a little car and it looked cramped. He is a man of the people, not a big shot. As busy as Nader is, he drove to meet 11 people without any coverage. He was there in support of us."

"The nurses were very happy Nader came; People came out and they thought it was just some guy talking. But then they saw it was Nader and more came out. He said that the California nurses' union was very large and they're growing. It was a good organizing cheer on. He also talked about the horrors of managed care, their disrespect to patients and nurses, and the importance of a national health care plan. I was extremely impressed."

(1) "Nurses Warn of Strike,"
(2) Andy Medici, "WPIC Nurses to Strike if Raises Don't Come"
(3) "Get More Nurses"
(4) Lynne Glover, "Western Psych Nurses Threaten to strike."

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by Hal Smith Monday, Sep. 27, 2004 at 12:11 AM

nurse_ressler_brighter.jpg, image/jpeg, 1275x1725

Richard Ressler the Vice-President with Nader

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