135 in the Streets

On August 12 in Northampton about 75 people attended a labor rally. Candie St. Jean is a nurse at the Northampton hospital. In a speech to the people at the rally she said, “Our hospital and its corporate owner are failing to protect, support, and respect nurses. The signs outside call us front line heroes. Inside, we are struggling to provide safe patient care because the hospital is not providing adequate protection, safe staffing, and transparency as to their plans for the rising number of cases.”

“The coronavirus pandemic is understandably something none of us could have prepared for, or expected to experience in our lifetimes. Here at Cooley, at the beginning of the pandemic, we nurses were at the bargaining table for contract negotiations. Many of our proposals to the hospital centered around safety, including floating guidelines as nurses can be floated to other units up to three times in a shift.... (We asked) for nurse--patient ratios, and an acuity tool which focuses on guidelines based on the complexity of each patient. All of our proposals centered around recruitment and retention of nurses, which has been and continues to be a huge problem here at Cooley Dickinson.”

“We need safe staffing! Our patients are sicker than ever. Many that we’re seeing now waited to seek care because of the pandemic, and they are coming in to Cooley with high acuity and complex co-morbidity.”

Nurses use the phrase "high acuity" to refer to a patient who needs extra care. Morbidity is the condition of being diseased. Co-morbidity is the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient.

St. Jean continued, “Behavioral health patients, especially geriatric psychiatric patients, are being cared for on the medical surgical units because there is nowhere to put them. The medical and surgical units are not designed to accommodate this population’s safety needs, and these patients may pose a risk of violence or aggression towards staff and other patients. To support the nurses on these units, the hospital must provide appropriate training. Right now that is not happening. In some cases, the newer nurses are training the newly hired nurses.”

“Naturally, because of Covid, negotiations were put on hold. And during the pause, it was important to the bargaining committee that we continue to represent our members and in turn, represent and protect all of our colleagues and community. We asked for weekly meetings with members of our hospital’s leadership in hopes of working together for the safety of our patients and staff during this unprecedented crisis. Early on, we attempted to come to an agreement in terms of safety issues such as having enough PPE, safe redeployment of staff, and have consistently and openly asked for transparency from leadership, including in the beginning, their surge plan. We have instead been regularly met with often dismissive, vague, and non-committal responses.”

“We have clearly and consistently told hospital management what we need. They are not listening. We asked to be a part of proactive measures when it came to protecting our staff and community. They are NOT listening. We asked for weeks before the hospital was opened back up to visitors to be a part of this discussion and how to do it in the safest way possible. We offered suggestions which went unheeded and were given little notice when the policy was changed.”

“We nurses understand, probably more than anyone, the importance of having families be at their loved ones’ bedside while they are hospitalized and all we wanted was to welcome visitors safely with appropriate screening methods and proper oversight to ensure visitors are wearing masks and practicing social distancing. The front line staff inside has worked very hard to safely and effectively curtail the spread of the virus within our walls. Do you know why Cooley Dickinson fared so well during the first surge? It is for two reasons, the first being the skillful diligence of the front line staff here and the second because we just simply didn’t see the surge numbers that were predicted.”

“Our hospital’s corporate owner is Mass General Brigham, formerly known as Partners Healthcare. MGB is the most profitable healthcare organization in the state and in addition to the sizable profits they make, they also received at least $314 million in Covid-19 relief money. (The CEO makes $2.6 million a year.) Which is why it is both appalling and disheartening that they are not more proactive in doing the right thing for our community out here in western Mass.”

“We are going back to the bargaining table at the end of this month and it is imperative that both MGB and Cooley’s leadership puts the safety of our community in the forefront by providing a safe working environment for the staff inside. We have not called ourselves front line heroes during this pandemic, which by the way, is far from over. We have seen recent outbreaks at Baystate Medical Center and Weldon Rehab at Mercy Medical Center. And as we see our statewide numbers rise, so does the expectation of a second surge.”

“Our message today is simple: Protest the front line, not the bottom line. Freeze excessive executive salaries, not nurse wages and retirement contributions. Put patient safety over profits. We are here for our patients and our community.”

Candie St. Jean and the rest of the Northampton hospital nurses organized the August 12 rally. They have a union. The union has a web site at www.MassNurses.org.

The below photo shows the rally. It was taken by Joe Markman. To enlarge the photo, click on it, then scroll down and click “see full size image.”

Democracy and the kind of extreme economic inequality that exists today in the USA are incompatible. Unions reduce inequality.

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About 60 people marched for peace on August 6 at about 7 p.m. in Turner's Falls, Massachusetts. Turner's Falls is a village in the town of Montague. Montague borders Greenfield. “We held candles and marched to the bridge over the Connecticut river,” Pat Hynes told the Valley Post in a phone interview. She works for the group that organized the march. “It was beautiful.” The group has a web site at www.traprock.org.

With 4 percent of the world's population, the USA today spends as much on war as the rest of the world combined. This year the USA will spend $1.6 trillion on war. That's 47 percent of the federal budget, meaning about half your income taxes go to war.

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On August 6 a land trust bought 1,400 acres of forestland near Keene. Politicians decide how much money to give land trusts. The Keene area deal was done by the Nature Conservancy. A trail map for the land – and a map with driving directions to the main trailhead -- are at:

www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/surry-mo...

The land is in the New Hampshire towns of Gilsum and Surry, both of which border Keene. All three towns are in the Connecticut river valley. Keene is about 20 minutes from Brattleboro by bus.

The USA is losing 6,000 acres of open space to development every day. That's according to www.tpl.org/OurLand

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Since Trump was elected, every January thousands of people have attended anti-Trump marches in Northampton and Springfield. The march organizers have a web site at www.PioneerValleyWomensMarch.org. The group posted on its Facebook page, “Today’s announcement makes Senator Kamala Harris the first Black woman, first South Asian person, and first Black vice president nominee on a major party presidential ticket. Congratulations Kamala Harris!"

Aimee Allison is president and founder of She the People, a group that works to elect women of color to public office. On August 12, she told Democracy Now, "It’s hard to overstate how historic, how monumental this is. It’s a watershed moment for women of color across the country.... I’ve been hearing from women of color all over the country how thrilled they are."

Politicians are only as progressive as the public forces them to be by protesting in the streets.

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The ACLU is suing Trump over immigration check points 100 miles south of the USA—Canada border. That spot is about 30 minutes by car from Brattleboro. Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains also provide service along that route.

Due to Trump's wall, more people who want to move from Mexico to the USA to earn higher wages and escape violence caused by the USA's “war on drugs,” are being forced to go via Canada. Canada allows Mexicans to enter freely as long as they can afford a plane ticket.

Portugal has legalized all drugs, resulting in less death by addiction, less murder and other violent crime, and fewer people in prison. No nation keeps such a high percentage of its people in prison as the USA. Europe's rate is a third of ours.

The ACLU needs donations to support this lawsuit.

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