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NURSES HEALTHCARE Rx "When corporations took over healthcare, nurses had to make a choice between the bottom line and the patients. Other groups tried to straddle the issue. We took the side of the patients and started to fight," says

Rose Ann DeMoro

About the Author

John Nichols
John Nichols
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated...

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, executive director of the

California Nurses Association

. Five years ago, angered by the corporatization of healthcare and frustrated by the failure of existing associations and unions to battle effectively for patients and bedside nurses, the CNA broke with the American Nurses Association to form one of the nation's most innovative unions. With a membership of 31,000, it has emerged as a political force. Governor Gray Davis recently signed into law five major bills backed by the group, which continues to campaign for universal healthcare, sweeping patients'-rights measures and whistleblower protections. In June the CNA, which is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO, became the first major union to endorse

Ralph Nader

's

Green Party

presidential bid under the banner "RN's for RN." DeMoro said, "For us, moving the agenda on healthcare is the essential thing. We want Nader in the debates this fall offering a critique of corporate healthcare."

SPREADING THE CNA STORY CNA's militant approach has attracted attention nationally. "Nurses around the country started writing, calling, e-mailing, saying, 'Please, please, can't CNA represent us?'" recalls DeMoro. "Then they started showing up at our door...." When a delegation of Pennsylvania nurses arrived seeking help, CNA made the leap, offering them financial and tactical assistance to help create an independent union that would imitate CNA's program of collective bargaining, aggressive politics, lobbying and education. In May delegates representing 6,000 nurses and other workers voted to break with the Pennsylvania State Employees Association to form the

Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals

. The 21,000-member

Massachusetts Nurses Association

has scheduled a November vote on whether to disaffiliate from the American Nurses Association, and nurses in Maine are moving toward a similar vote. "The corporate healthcare industry is watching this closely," says

Julie Pinkham

, director of the MNA's labor program. "There are no two groups they would less like to see affiliated than the CNA and the MNA; add nurses in Pennsylvania, Maine and other states, and you've got a movement of healthcare professionals who are prepared to aggressively challenge the corporate healthcare agenda."

MONTANA MUCKRAKER During two decades of digging into energy and utility issues in Western states,

Pat Dawson

says he was often asked, "When are you going to run for office?" He generally answered, "They're not ready for me yet." After Montana legislators approved a utility-deregulation scheme that favored speculators and out-of-state companies, the former Time correspondent decided, "Now, they're ready." His timing looks right. Outspent 5 to 1 in a race for the Democratic nod for a state Public Service Commission seat, Dawson easily won the June primary; he now faces a November race against a Republican legislator who backed the utility-company line. Dawson says his message is, "We've been had on deregulation, and the only thing that stands between the ratepayers and corporate schemes is a strong Public Service Commission."

SOPRANO'S RADICAL TUNE Police group complaints about

Bruce Springsteen

's new song "American Skin (41 Shots)"--which, like Public Enemy's "41:19," deals with the death of Amadou Diallo at the hands of New York City cops--made E Street Band shows at Madison Square Garden politically charged events. But singing the "41 Shots" refrain was the real rabblerouser--guitarist

Steven Van Zandt

. Best-known as Springsteen's sideman and nostalgic mobster Silvio on The Sopranos, Van Zandt is an ardent critic of US foreign policy, human rights violations and domestic injustices. He organized the "Sun City" antiapartheid project, developed the

Solidarity Foundation

to support sovereignty of indigenous peoples, campaigned for the release of jailed Indian activist

Leonard Peltier

and was twice honored by the United Nations for human rights activism. Van Zandt's new CD, Born Again Savage (Renegade Nation), rocks hard against militarism, media manipulation and false prophets both political and religious. There's even a song called "Organize." "The title," Van Zandt explains, "says it all."

INDEPENDENCE DAYS The

Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition

affiliated with the

USAction

organization in June, bringing to twenty-three the number of states in which the group has linked up grassroots labor, farm and citizen coalitions. State and local groups allied with USAction,

Families USA

,

Public Citizen

,

US PIRG

, the

National Women's Health Network

and unions planned demos during the July 4 holidays to push Congress to declare its independence from drug-industry campaign cash. Planned local actions include a

New Jersey Citizen Action

rally at the headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Schering Plough. USAction activists from Illinois and Michigan will rally outside the suburban Chicago office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, kicking off what executive director

Jeff Blum

calls "the fight for independence from drug-industry gouging."

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