Nurses who participated in the federal rally calling for immigration reform on Monday called a proposed bill to prohibit them from collecting union dues a “slap in the face” that threatens to make the work of nursing “untenable” for many workers.
While many of the other workers at the rally in downtown Detroit said they support the measures proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus to protect DACA recipients, they disagreed with the decision to include restrictions on the right of nurses to unionize, especially since union rights are guaranteed by the federal National Labor Relations Act.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Jeanette Gutierrez, a registered nurse who participated in the rally. “What about to nurses in the private sector? What about the school teachers? What about auto workers? What about teachers? What about first responders?”
Laura Puchalski-Kala, a registered nurse who walked the picket line earlier on Monday with other nurses from Chene Park Hospitals, also disagreed with the proposal.
“You can’t come to me and ask me for support to save your daughter’s soul because she was born in our country,” she said. “But, then, you can tell me I can’t bargain for what I need for my own soul.”
Ms. Puchalski-Kala called the proposed legislation “a slap in the face” to all nurses, regardless of their nationality.
“I’m here because I don’t want to lose my right to unionize,” she said. “And, if I do, I’m willing to lose my career in a way that can affect my family, all for the American dream.”
Several House Democrats joined Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Michigan Democrat who sponsored the bill, and urged Democrats to co-sponsor the bill and support it in the Senate. They were supported by the UAW. The nurses responded by chanting a powerful rallying cry: “We are all workers, united, will never be defeated.”
United Nurses & Allied Professionals, the National Nurses United union that represents more than 400,000 nurses in the United States, announced Sunday that it would oppose the bill if introduced in the House. Some nurses at Chene Park Hospitals said the nurses’ union wanted to ensure that nurses could “work in a safe environment.” Some nurses said they had worked long hours and were fearful of some of the restrictions in the bill, such as the loss of the ability to collect union dues, and that the bill would make it more difficult for many of them to “make ends meet” as caregivers.
“Work in the United States is not underpaid, and we are supported in our positions with advanced education and continuing education classes, time off, time to do my job and time to do family,” said Gwen Lamphere, a registered nurse who participated in the rally. “I think every nurse should have the right to bargain collectively and to have a voice in their daily work.”
Gran Liner, a nurse who attended the rally with Ms. Puchalski-Kala, said that it was hypocritical of federal lawmakers to support immigrants — many of whom have come from countries like El Salvador — and then exclude them from the right to bargain with their employers. “This fight is not about who is an immigrant,” she said. “The fight is not about party. We’re here for what we need to be.”
Ms. Lamphere said she wanted to be clear that she didn’t want to be “against all immigrants,” especially because “it’s not helping anyone when we look after the needs of immigrants and not looking after the needs of our own people.”