The War on Nurses

by SETH SANDRONSKY

A May 24 article in the NY Times noted a provision in the recently passed Senate immigration reform bill that expands the number of foreign nurses who may work in the U.S. The article cited a national shortage of nurses for the removal of the current restriction on nurses from abroad. Lifting this cap on immigration is the idea of Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, and backed by the American Hospital Association.

Strikingly, the Senate’s immigration provision for the labor shortage of U.S. nurse contrasts with policy for medical doctors, of whom there is a supposed shortage. Crucially, there is a government cap on the number of foreign physicians who may practice medicine in the U.S. Thus domestic doctors, the most highly paid in the industrialized world, are insulated from foreign job competition.

Since the Vietnam War ended, the weakening of U.S. blue-collar workers, protection from foreign competition has driven down their real wages, or what their pay can buy. The Senate’s provision in its immigration bill will exert similar pressure on the wages of native-born nurses. One needs no formal economics training to grasp these basics of labor supply and demand.

An excess of job-seekers allows employers to lower wage rates. A shortage of workers enables them to ask for and get increased pay.

Also on May 24, the Wall Street Journal reported that a ruling by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board could change the legal status of some of the nation,s nurses. At stake is their collective-bargaining status. An upcoming NLRB ruling that could define nurses as being supervisory would exclude thousands of nurses from joining labor unions.

President Bush appointed each of the five NLRB members. It follows that they share his vision of an "ownership society. It privileges individualism in contrast to the ideals of social solidarity that, historically, has been a factor for the organized labor movement in the U.S.

Politically, the GOP is no ally of labor unions, especially those that are progressive. Take the California Nurses Association, which has backed a national health care program for years. In 2005, the CNA also launched a loud push-back that helped to defeat Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s costly special election to weaken the living and working standards of labor union members in the government and private sectors.

An NLRB ruling reclassifying nurses as supervisors would reduce the number of unionized nurses in the U.S. Their corporate employers such as the American Hospital Association would benefit in at least two ways.

First, overtime wage rates would likely drop or disappear for salaried nurse supervisors. Second, a re-classified job status via a NLRB ruling would hamper organized labor,s effort to expand the number of union nurses.

The CNA-led win in 2005 over Gov. Schwarzenegger points the way to countering the Senate and NLRB,s one-two punching of U.S. nurses. Imagine the example of the California nurses, triumph against the state GOP machine expanded nationwide. The CNA,s strategy of publicly facing up to Gov. Schwarzenegger worked well; it can with adjustments also work against Washington,s enemies of labor union members.

SETH SANDRONSKY is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at ssandron@hotmail.com


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
September 4-6, 2015
Lawrence Ware
No Refuge: the Specter of White Supremacy Still Haunts Black America
Paul Street
Bi-Polar Disorder: Obama’s Bait-and-Switch Environmental Politics
Vijay Prashad
Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe
Kali Akuno
Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era
Arun Gupta
Field Notes to Life During the Apocalypse
Steve Hendricks
Come Again? Second Thoughts on My Ashley Madison Affair
Paul Craig Roberts
Whither the Economy?
Ron Jacobs
Bernie Sanders’ Vision: As Myopic as Every Other Candidate or Not?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and Crisis
Jeffrey St. Clair
Arkansas Bloodsuckers: the Clintons, Prisoners and the Blood Trade
Richard W. Behan
Republican Fail, Advantage Sanders: the Indefensible Budget for Defense
Ted Rall
Call It By Its Name: Censorship
Susan Babbitt
“Swarms” Entering the UK? What We Can Still Learn About the Migrant Crisis From Che Guevara
Andrew Levine
Compassionate Conservatism: a Reconsideration and an Appreciation
John Wight
Adrift Without Sanctuary: a Sick and Twisted Morality
Binoy Kampmark
Sieges in an Age of Austerity: Monitoring Julian Assange
Colin Todhunter
Europe’s Refugee Crisis and the Depraved Morality of David Cameron
JP Sottile
Chinese Military Parade Freak-Out
Kathleen Wallace
The Child Has a Name, They All Do
David Rosen
Why So Few Riots?
Norm Kent
The Rent Boy Raid: Homeland Security Should Monitor Our Borders Not Our Bedrooms
Michael Welton
Canada’s Arrogant Autocrat: the Rogue Politics of Stephen Harper
Patrick T. Hiller
There’s Nothing Collateral About a Toddler Washed Ashore
Ramzy Baroud
Palestine’s Crisis of Leadership: Did Abbas Destroy Palestinian Democracy?
Jim Connolly
Sniping at the Sandernistas: Left Perfectionism in the Belly of the Beast
Pepe Escobar
Say Hello to China’s New Toys
Sylvia C. Frain
Tiny Guam, Huge US Marine Base Expansions
Pete Dolack
Turning National Parks into Corporate Profit Centers
Ann Garrison
Africa’s Problem From Hell: Samantha Power
Dan Glazebrook
British Home Secretary Theresa May: Savior or Slaughterer of Black People?
Christopher Brauchli
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Citigroup
Norman Pollack
Paradigm of a Fascist Mindset: Nicholas Burns on Iran
Barry Lando
Standing at the Bar of History: Could the i-Phone Really Have Prevented the Holocaust?
Linn Washington Jr.
Critics of BlackLivesMatter# Practice Defiant Denial
Roger Annis
Canada’s Web of Lies Over Syrian Refugee Crisis
Chris Zinda
Constitutional Crisis in the Heart of Dixie
Rannie Amiri
Everything Stinks: Beirut Protests and Garbage Politics
Graham Peebles
Criminalizing Refugees
Missy Comley Beattie
In Order To Breathe
James McEnteer
Blast From the Past in Buenos Aires
Patrick Higgins
A Response to the “Cruise Missile Left”
Tom H. Hastings
Too Broke to Pay Attention
Edward Leer
Love, Betrayal, and Donuts
Louis Proyect
Migrating Through Hell: Quemada-Diez’s “La Jaula de Oro”
Charles R. Larson
Class and Colonialism in British Cairo