"This is what we are: We're healers. And we need to heal what is happening in this country."
So said Dotty Nygard, a registered nurse and congressional candidate, on Thursday at the Convention of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) taking place this week in San Francisco.
The yearly event comes days after Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) introduction of his Medicare for All bill on the Senate floor, legislation that both the CNA and National Nurses United (NNU) have rallied behind in an effort to make sure every American is able to receive healthcare.
Sanders is scheduled to deliver the event's keynote address on Friday, and his wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, spoke on Thursday with RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the CNA/NNOC and longtime social justice advocate.
Jane Sanders praised the nurses for their commitment to fighting for universal healthcare and called the union "a beacon of leadership" in the progressive movement, while DeMoro highlighted the nurses' commitment to putting pressure on legislators to back Sanders's bill, resulting in a quarter of Democratic senators signing on as co-sponsors.
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) September 21, 2017
In addition to universal healthcare, speakers at the gathering touched on the role played by nurses in a number of progressive battles over the past several months—and for years prior.
NNU associate director Bonnie Castillo talked about nurses' role in fighting the Trump administration's "war on science," with its rejection of the evidence of humans' contribution to climate change and its suppression of research on the negative health effects of mountaintop-removal coal mining.
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— Bonnie Castillo (@NNUBonnie) September 21, 2017
Chicago nurse Rolanda Watson talked about demanding that city leaders and gas companies clean up toxic by-products of the oil refining process on the city's southeast side.
— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) September 21, 2017
The group also addressed its ongoing fight against anti-union "right to work" laws with one speaker saying, "Right to work is really right-to-work-for-less. It takes away power from workers and gives it to employers."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced an anti-right to work bill this week. According to the CNA/NNOC, the 28 states that have passed right to work laws have worse health outcomes for workers.
Facts about #RightToWork states:
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) September 21, 2011