Unconventional Times

CNA/NNOC celebrated 120 years of advocacy and laid groundwork for decades moreBy Michelle MorrisNational Nurse magazine – Oct | Nov | Dec 2023 Issue“There was not a dry eye in the audience,” said Hannah Drummond, an Asheville, N.C. RN and California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) member, reflecting about her experience watching The People Speak, the capping performance of the CNA/NNOC 2023 convention this fall. Nurses gathered to watch actors and musicians bring to life the inspirational words of rebels, dissenters, organizers, and visionaries who built, and are building, the movements for progressive social change in this country. In a fitting finale, nurses heard the powerful words of Minnesota nurse Emily Pierskalla. In a blazing testimony, recorded on her camera phone in the early months of Covid-19 and shared with the world on social media, she challenged the inaction of our so-called leaders and called on the public to politicize her death: “Use my death to mobilize others. Use my name at the bargaining table. Use my name to shame those who have profited or failed to act, leaving us to clean up the mess.”It was Drummond’s first union convention, and she reflected: “It was a powerful reminder that union nurses are advancing society. And it’s our stories that are the key to our success as union nurses. It’s about owning our power by owning our narrative. By telling the real story of what is happening, we can move more people, from politicians to our patients and community members to other nurses, to join our fight.”The People Speak ended a powerful two days of learning, sharing, inspiration, and solidarity. The 2023 convention, titled “Legacy of Advocacy,” marked both the first time members had gathered in person since the pandemic and also the 120th anniversary of the union’s founding. The power of remembering and the power of telling our stories were themes woven throughout the convention, starting with executive director RN Bonnie Castillo’s opening remarks.In her speech, she implored the 3,000 nurses in the audience to be “historians of this moment” amidst powerful institutions, governments, and corporations denying and disregarding reality so they can enforce and entrench the forces of capitalism, racism, sexism, violence, and fascism. Telling our stories is both a refusal to “let our employers or our elected officials pass off their lies to future generations” and how nurses remain “the keepers of the right side of history,” she encouraged. The stories shared by nurses during the convention showed that not only is our union on the right side of history – we are winning. On the second day, Drummond and other emerging leaders in our union took the stage. All represented the promise and the necessity of militant organizing, discussing how they organized their facilities during the pandemic, despite facing hostile “right-to-work” laws, well-resourced employers, and union-busting consultants. Like Drummond, this was RN Kristine Kittelson’s first time at a CNA/NNOC convention. Kittelson, who’s currently helping bargain the union’s first contract at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, took the stage with …read more

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