Nurses have long been seen as the overworked, exhausted workers of the healthcare industry. They often face exhausting hours under tense and demanding circumstances. In recent years they have also been threatened with severe cuts to resources throughout the country. Now many nurses have joined in the rallying cries of the Occupy Wall Street movement and have begun to chime into debates not only about working conditions but also about taxing Wall Street.
National Nurses United, a group devoted to speaking out for nurses’ rights, medical care reform, and on taxing the wealthy, planned a massive rally at the center of Chicago on May 18. The rally was intended to coincide with the beginning of the G8 summit, which is now taking place at Camp David in Maryland after the location was changed from its original Chicago location.
The rally involved performances by Tom Morello and skits depicting the G8 leaders who have converged for the G8 summit. The central piece of news from the NNU-organized rally is the call for the “Robin Hood” or “sin” tax aimed at Wall Street. MSNBC News reports that this tax on Wall Street would place a tax of 50 cents on every $100 exchanged in any type of financial transaction, including trades of stocks, bonds, and dividends.
Time Magazine reports that the thousands of nurses that showed up for the march wore red shirts and green felt hats to reflect this call for a new taxation on financial transactions. The NNU claims that this tax could raise up to $350 billion a year for social services. National Nurses United were backed by at least 100 other environmental, health and labor groups who also converged on the Chicago streets to demand this financial transaction tax.
Why are nurses the ones leading this tax reform movement at the beginning of the G8 summit? NNU’s slogan for the meeting on Daley Center Plaza is “Heal America, Tax Wall Street.” Citing the ill health of the economy and watching the suffering of the millions of Americans who cannot afford reliable health care, the nurses converged to demand an overhaul of a system that favors the wealthy and aims to strip nurses and other hard workers of their pensions and social services.
As Sarah Anderson May puts in the Chicago Sun-Times, “Nurses have been on the front lines of the crisis, seeing firsthand the health impacts of skyrocketing poverty and record high rates of uninsured Americans.”
Police and city officials were concerned about the size and energy of the rally in Chicago before it began. According to MSNBC, officials assigned at least 3,100 law enforcement officers on the scene of the march. The Associated Press reports that while there was a large police presence at the rally, the overall tone of the march was peaceful with very little conflict, although police were filming much of the march. There were only two arrests made as the rally wound through city streets and which started to disperse after about 90 minutes.
A few groups broke away from the nurses’ group to protest other Occupy Wall Street issues, such as the bank bailouts, in other city streets. More demonstrations from a variety of Occupy Wall Street groups are expected for the weekend of the 19th and 20th as rising tensions continue over debates on the war in Afghanistan and other global economic issues.
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