Thousands of Visionary Nurses Confront Wall Street and Advocate for their Patients in Rollicking Wall Street Rally
On Wednesday afternoon, June 22, a feisty group of 3,000 nurses, and their supporters from other unions and community groups, rallied at Federal Hall on Wall St. in New York City to confront the greedy banking industry and demand they pay tiny taxes on financial transactions to stop devastating budget cuts and finance health care for all.
In solidarity with the 40-nation International Days of Action, National Nurses United and their union and community allies--including the AFL-CIO, the UAW, The Transit Workers Union, UNITE HERE Local 100, Working Families Party, Jobs with Justice, NYPIRG, and many more--used powerful speeches, spirited stories, skits, and songs to bring attention to their Main Street Contract, a vision for a more fair and just economy. It includes as a centerpiece a bill supporters will soon introduce in Congress to tax the very transactions that led to the economic crisis.
The equivalent of the sales tax “Main Street” Americans have long been paying, the tax is not a new idea. Great Britain has already implemented a .25 percent tax on each stock trade, and it has not inhibited financial activity. The European Parliament also endorsed a tax for European Union nations. In the U.S., measures to tax all stock sales and transfers have been underway for the past fifty years and, after the 1987 Wall Street crash, U.S. politicians including Bob Dole and President George H.W. Bush endorsed similar measures.
“Just like working people pay taxes, these yo-yos who buy and sell, buy and sell, should pay taxes on that,” said President of Amalgamated Transit Union Larry Hamley.
“You’re sick because here in New York City, the richest city in the country, we are having one of the most drastic cuts in the budget ever,” said Ilya Geller of Bloombergville, who listed 6,000 teachers, 20 fire houses, $50 million in child care, $40 million in senior services, and $90 million in libraries as casualties to the budget cuts.
Speakers shared stories which painted a picture of the devastation Wall Street facilitated without bearing any responsibility. A son told the story of his father, a multiple sclerosis patient, whose insurance company said the medication that would allow him to use his hands was unnecessary. A nurse spoke of a friend whose monthly treatment of the homeless population rose from 1,500 to 3,000 people.
A soulful rally, organizers sang “This Little Light of Mine” with new, appropriate lyrics like “Heal America, Tax Wall Street” and “We Are The World.”
Speakers went further to discuss the lack of compassionate care in the revenue-focused medical community.
“A young mother in the Emergency Room is worried her baby has meningitis. She faces business men who ask ‘Would you like to make your co-pay now or later?’ That’s the kind of compassionate service we don’t have in the health care system. That,” said, Co-President of National Nurses United Gene Ross, “we can’t even call a health care system.”