Occupy Ann Arbor, Nurses and the Smearing of the Occupy Movements

Occupy Ann Arbor

I was on my way back to my car yesterday and accidentally showed up to an “Occupy” demonstration in Liberty Park, though I suspect that everyone went home by now.The demonstration turned out to be sponsored by the local nurses union, who are unable to negotiate a favorable contract with the University of Michigan.

The U of M and the the Michigan Nurses Association have been negotiating a new contract since April. The U wants to increase the amount that employees pay for health insurance, limit overtime, reduce paid time off and increase the patient to nurse ratio. Essentially, the U wants nurses at the UMHS to take a pay cut and do more work.

Apparently, the University can drag on these discussions as long as it likes. It doesn’t look like the nurses will be striking anytime soon, though it appears that the hospital is already making plans to truck in scabs if it has to. I learned that there is such a thing as a “travelling nurse,” or a temp nurse that floats through different hospitals all across the country. Wages are apparently considerably lower for travelling nurses and the hospitals need make no long term commitment.

Business at the hospital is up, costs of procedures are up though administrator salaries are up and the recent wave of building are likely draining funds. It’s too much though to ask the person responsible for your medications to take a pay cut, though. In true Michigan style, however, the people at the top put their priorities over those at the bottom.

Much has been made recently from the right over the “crybabies” of the “Occupy” demonstrations around the country. As the unions, such as the Michigan Nurses Association, and established political advocates become involved however, what were young “crybabies” have been replaced by those who have long been fed up with the imbalance of power in this country, but have been able to draw little media attention. Jeffrey Sachs and giants such as Joe Stiglitz barely register a blip on the media’s radar, preferring to give us interviews with barely literatem, unbathed hippies.

The media (where’s the liberal media when you need them?) and rightist cynics, however, will continue to paint the as yet loose movement as freaks, spoiled kids, the insane, drug users and idiots. It’s quite similar to what happened to the early Tea Partiers. Even NPR has taken to hand-picking the bozos and featuring them on their programs leading me to question who the real enemy is: Fox News or Dick Gordon?

Granted, both groups have their loons. The sight of people on disability, social security and medicare calling for the abolition of government entitlement programs is perplexing to say the least. Add to that the multitudes of misspelled signs espousing English only education and a host of neo-racist sound bites, and one can either conclude that these people are stupid or perhaps just a bit insane.

However, the loons overshadow those who can honestly and civilly make a point. Let all of us, in whatever political camp we reside in, never forget the the true enemy is the loss of the ability to discuss our differences in a civil manner. Most of us have more in common than we think.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

One response to “Occupy Ann Arbor, Nurses and the Smearing of the Occupy Movements”

  1. Dylan Kirkpatrick (@K1rkpad) says :

    Excellent post. I’ll keep this in mind when I attend my local Occupy protest on Saturday.

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