By Jackie O’Shea
MNA Political Organizer
Elections are the root of our democracy, and saying 2018 is going to be a hectic year politically is an understatement. In Minnesota, there are open races for Governor and Lieutenant Governor; statewide races for Attorney General, Auditor, and Secretary of State and a US Senator; eight U.S. Congressional races, and 134 seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives all up for re-election this year. Plus, other important local races, including city council seats, school board commissioners, and county elected positions are up for grabs.
Electing nurse champions is the important first step towards the main goal of our political organizing, which is passing legislation. It is at the legislature where staffing levels are debated, healthcare reform is decided, money for schools and bridges are approved, and where a nurse’s voice can make the biggest impact. Just as we need to talk to our friends, neighbors, families and co-workers about getting involved in elections, we also must have equal participation in the legislative process.
Elected officials can only be effective with the right information. If we are not communicating with our elected officials on what is important to us, what changes we want to see in our communities and in our profession, and telling our stories, then how is change ever going to happen? Nurse stories are more powerful to elected leaders than many MNA members may realize and are key in helping a legislator decide whether to vote for or against a piece of legislation.
We are gearing up for the start of the Minnesota legislative session on February 20. There are many ways to be involved in our democracy and help shape the legislation that will affect our lives, the lives of patients, and the community:
- Attend Minnesota Nurses Association’s Day on the Hill March 5-6, where nurses from all across the state will come together and tell legislators their stories, describe how short staffing levels are affecting patients, and say why healthcare reform is sorely needed in order to have healthier communities.
- Connect with legislators now, before session begins, and let them know which issues matter most. Email, call, or request a meeting with a legislator anytime. Lawmakers are accountable to us—not just in the voting booth. We need to make our voices heard in the offices and halls of the Minnesota Capitol. Click here to find out how to contact legislators.
- Attend local town hall meetings. The best way of finding out when those meetings will take place is by signing up for a legislator’s newsletter (find out how to sign up by going to their legislator website pages) or by following them on social media. Just about all of them are on Facebook and Twitter.
Democracy is the people’s process, and elected officials are just along for the ride. They are accountable to the people they represent, and it is incumbent on us to be engaged in not only elections, but in the legislation that they pass or don’t pass. Nurse stories are key to building relationships with legislators. Only with these stories can we, for example, strengthen workplace violence prevention in hospitals, have nurse-patient ratios, and ensure a Nurse Compact will never be law in Minnesota. However, the only way we secure any victories is to be accountable to our democracy, and that means getting involved now. If you are interested in learning more about getting involved, please contact me anytime.