Why Rejecting Prop 32 is a Patient Safety Issue
By Malinda Markowitz, RN
It would be easy for voters, sick of the auction of California politics to the biggest spenders, to be tempted by the misleading advertising for Proposition 32. But all the ads for 32 ought to come with a warning label: beware of buyer's remorse.
Anyone who has seen the No on 32 endorsements from the real campaign finance reform groups, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and Public Citizen, probably already understands the initiative is not what it claims.
Prop 32 is almost entirely an attack on unions and their ability to pool the collective resources of their members to compete with the big corporate interests who, through their huge profits and profligate spending, already have enormous clout in elections and public policy in California.
But many are still unaware of the real impact for the Californians if Prop 32 passes, which is why the California Nurses Association strongly opposes Prop 32.
Every day in Sacramento, our handful of legislative advocates engage in underdog battles with armies of lobbyists from the hospital, insurance, pharmaceutical, and nursing home industries and their allies on a broad range of issues that directly affect public safety and quality patient care.
Every year we are forced to confront a flurry of bills and proposed regulations that would roll back limits on hospital, insurance and nursing home abuses, safe patient staffing, patient and worker protections, requirements that hospitals meet seismic safety deadlines, and the like.
That's just in healthcare. Those who fight for clean air and water, fewer pesticides on our food, safer workplaces, improved living standards for the lowest income Californians, or crackdowns on the special favors for big business, such as tax loopholes for yacht owners face similar challenges.
Even with worker and consumer friendly majorities in the Capitol, the average Californian would be shocked to see how much sway the biggest corporations, through their lobbying arms like the California Chamber of Commerce, already have in killing legislation and regulations they oppose and winning new special favors. All in back rooms, out of the public eye, with our elected representatives leery of the flood of money they may face at election time if they don't go along.
Over the past decade, nurses have been successful in helping achieve many important patient protections. These have included nurse-to-patient ratios, curbs on HMO abuses, a law requiring hospitals to offer new mothers longer stays to avoid premature infant deaths, protection for workers who expose unsafe hospital conditions, increased public oversight of hospitals and nursing homes, expanded rules on what insurance companies must offer, and other vital legislation.
But it is never easy, and the phalanx of corporate lobbyists on the other side is always daunting, and they often win. Now. Even before Prop 32.
Had Prop 32 been in effect, none of those bills would have become law, and the healthcare corporations we challenge would have a free pass in Sacramento.
California nurses have long advocated genuine campaign finance reform, through legislation and ballot measures, and an end to the insanity of the drowning of our democracy with money.
But until that day, nurses and other advocates for working people must be able to continue to stand up to what Franklin Roosevelt once called the "malefactors of wealth" and the corporations whose prime directive is their profits, not the public interest.
That's what's really at stake with Prop 32.
Malinda Markowitz is a registered nurse and co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.