Just last week my roommate and I were sitting in our living room when we heard someone yelling through a mega-phone outside. We opened the window to see what was going on, and what we saw surprised us. There were more than 400 nurses walking through the campus at the University of Michigan in bright red shirts carrying huge signs. My roommate and I ran down to see what they were saying. When we got down there we asked nurses what was going on and they said they were there, “to protest proposed cuts to their benefits and wages” (anonymous). The University of Michigan Health System says they need to alter the nurse’s contract to stay competitive in the tough economic environment (Brennan and Corrigan 1).
One of my roommates is studying nursing at the University of Michigan, and I asked her what her thoughts were about the situation. She said that she thought the budget cuts were ridiculous. She knows how hard nurses work. The world socialist website said the nurses work up to, “12-16 hour shifts as the primary care to the sick and dying, they have firsthand knowledge of the crisis in rising health care costs, and the cruel conditions facing poor people with no insurance, and the enormous profits generated by the health care industry” (Brennan and Corrigan 1).
The article at the world socialist website about this situation quoted lots of nurses echoing the same thoughts. They were all concerned that the cuts would drive the best nurses away to other institutions. They also thought the budget cut wasn’t fair to the nurses. The nurses don’t think the poor economic situation is a good reason for all the proposed budget cuts (Brennan and Corrigan 1).
On the back of their red shirts there was a saying that said, “Nurses make the difference at Michigan.” Their signs read things like, “Unfair Labor Practice.” And their saying went, “What do we want?…A contract! When do we want it? …Now!” The nurses have been “working with out a contract since June 30 2011, and current negotiations with university officials have repeatedly stalled in the intervening period” (Brennan and Corrigan 1).
By expressing their anger with a protest their point was made. They received a lot of attention with the use of their protest that walked through campus. The nurses are clearly very frustrated and aren’t afraid to show that since they made such a public appearance. Some nurses even had their families walking with them in the protest to support them.
Maybe the protest was the only way the nurses could guarantee fair treatment. They clearly work really hard, as shown by their long shifts, and have gathered a lot of knowledge on the subject. And maybe the protest will work to help them. But the university is going to do what it thinks is necessary. So hopefully they acknowledge the nurse’s concerns.
In our Political Science 101 class at the University of Michigan our next theme to explore is on the rulers and the ruled. Specifically we’re going to look at what the government system does and why we need it. But I think the nursing protest is a good example of a rulers v ruled situation, and I’m interested in what people think about it.
The last theme we explored in our Political Science 101 class was about identity. In this theme we read Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. The main argument of Bowling Alone was that people today are less committed to communal ties and that this is bad for a democratic society (Appiah). Appiah’s title for his article reflects his argument; he says more people are bowling alone instead of getting involved in bowling leagues, which shows how society is becoming more individualistic and less involved (Appiah). Another way he shows people are less involved is by showing that people are voting less in the U.S. He says, “Consider the well-known decline in turnout in national elections over the last three decades” (Appiah 1). And what is a democracy if people aren’t participating? Appiah truly thinks communal ties are important for a functioning democracy.
Is this nursing group creating communal ties that Appiah would argue are good for a democratic society? Would the protest have even worked if people were less involved? Why does this group of nurses even need to be governed by the university? Was it acceptable for the nurses to challenge the university with the use of a very public protest? How should the university handle this situation? How do we keep the rulers and the ruled happy?
World Socialist Website. Matthew Brennan and Zac Corrigan. 15 October 2011. International Committee of the Fourth International. 17 October 2011. <http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/oct2011/nurs-o15.shtml>
Bowling Alone. Robert Putnam. 1995. Journal of Democracy. 17 October 2011. <http://muse.jhu.edu.proxy.lib.umich.edu/journals/journal_of_democracy/v006/6.1putnam.html>