MARQUETTE - The message was delivered loud and clear Thursday at the Marquette Commons.
Members of the Michigan Nurses Association from Marquette General Hospital staged a rally with the theme "RNs say Heal America, Tax Wall Street," with much talk directed toward U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek.
Nurses in three other MIchigan cities and 20 other states also gathered Thursday to deliver their message.
Carolyn Hietamaki, president of Marquette General Hospital’s chapter of the Michigan Nurses Association, speaks at the Marquette Commons during the “RNs say Heal America, Tax Wall Street” rally Thursday. Nurses in Marquette, three other Michigan cities and 20 other states gathered Thursday to encourage legislators to sign a pledge to tax Wall Street transactions in lieu of making cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and other programs that help “Main Street” American citizens. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
"Today is about speaking out," said Carolyn Hietamaki, president of the MNA's chapter at MGH. "We are telling Mr. Benishek that balancing the budget by making cuts in Medicare and Medicaid is wrong. Taking away from his own people is wrong. Seniors already are stuggling because Medicare and Medicaid are so low already.
"We as nurses have united all over the nation," Hietamaki said. "We are with people from birth to death. Who better to know the journey? It's time now for Wall Street to be taxed. We need to help our nation and take care of our own people. It's time we stop and look at what's going on.
"We are headed toward another Depression and that should not happen in our nation. Not in America."
Hietamaki and other members of the MGH nurses union served lunch to anyone who stopped in.
Benishek was not formally invited to Thursday's rally, but he has been contacted by the union, said Ken Fletcher, associate executive director of the MNA.
"We have invited him to become a supporter of the Wall Street tax. We have faxed him and had registered letters delivered to him," Fletcher said. "After the rally, some of the nurses will be going to his office to hand deliver some letters and postcards from people."
In addressing the assembled crowd at the rally, Hietamaki, who has been a registered nurse for 31 years, said while Hurricane Irene had created devastation on the East Coast, "We see devastation in the Upper Peninsula every day. People come in to urgent care with terrible medical conditions that could have been prevented if they had been helped earlier. But they cannot afford that."
The Michigan Nurses Association has called on every member of Congress to pledge support for a tax on Wall Street financial activity and to support a Main Street Contract for America which calls for: jobs at living wages; guaranteed health care; a secure retirement; good housing; protection from hunger; a safe, healthy environment; a just taxation system; and equal access to quality education.
That last point was emphasized by RaeAnn Loy, president of the Negaunee Education Association, the teachers union in that district. She spoke at the rally as well.
"We need to stand together to fight for our rights," Loy said. "We have legislators who slash money out of school funds ... then turn around and send their own children to private schools.
"Some families in Michigan will be homeless by Christmas," Loy said. "We need to work together to make sure that doesn't happen."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.