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5.27.05
Science and Health:
California Nurses and Gov. Schwarzenegger
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Overview

Pollsters have noted a recent decline in California Governor Schwarzenegger's approval ratings, a drop that some have linked to a campaign staged by the California Nurses Association (CNA). A number of the group's protests in — and even outside — of California have gotten so large that the governor has had to enter some venues through a side door.

The CNA was initially alarmed by Governor Schwarzenegger's suspension of a regulation that had been signed into law by former California Governor Gray Davis. The law, which was sponsored by the CNA and had been slated to take effect on January 1, 2005, established a ratio of one nurse to every five patients in California hospitals. Citing a shortage of qualified nurses, Governor Schwarzenegger suspended the law just two days after the November election. The CNA contends that the Governor is actually suspending the regulation as a cost-saving favor to the hospital industry.

The Governor has fired back at the CNA's protests, labeling the union a "special interest" group. In turn, the CNA has taken to targeting the Governor's fundraising events to bring attention to those groups supporting the Governor financially.

The battle heated up further when in the spring of this year Schwarzenegger threatened to alter public employee pension plans substituting 401(k)s for more traditional pension plans. (Learn more about pensions.) The Governor's plan also proposed the elimination of survivor benefits for the widows and orphans of police officers and firefighters killed on the job. This has moved some of those groups, and many of the state's teachers, to join the CNA's fight.

Schwarzenegger has since withdrawn the controversial pension proposal. Additionally, a Sacramento judge and a California appellate court have sided with the union in suspending Governor Schwarzenegger's efforts to undercut the nurse-to-patient ratio rule. The union is now engaged in a lawsuit to permanently restore the law to the books.

Further information:

Rose Ann DeMoro

Rose Ann DeMoro Biography

Recently the LOS ANGELES TIMES characterized Rose Ann DeMoro as "a 56-year-old, Missouri-born, Bruce Springsteen-loving executive director of the California Nurses Assn., a 60,000-member labor union." Other journalists have called her Arnold Scwarzenegger's worst nightmare. Some of DeMoro's detractors point out that she has never been a nurse. Indeed before joining the California Nurses Association staff 19 years ago, she organized Hollywood producers for the Teamsters. DeMoro began her union organizing career after leaving a UC Santa Barbara graduate program in women's studies.

As head of the California Nurses Association she has presided over an increase in membership when many unions have seen dropping numbers — tripling its membership in the past 12 years. The Association currently represents 60,000 nurses — 45% of hospital nurses in California; 61% of the 297,000 nurses licensed in the state work in hospitals. In 2005 MODERN HEALTHCARE named DeMoro as one of the "Top 25 Women in Healthcare," citing CNA's leading role in public policy, passage of the landmark law requiring safe nurse staffing in hospitals, and other achievements for nurses and patients.


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