Amid an increasingly partisan and uncertain political climate, RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, isn’t afraid to call out politicians on both sides of the aisle.
“We’re doing the exact opposite agenda of the Democrats who are just about Trump,” says DeMoro, a Democrat.
“What we’ve been up to is trying to change the landscape in the United States for more progressive politics and people to win an election.” The Democratic Party, she has said, “is in absolute crisis and denial.”
She was the first woman to work as an organizer for the Western Conference of Teamsters.
In addition to overseeing the 185,000 member nurse’s union – the largest of its kind in the country – DeMoro, who came up through the ranks as a union organizer, also serves as national vice president of the AFL-CIO, whose organizations have generally aligned with the Democratic Party’s goals.
But today, DeMoro said, the Democrats are veering toward the center right and ignoring the concerns of their own base.
Indeed, DeMoro is primarily concerned with the state of health care – both at a national level, and in California. So she was outraged when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, refused to allow the single-payer health care bill, AB 562, to be heard in the Assembly. Backed by Democrats, the measure had emerged from the Senate, but Rendon blocked it from the lower house on June 23, calling it “woefully incomplete.”
DeMoro was not pleased, and fumed at Rendon and his allies who called his move “courageous.”
She called Rendon’s act “cowardly,” and said on Twitter, “Not having access to health care is a death sentence for many.” DeMoro’s followers circulated a vivid image of a California grizzly stabbed in the back. On the blade was written “Rendon.”
DeMoro, who is accustomed to fights, has a degree in women’s studies from Southern Illinois University. She was the first woman to work as an organizer for the Western Conference of Teamsters. She later organized for the American Federation of Teachers and the clerical workers at the University of California. She joined the California Nurses Association in 1986.
“If you aren’t a neo-liberal zombie, you’re a bomb thrower.” — RoseAnn DeMoro
Within the ranks of labor, DeMoro is not universally liked — to say the least.
“SB 562 failed not because of Speaker Rendon, but because the proponents tried to exploit a Trump narrative and make threats to pass an incomplete policy without doing the tough work to build a truly broad-based progressive coalition,“ Jim Araby of the United Food and Commercial Workers union said in a written statement.
Last year at the Democratic National Convention, where DeMoro supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and castigated the Democratic Party for failing its base, she also drew fire.
One high ranking public union official described her to BuzzFeed as a “bomb thrower, not a bridge builder.”
“If you aren’t a neo-liberal zombie, you’re a bomb thrower,” she replied.
DeMoro is not apologetic.
She said she sees nothing of substance coming from the mainstream of the Democratic Party to backup their opposition to Republican policies.
“These folks are sitting around in their circular firing squads trying to figure out how to keep profiting off human suffering.” — RoseAnn DeMoro.
“We’ve been very focused on single-payer health care obviously, but we’ve been very focused on that for years,” DeMoro said.
“But we’ve never seen an environment that’s quite so ripe for genuine systemic change. Initially what we found was lip service from the Democratic Party. We don’t expect much from the Republican Party – except for the fact that, ironically, Donald Trump has made some positive statements about single payer, including what he said about the Australian health care system.”
DeMoro was referring to a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when Trump said, “you have better health care than we do.”
Sanders, who DeMoro supported during the Democratic Primary, and other liberal Democrats are quick to note that Australia – like most of the developed world – guarantees health care for all.
DeMoro told Politico that Trump might be good for single payer as a businessman, because single payer would, in her view, create financial stability in the health care field. In an interview with Capitol Weekly, she was more skeptical, but any optimism she might have had would seem to have been derailed by Trump’s June 30 Tweet:
“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!”
Such a move would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
“The problem with the Democrats, frankly, is that they cannot see that from our perspective in a progressive environment the logical conclusion is to reject corporate money…” — RoseAnn DeMoro
“These folks are sitting around in their circular firing squads trying to figure out how to keep profiting off human suffering,” DeMoro said. “And neither the Democrats, nor Republicans, can actually come up with the real answers. (Single payer) removes profit from human suffering, and they just can’t figure out what the right plan is that allows them to profit off of misery, and have funding from the insurers and ‘Pharma’ and all the different places and contributors.
DeMoro did not hold back in calling out the Democrats for lack of vision.
“The problem with the Democrats, frankly, is that they cannot see that from our perspective in a progressive environment the logical conclusion is to reject corporate money and actually go for the bases where the people are and they will fund you and they will support you and they will work for you,” DeMoro said.
Looking forward for the California 2018 gubernatorial race, DeMoro and the nurses union have endorsed Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. DeMoro lauded Newsom as a progressive, but added that it will take a concerted effort for the party on the state and national level, to champion the concerns of voters over what DeMoro called “the monied interests (that) are so entrenched in the Democratic Party.” This may lead the party elite to reject populist politics, which she said, would be a grave misstep.
“The Sanders campaign gave voice to…a muted roar of anger at the policies of the United States,” DeMoro said. “The country isn’t working for the average person…We’ve been drowning in neoliberalism for the last forty years and the sanctimonious narrative that went with that.”
In order to unite the party and win back the House and Senate, DeMoro said, Democrats will have to stop ignoring the concerns of voters that led to Trump’s victory in the first place.
“The obligation of anyone who runs as a Democrat, (should be) to put the care and concerns of suffering people at the forefront of their agenda,” DeMoro said. “What we’re trying to do is to make that so.”