CHL Rounds Up Recent Coverage on Relationship Between Governor, Nurses
Several newspapers recently examined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) labeling of the 60,000-member California Nurses Association as a "special interest" and the reactions of nurses to the governor's decision last November to delay the implementation of revised nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Summaries of the coverage appear below.
Sacramento Bee: The Bee on Saturday examined CNA's efforts to criticize Schwarzenegger's actions, most recently flying a banner over the Oscar ceremonies Sunday night. Some critics have said that the union is merely using the nurse staffing issue for "publicity as part of a national organizing drive," the Bee reports. Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, said, "Their vitriolic campaigning citing what are honestly minor changes to the ratios is not about their so-called concern about patients. It is about their efforts to make themselves a national labor union." But CNA President Deborah Burger said that people who have criticized the union's "aggressive campaign" are "really trying to say [that] women are not acting as they are supposed to" (Benson/Delshon, Sacramento Bee, 2/26).
San Diego Union-Tribune: The Union-Tribune on Sunday looked at how Schwarzenegger has applied the term "special interest" to CNA and other opposition groups "but not to powerful businesses interests that contribute record-breaking sums of money to his causes," including insurers and drug companies. According to the Union-Tribune, the "war of words" between Schwarzenegger and CNA, which has spent more than $200,000 on ads "attacking" the governor, has contributed to "the recent decline in Schwarzenegger's popularity." Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at California State University-Sacramento, said the term "special interest" is no longer effective for the governor because "once you attach it to a specific group, it only works if you don't like that group or don't belong to that group" (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/27).
San Francisco Chronicle: Recent CNA protests and ads -- which have shown the group has an "eye for spectacle that even a Hollywood star like Schwarzenegger might admire" -- have positioned nurses as the governor's "most visible foil" in his drive to pass "a business-friendly platform designed in part to reduce the clout of groups he has declared special interests," the Chronicle reports. According to the Chronicle, the "ramped-up campaign is likely a preview of an all-out public relations war expected this fall if Schwarzenegger calls for a special election" (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/26).
In related news, the Schwarzenegger administration earlier this month sent state television stations a "mock news story" video -- paid for by taxpayer money -- that advocated a proposal to end mandatory lunch breaks for many hourly workers, including nurses, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, the tape, which states that the proposal would allow workers to "eat when they are hungry and not when the government tells them," does not "mention that organized labor opposes the changes or that workers would have a harder time suing employers over missed meal breaks." Assembly Labor Committee Chair Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) said the tape is "clearly propaganda," noting that a law that states the Department of General Services, which made the tape, is barred from creating communications for "political, sectarian or propaganda purposes." But Rob Stutzman, communication director for the governor, said that the video news release is "just like any other press release, only it's on video" (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 2/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.