Category Archives: Housing

Legislative Update: Housing is Infrastructure

Housing is Infrastructure

Jarrett Smith
October 18, 2021

On Tuesday, October 12, I extended my support to Representative Maxine Waters (CA-43) Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee by attending their press conference on housing investments in the Build Back Better plan. During her remarks, Rep. Waters stated: “For decades we have put off making the [housing] investments we needed and just like a bridge that crumbles without maintenance our housing safety net is at its breaking point.”

Of the original $3.5 trillion dollar package, $327 billion is allotted for housing. This transformative housing investment would connect millions of families with the housing assistance they need. Investing in housing is our once-in-a-generation chance to help close the widening racial wealth gap.

With only one in four families eligible for housing assistance actually receives it, homelessness and housing insecurity are becoming a reality for more families in the United States every day. We have a moral call to ensure that every person has stable, affordable housing. As Pope Francis said when he visited the United States in 2015, “we can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”

Rep. Johnson listed a few of the programs that the Build Back Better Act could fund, including:

  • • $90 billion for rental assistance (Housing Choice Voucher and Project-Based Rental Assistance)
    • $80 billion for public housing repairs
    • $40+ billion for Community Development Block Grants and the HOME Investment Partnership Program

With the Build Back Better plan approaching the October 31 deadline Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer have set for its passage, congressional leadership is considering cuts to the plan to bring the final cost down, but it is unclear which programs’ funding will be impacted.

This week, Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15) led 125 lawmakers in sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The letter urged them to keep $90 billion for rental assistance, $80 billion for public housing repairs and $37 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund in the final version of the bill.

It is critical to maintain these transformative housing investments in this final Build Back Better package.

Take Action

There is no time to lose. Urge your legislators to keep the proposed housing and community development funds in the final bill.

Call your Representative at 888-738-3058 and tell them to support a bold Build Back Better plan

Allying with the We Serve with Love Campaign

NETWORK Allies with the We Serve with Love Campaign

Gina Kelley
July 19, 2021

In June, in celebration of Pride, NETWORK Lobby signed on as an ally of the We Serve with Love Campaign. This important campaign, led by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, aims to lift up faith-based direct service providers providing services to LGBTQ+ people and families. Additionally, this campaign educates faith-based providers on how to offer the most welcoming and safe services to LGBTQ+ people and increases understanding of the intersectionality of poverty and the discrimination people encounter because of their LGBTQ+ identities.

Speaking about NETWORK’s support of this campaign, Chief Lobbyist Laura Peralta-Schulte, said “At NETWORK we advocate for federal policies that respect the dignity and ensure the economic security of all in the United States, no exceptions. Today, 1 in 5 members of the LGBTQ+ community live in poverty, more than double the national rate. No one should have to struggle to make ends meet because of who they are or who they love. Motivated by our faith, which calls us to love one another, NETWORK is proud to support the We Serve with Love campaign, shining a light on faith-based service providers that provide safe and inclusive support to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

We know that people of faith and the LGBTQ+ community are not, and should not be divided against one another. Many people of faith are members of the LGBTQ+ community – around 20% of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. are Catholic. People of faith, and majorities of all voters, support laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. Treating everyone, regardless of their identity, with dignity and respect is a universal value.

We are proud to celebrate the service providers who practice acceptance and love with everyone who needs their aid.

Eviction Moratorium Remains Extended to July 31

Eviction Moratorium Remains Extended to July 31

Caraline Feairheller
June 30, 2021

The COVID-19 Pandemic has exacerbated the affording housing crisis — leaving millions of renters at risk of losing their homes. Renters of color in the United States disproportionally face this hardship and are now twice as likely to report being at risk of eviction. On June 24, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention extended the eviction moratorium from June 30 until July 31.

Despite being challenged in the courts, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the extension of the eviction ban. This 5 to 4 decision will allow government agencies to continue working on getting Emergency Rental Assistance into the hands of tenants who are in need.

Throughout the pandemic, Congress has provided more than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance through the Consolidate Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan. Recently, the White House and United States Treasury updated their guidance on the qualifications and possibilities of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Renters or landlords apply for this assistance from the state or local entities selected to administer the program, find the right place to apply here.

As clarified by the National Low Income Housing Coalition FAQ on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the updated guidelines:

  • Provide ERA funds to families who have lost or are at risk of losing housing by paying for relocation assistance, prospective rent, security deposits, and temporary hotel accommodations.
  • Provide ERA Funds to families who are temporarily displaced living in hotels or motels.
  • Provide ERA funds to families living in federally subsided housing.

Eligibility for Emergency Rental Assistance Funds:

  • If one or more individuals has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the pandemic.
  • If one or more individuals can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
  • The guidelines do not impose restrictions based on immigration status. State and local governments cannot impose their own immigration status or Social Security requirements.

Finally, when ERA payments are being made on the household’s behalf, landlords are prohibited from evicting renters for nonpayment.

NETWORK welcomes the decisions to extend the eviction moratorium and applauds the Supreme Court for prioritizing the health of the nation. The updated guidelines for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program will keep families in their homes. However, the extension of the eviction moratorium and updated guidelines is only a short-term solution to the affordable housing crisis in the United States. Congress must work to pass the American Jobs Plan in order to honor the human dignity of every person by investing in long-term affordable housing.

Read the Full National Low Income Housing Coalition FAQ Sheet Here.

2021 Is the Year to Pass the Equality Act

2021 Is the Year to Pass the Equality Act

Gina Kelley
June 24, 2021

In many U.S. states, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be fired at will, denied a place to live, and refused medical care. Our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and neighbors can legally face disrespect and discrimination because of who they are and who they love. Discrimination has no home in our country or in our communities. No one should be excluded in a society that respects and supports human dignity.

The Equality Act (H.R.5/S.393) would provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the Equality Act does this by “amending existing civil rights law — including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government — to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex. The Equality Act would also update the public spaces and services covered in current law to include retail stores, services such as banks and legal services, and transportation services.”

These legal protections would ensure that folks in the LGBTQ+ community can fully belong and participate in our society without the risk of being subject to discriminatory and punitive practices.

The Equality Act (H.R. 5) passed the House of Representatives in February of this year. It joins the long list of legislation that will not reach the floor while the filibuster remains. The Equality Act, like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the For the People Act, and more would help us create a more just economy and a more equitable society, and deserve a real chance in the Senate.

At NETWORK, we affirm that our faith calls us to welcome and love everyone—no exceptions. Additionally, many members of the LGBTQ+ community are people of faith – up to 20% LGBTQ+ Americans are Catholic. People of faith and the majority of voters support laws like the Equality Act, which protect members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Not only is this legislation popular but we know that our faith calls us to practice welcome and inclusion and to see and affirm God in all people. NETWORK Lobby urges the Senate to pass the Equality Act and finally include protections for our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers into our country’s fundamental civil rights laws.

Honoring Pride Month by Ending LGBTQ+ Housing Disparities

Honoring Pride Month by Ending LGBTQ+ Housing Disparities

Caraline Feairheller
June 14, 2021

The month of June marks the beginning of Pride Month. First celebrated in 1970 as a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, the month is both a celebration of LGBTQ+ individuals and the LGBTQ+ community and a recognition of the violence faced by LGBTQ+ communities throughout history – violence that continues to this day. This Pride Month, we call on the Biden administration and Congress to pass federal policies that bring justice and equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.

LGBTQ+ people face multi-faceted and intersecting forms of stigma and discrimination across their lifetime. The inequities faced by LGBTQ+ communities do not only take the form of physical violence but often also stem from discriminatory policies, including our country’s unjust lack of affordable housing. Access to safe, stable, affordable housing is a human right. However, the rising costs of housing paired with the legacy of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in housing continues to threaten the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ people in the United States. Today, LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of poverty and lower raters of homeownership compared to non-LGBTQ+ people. The lack of explicit legal protections has led to one in five transgender and non-binary people facing housing discrimination and nearly one in ten having been evicted.

It is critical that the Biden administration and Congress support housing policies that honor the dignity of each person and ensure all have access to safe and affordable housing. In order to build anew and cultivate an inclusive community, anti-LGBTQ+ housing discrimination policies and practices must end. In particular, these federal policies must extend protections for Black trans women who face an epidemic of violence and immoral rates of discrimination because at the intersection of racism, transphobia, and sexism. While there is still much work to do, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is a necessary start to reshape our country’s housing.

The American Jobs Plan would allocate $213 billion to build, preserve, and retrofit 2 million homes by:

  • Creating public housing and addressing capital needs following years of disinvestment in our public housing ($40 billion)
  • Instituting Neighborhood Homes Investment Act tax credits for low- and middle-income homebuyers to build or rehabilitate 500,000 homes in underserved communities ($20 billion)
  • Developing 1 million affordable, resilient, accessible, energy-efficient, and electrified housing units in underserved communities nationwide, including rural and tribal areas ($126 billion)

In addition to the programs and funding included in the American Jobs Plan, NETWORK calls on Congress to increase funding for public housing in order to adequately meet the needs of our country’s families and provide housing vouchers to all who qualify by creating a universal housing voucher program.

Along with increased investments in housing, the Senate should pass the Equality Act (H.R.5), which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing as well as other areas.

Housing is a basic human right and the foundation for a person’s ability to meet their needs and achieve their God-given purpose. Justice demands that every member of our human family is protected from discrimination; Congress must allocate funding and pass policies that protect the rights of all LGBTQ+ individuals.

Stay engaged and find more ways to take action to advance policies that build our systems and structures anew at www.networklobby.org/ActNow.

Investing in Housing Infrastructure Answers Gospel Call

Investing in Housing Infrastructure Answers Gospel Call

Jarrett Smith
June 9, 2021

I will also appoint for a place for my people, and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them anymore as formerly.

2 Samuel 7:10

On January 20, 2021,  President Biden was elected as the President of the United States of America.  As a practicing Catholic, Biden understands God’s call to pursue justice, and help amplify the power of the oppressed. For many, the Biden/Harris administration offers hope, especially when it comes to relief for basic human needs. A place to call home is a right ordained in scripture.

Here at NETWORK Lobby, specific policy goals on the topic of eradicating racism must be part of President Biden’s housing infrastructure proposal. NETWORK would like to see the following included as part of the foundation of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan:

    • Bridging the gap between incomes and housing costs by expanding rental voucher assistance to every eligible household. Currently, only 1 in 4 families eligible for rental assistance receives it;
    • Providing at least $70 billion to start increasing the supply and renovating existing rental housing; There is no state or congressional district in America with enough affordable homes for families with the lowest incomes.

According to researchers at Columbia University, universal housing vouchers would cut child poverty by 36 percent. This policy proposal is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cut child poverty by one-third. Only government elected officials can make these decisions.

NETWORK believes that even the lowest-earning household or individual should have a place to call home. Housing is a human right, and we can no longer allow federal policy to get in the way of this goal. A change in housing policy must happen today.  Homelessness is almost always a remnant of racial inequity. And while homelessness is a national crisis, here in Washington D.C. is a place many homeless people of color call home. We must eliminate racial disparities in housing on all levels.

NETWORK’s Build Anew cornerstone of “rooting our economy in solidarity” should be fundamental to future federal housing policy. Housing is the basis for stable economic prosperity. Without owning a place to live, how can contributions be regularly made to society, moreover, how can a person feel secure and accumulate capital? President Biden’s infrastructure housing proposal is an excellent start, and we will advocate for that proposal and further steps as it becomes our nation’s new infrastructure housing reality.

Pursuing Racial and Economic Justice in Housing

Pursuing Racial and Economic Justice in Housing

Jarrett Smith
April 28, 2021

Last week, President Biden released details of his much-anticipated American Jobs Plan. It is a bold proposal, and includes reforms in key areas. To honor the human dignity of every person, NETWORK affirms that housing should be a right in this country; therefore, we are pleased President Biden has prioritized affordable housing in this package. In total, the American Jobs Plan provides $213 billion to build, preserve, and retrofit 2 million homes.

More specifically, the President’s plan proposes the following capital investments:

  • $40 billion to create new public housing
  • $27 billion to establish a Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to mobilize private investments in distributed energy and retrofits
  • $20 billion for Neighborhood Homes Investment Act tax credits to help more than 500,000 low- and middle-income homebuyers build and rehabilitate homes
  • Develop 1 million affordable, resilient, accessible, energy-efficient, and electrified housing units through tax credits, formula funding, grants, and project-based rental assistance
  • Create grants to eliminate state and local exclusionary zoning laws
  • Guarantee energy efficiency improvements through block grants, Weatherization Assistance Program, and tax credits

At NETWORK, we see housing as an opportunity to dismantle systemic racism, a cornerstone of the Build Anew Agenda, as it applies to housing policies that have been a part of this country its inception. It is critical that specific policies to address and eradicate racism are part of this housing infrastructure proposal.  Components NETWORK would like to see in the proposal include:

Bridging the gap between individual’s incomes and housing costs by expanding rental assistance to every eligible household.

  • Currently, only 1 in 4 households eligible for rental assistance receives it. The vast majority of families – over 17 million — who need rental assistance do not receive it, causing many people to be cost-burdened or experience housing insecurity (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

Expanding and preserving the supply of rental homes that are affordable and accessible to people with the lowest incomes, as well as providing at least $70 billion to start increasing the supply and renovating existing rental housing.

  • There is no state or congressional district in the U.S. with enough affordable homes for families with the lowest incomes. Additional housing is badly needed, and at affordable prices, for all families and individuals to secure stable housing in the U.S. (National Low Income Housing Coalition).

Providing emergency rental assistance to households in crisis by creating a national housing stabilization fund.

  • Millions of households are one unexpected financial interruption away from economic hardship that could quickly result in homelessness. Large and small municipalities should be able to directly access these funds for distribution and a request for financial assistance should be simple, involving minimal paperwork. Funds should be distributed by giving name, address, landlord and the amount owed. This process should be a very liberal annual cap that resets at the start of each calendar year.

Strengthening and enforcing renter protections.

  • The power inequities between renters and landlords puts renters at risk of housing instability and homelessness. CDC eviction protections should remain in place for 36 months to protect families and individuals from eviction.

NETWORK is committed to making sure that there are no people living in the United States without a home.  We believe that even the lowest earning household or individual should have a place to call home. Housing is a right for all individuals and families and we can no longer allow homelessness to be an acceptable condition for anyone in the United States. As Pope Francis said during his 2015 visit to the United States, “Let me be clear. There is no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for the lack of housing.”

Moreover, the Build Anew cornerstone of rooting our economy in solidarity should be fundamental for future federal housing policy. Housing is the basis for stable economic security and prosperity. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is an excellent start, and we will advocate for that proposal, and further steps, once it becomes our nation’s new infrastructure reality for housing.

Senate Hearing Examines Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing

Senate Hearing Examines Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing

April 12, 2021

Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing “Separate and Unequal: The Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing,” NETWORK Lobby expresses its gratitude to Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs for holding this important hearing on the intersection of systemic racism and housing. Having access to safe, stable, affordable housing improves physical and mental health, and honors the dignity of every person. Despite this sacred truth, racism in our housing system has barred Black and brown individuals and families from securing quality housing at an affordable cost for centuries.

We must name and dismantle racism in our society and our economy in order to advance the common good. Tomorrow’s hearing plays an important role in that. As we move forward together, it is critical that President Biden’s infrastructure plan affirms that housing is a human right and seeks to ensure that every person and family in the United States is housed. As Pope Francis said in 2015, “We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”

At NETWORK, we are working to realize our vision of a just and inclusive society where all can thrive, including especially those who are most often left out: women, people of color, people on the economic margins, and those at the intersections of these identities. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Sherrod Brown and other Senators to build our nation anew through our federal policies.

Separate and Unequal: The Legacy of Racial Discrimination in Housing
U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

DATE: Tuesday, April 13, 2021
TIME: 10:00 AM

Watch the Hearing here: https://www.banking.senate.gov/hearings/separate-and-unequal-the-legacy-of-racial-discrimination-in-housing

President Biden Extends Federal Eviction Moratorium on Day One

President Biden Extends Federal Eviction Moratorium on Day One

Audrey Carroll
January 21, 2021

On the first day of the Biden-Harris administration, President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders. Among these was an order to extend the federal moratorium on evictions through the end of March. The moratorium is implemented through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and seeks to aid tenants financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday the new director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, MD, released a statement saying, “I will extend the order halting residential evictions until at least 3/31/21. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation’s health & has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.”

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in five households were behind on rent in December 2020. President Biden’s executive order provides vital relief for renters struggling to make payments and maintain their housing, especially essential workers and Black and Brown communities who have been the most impacted by COVID-19. Without this action by President Biden thousands may have lost their homes, says president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition Diane Yentel. However, the order lacks enforcement from a federal agency to penalize landlords who unlawfully evict tenants. The CDC order is not an automatic eviction ban, but provides some immediate security for renters as the Biden administration continues to work on their American Rescue Plan which will allocate $25 billion in rental assistance.

No one should live in fear of losing their housing or falling behind on rent. NETWORK agrees with Pope Francis, who said during his 2015 visit to the United States, “We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.” We at NETWORK support the swift actions taken by the Biden-Harris administration on Day One to provide assistance to renters, with an emphasis on alleviating the housing crisis in communities of color. We look forward to working alongside President Biden and our partners to advocate for policies that recognize safe, affordable housing as a human right.

How To Organize During a Pandemic

How To Organize During a Pandemic

Alex Burnett
May 27, 2020

Recently, journalists have written extensively about the anti-lockdown protests gripping our nation. During the past month, The New York Times published at least 15 stories about anti-lockdown protesters, highlighting their propensity to carry assault weapons, flaunt social distancing, display Confederate flags, and secure funding from prominent conservative donors. This reporting is crucially important, especially since many of these demonstrators espouse white supremacist rhetoric and actively participate in neo-Nazi organizations, like The Proud Boys.

Despite its significance, this reporting can eclipse stories about progressive activists who are struggling for a socially just COVID-19 response. Workers in at least 7 states organized strikes involving more than 1,000 people in March and April, but the media largely ignored their historic organizing and instead focused primarily on the anti-lockdown crowd.

In this blog post, I want to highlight some progressive activists—specifically, The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) and National Nurses United (NNU). Both NNU and PPC are building grassroots support for a COVID-19 response that advances racial and economic justice, while recognizing we cannot “return to normal” if this pandemic abides. By demanding immediate COVID-19 relief alongside permanent systemic change, PPC and NNU are demonstrating how other justice-seekers can effectively organize during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Poor People’s Campaign: Working Towards a “New Normal”

A national coalition led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, The Poor People’s Campaign quickly recognized why coronavirus hit the U.S. remarkably hard. The PPC condemned the federal government’s reckless and uncoordinated response,” but maintained, “The current emergency…results from a deeper and much longer-term crisis”—the “evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism,” described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in May 1967. To fully address the COVID-19 crisis, the PPC argued that the U.S. must eliminate racism, poverty, and our environmentally destructive wartime economy.

Approximately 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Poor People’s March on Washington, Dr. Barber revived Dr. King’s efforts at building a mass, multiracial movement of working-class people intent on transforming American society. Since 2017, the PPC organized 43 state committees, comprised of low-income people and faith leaders, lobbied federal and state policymakers around their Moral Agenda, and coordinated civil disobedience nationwide. With support from dozens of social justice organizations, including NETWORK, the PPC is now turning their attention to the COVID-19 crisis, hoping to bring the kind of pressure that many lawmakers haven’t felt since the 1960’s civil rights revolution.

To accomplish this ambitious goal, the PPC is working closely with local organizers, explained Adam Barnes, who coordinates the PPC’s faith partnerships and The Rights & Religions Program at The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice. Since January, the PPC mobilized its members to support local responses to the COVID-19 crisis—including rent strikes, mutual aid networks, workplace walkouts, and anti-hospital closure demonstrations. These expressions of “non-cooperation,” Barnes emphasized, are faithful responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Since half the U.S. population lived in poverty before coronavirus eliminated a single job, the PPC believes these actions are urgent.

Crucially, the PPC’s local organizing amplifies their national advocacy. On April 3rd, the PPC sharply criticized COVID-19 relief legislation for funneling trillions of federal dollars into investment banks without guaranteeing healthcare, income, and housing for all Americans. To bolster their message, the PPC organized a National Week of Action, scheduled for May 21st (5/21). On May 21st, justice-seekers can call or email Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask them to support the PPC’s Moral Agenda and COVID-19 demands, which would provide immediate COVID-19 relief and reduce racial and economic inequality. Additionally, as part of this week of action, religious communities can host special services amplifying the PPC’s message and mourning the 250,000 people killed by poverty each year. Click here to learn more about the May 21st week of action.

Much of this activism is building towards the PPC’s Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington. NETWORK is proud to join the Poor People’s Campaign as a mobilizing partner for the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering, on June 20, 2020. At this historic event, which PPC organizers hope will be the largest digital gathering of low-income people in U.S. history, PPC speakers will denounce what “normal” looked like before the pandemic—140 million people living in poverty, an irredeemably racist criminal justice system, widespread voter suppression in communities of color, and unsanitary deportation camps, which separate immigrant families. After offering solutions to these “normal” problems and the COVID-19 crisis, PPC speakers will help participants develop plans for building grassroots power in their communities. To RSVP for the PPC’s June 20th event, click here.

“We’ve seen how broken our system really is,” Adam Barnes told me. “I can guarantee you that the people in power are going to push for us to ‘return to normal,’ but this is a chance for us to do things differently.” Adam is right. By supporting innovative groups, like NNU and the PPC, we can struggle for a solution to this crisis that pushes us towards something better than “normal.” Hopefully, it will resemble justice.

National Nurses United & The Long Struggle for Health Justice

The largest labor union of registered nurses (RNs) in the United States, National Nurses United responded to COVID-19 months before it dominated headlines. On January 30, 2020, NNU sent a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), which demanded better COVID-19 protections for healthcare workers. By mid-March, the union had lobbied most federal health agencies, spoken with dozens of Members of Congress, and organized a national day of action, in which thousands of nurses demanded more personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus testing. Crucially, NNU emphasized that our nation’s broken healthcare system was not prepared for a pandemic requiring mass testing and hospitalization. According to a March 2020 NNU analysis covering 48 states, over 70% of hospitals did not have sufficient PPE or a plan for treating COVID-19 patients.

Over the next 2 months, NNU continued pressuring policymakers and employers to prioritize people over profit in their coronavirus response. Besides demanding the Cook County Department of Corrections release incarcerated people from jails and prisons, NNU continually stressed that COVID-19 disproportionately harms low-income people of color. With these stakes in mind, nearly 100,000 NNU nurses organized May Day actions across 13 states, during which they called on the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) to better protect healthcare workers and their patients. Most recently, NNU brought the heat to the White House, where nurses coordinated a vigil-protest honoring 88 recently deceased nurses.

NNU’s flurry of activity offers a model for progressives interested in organizing during the coronavirus lockdown. By combining digital actions, vigils, and confrontational protests, NNU created many avenues for participation, leading to remarkably high levels of turnout. Additionally, NNU did not limit their demands to one branch of government or a single negligent employer. Through pressuring federal and state policymakers alongside the private sector, NNU demonstrated that our entire healthcare system bears responsibility for the harm wrought by coronavirus. A longtime advocate for safe staffing levels and patient protections, NNU was ideally positioned to make this clear.

To learn about upcoming NNU actions, visit their website.