More than 3,000 registered nurses -- joined by women's rights and labor activists -- are gathering in Sacramento on Thursday to protest California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. The two-hour march begins at the Sacramento Convention Center at 4:00 p.m. PT and convenes two hours later at the steps of the state capital. Many of the participants will be wearing period costumes from the early 20th century.
Deborah Burger, one of the presidents of the California Nurses Association, told the Huffington Post that part of the reason for the protest occurring on the 90th anniversary of women's suffrage is to highlight Whitman's spotty voting record, including the fact that she wasn't even registered to vote before 2002. Additionally, the nurses have concerns about Whitman's plans to cut 40,000 state jobs, which she said would save the state $3.3 billion.
When asked whether Whitman has ever addressed the Nurses Association directly, Burger said that she hasn't, but her staff has tried to "threaten" them. "She's sent letters saying that she allegedly feels she isn't being given a fair hearing, but we've offered in many forms to talk with her, Burger told the Huffington Post. "When she couldn't get the nurses to participate in a real dialogue and a fair exchange of ideas, she created a forum, a nurse advisory council that was handpicked by her and her campaign to give her the answers she wanted."
Burger also charged that Whitman's campaign staff tried to "crash" several of the nurses' events and has been "doing the phone polling and harassing nurses at home, calling them and finding how they would view her as a candidate. And she demanded our private information on where we lived, our addresses, e-mails, and those kinds of things."
Andrea Jones Rivera, Whitman's campaign spokesman, sent the Huffington Post an e-mail countering that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Brown, is "bought and paid for by unions." "The event today is a ploy coordinated by a group of radical union bosses who have consistently misrepresented the views of hardworking nurses throughout the state," she added. "Californians deserve to know what Jerry Brown will give them in return for their generous financial support. Finally, how is this for union dues well spent? CNA President Rose DeMoro, who has never worked as a nurse a day in her life, is paid $300,000, five times more than the median salary of an American nurse."
The relationship between Whitman and the Nurses Association, one of California's most powerful labor unions, has consistently been contentious. In June, it launched an ad campaign saying nurses wouldn't be "pushed around" by Whitman. They have also gone around and shadowed her at campaign events, mocking her as "Queen Meg" for the fact that she's personally poured $100 million into her campaign.