PORTLAND, Maine — A group of about a dozen nurses delivered supplies to the Occupy Maine encampment in Portland on Thursday and lent their voices to a growing call for America to implement a tax on Wall Street transactions.
Cokie Giles, president of the board of the Maine State Nurses Association, led the group to Portland, where they brought first aid kits, blankets and other supplies to the demonstrators, who have been camped out in protest of corporate influence on government and unequal wealth distribution for nearly a month.
Around the country, local nurse organizations associated with the larger National Nurses United, like the MSNA, have been joining Occupy camps and staffing first aid tents as a show of support.
“It’s heartening to see people come out and say ‘enough is enough,’” Giles told reporters Thursday in the cold rain at Monument Square. “We saw the protests in Cairo last spring and we said, ‘When are we going to see that here?’”
The MSNA represents about 2,000 nurses in the state. In June, Giles said about 1,000 of the nearly 170,000 NNU nurses went to Wall Street to present the organization’s Main Street Contract plan, which would place a .05 percent tax on transactions made by Wall Street traders.
Giles said such a tax would generate $350 billion to $380 billion annually, which she said could be used to increase access to health care and education. The NNU also claims on its website the tax would “discourage the reckless, high-volume/short-term profit computer-driven Wall Street gambling that lead to our current economic crisis.”
“We want livable wages, and we want health care for all,” Giles said. “That’s a right, not a privilege.”
She said nurses often see the people most affected by a difficult economy, as patients forgo preventative care to save money and end up letting small ailments grow into serious health problems.
Giles said the nurses were prepared to answer any questions the Occupy Maine members have about simple first aid, and to tell the demonstrators how to best deal with coming winter weather. Forecasts on Thursday called for the season’s first snowfall.
She said the occupiers will need to focus on staying warm and dry, and only be exposed to the elements in short shifts when the temperatures get cold.
“It’s going to be very important that people stay safe while they protest,” she said.
The MSNA is the latest labor group to offer its support for Occupy Maine. The Southern Maine Labor Council announced its support about three weeks ago.
Occupy Maine has been in the news this week after the encampment was attacked with a chemical bomb early Sunday morning.