A Long History of CIR Political Advocacy

CIR members have been enthusiastic advocates in 2012 – for healthcare reform, paid sick days for workers, and living wage laws, all policies that help patients lead healthier lives. As we head into election season, take a look back at some of the other issues that residents have been involved in throughout CIR’s history.

1982 In the midst of the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, CIR members were on a race of their own: to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and end nuclear testing. Throughout the 1980s, CIR members passed petitions, joined letter-writing campaigns, and aligned with Physicians for Social Responsibility, a group that continues advocating for nuclear disarmament to this day. CIR members were among one million people who marched in New York City on June 12, 1982 in the largest anti-nuclear arms demonstration to date, and in 1983 CIR President Dr. Terry Fitzgerald testified before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the dangers to patient care following a potential nuclear disaster.
1983CIR partnered with other labor unions in establishing the Labor Committee Against Apartheid to assist black trade unionists in South Africa to gain rights and representation and to call for an end to apartheid. The CIR House of Delegates also voted that year to suspend CIR business with any institutions with ties to the South African government, and two years later CIR joined a march of thousands protesting apartheid and demanding the release of Nelson Mandela.

Dr. Barry Kistnasamy (center) from the National Medical and Dental Association of South Africa standing with former CIR President Dr. Shelly Falik (right) and former Executive Director John Ronches.

1988As the AIDS crisis grew throughout the 1980s, residents were in the thick of the battles over how best to care for patients. CIR members at University Hospital in Newark successfully lobbied to end the practice of “patient dumping” following sharp increases in the number of AIDS patients being transferred to the hospital from other New Jersey communities, thus putting a strain on the care that Newark doctors were able to provide. Meanwhile, across the country at Highland Hospital in Oakland, residents led a rally to help defeat Proposition 102, a ballot initiative which sought to track and record the names of patients who tested HIV positive and would allow for employers and insurance companies to fire or deny coverage to persons with AIDS. The controversial measure had gained support nearing Election Day, but as residents spoke about the dangers of such a law and vowed their noncompliance should it pass, public favor quickly swung the other way, and Proposition 102 was defeated by a wide margin.

Highland Housestaff in Oakland, CA signed a pledge of non-compliance to demonstrate their opposition to Proposition 102 in 1988.

2000 Sharps injuries and the threat of exposure to blood borne pathogens are still a serious concern for healthcare workers today. But imagine our hospital world without needleless devices! That was the case in most U.S. hospitals before passage of a federal law in 2000 that required hospitals to purchase retractable, blunt and other safe equipment where available and appropriate for the procedure to be performed. That law took years of advocacy to pass and CIR members, joining with SEIU, were at the forefront of the campaign. In the 12 years since, sharps injuries have fallen dramatically.
2008Faced with the problem of San Francisco’s only trauma center and acute-care facility being shut down unless rebuilt to meet seismic standards, residents at San Francisco General Hospital rallied to help pass Proposition A, a ballot initiative seeking to raise $887 million to save the hospital. They wrote letters, phone banked, and knocked on doors to help spread information about the initiative and why it was so important to keep SFGH’s doors open – and safe – for all San Francisco residents. CIR’s efforts paid off on Election Day, as Proposition A passed by a landslide.

ENT residents Drs. Betty Tsai and Matthew Russell turned out to support San Francisco General Hospital.

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