As a retired nurse, I’ve watched with admiration as nurses, health care professionals and other frontline workers sacrificed for our communities' safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when things were hard and scary, they stepped up because they made promises to their colleagues, patients, customers and community.
Sadly, the same cannot be said about some of our elected officials. Over the last few years some of our state legislators have refused to show up and do their jobs when the Legislature was in session. Not only are they demonstrating that they don’t take their responsibilities as seriously as our frontline workers do, but, to the shock of any working Oregonian, they have been continuing to draw their salary even as they refuse to come to work. Even more infuriatingly, their political antics have wasted nearly $500,000 in taxpayers' funds.
Oregon nurses were working with patients facing hunger and a lack of affordable housing even before the pandemic. They have watched as the last year has made these problems much worse in our community, and we all know unemployed friends and neighbors, as well as local small businesses owners, who urgently need help recovering. Nurses working in our schools see how we desperately need more resources so we can safely fully reopen our classrooms.
I can barely believe that some lawmakers are willing to slow down the critical investments necessary to help solve these problems by walking out of the legislative session.
When I practiced as a nurse, I held my oath and duties to my patients as my top priority. Our elected officials should take their oath of office, our constitution, and our well-being just as seriously. When they campaign for our votes, they are asking for our trust, and they should honor that trust by working across the aisle to find solutions to the major problems our community faces.
I stand with what recent polling shows is a bipartisan majority of Oregonians who believe that there must be consequences for elected officials who walk away from their responsibilities. We certainly agree that lawmakers should meet the same standard as other working Oregonians: If you don’t show up to work, you shouldn’t get paid. They should have to pay fines if they walk out, ones that can’t be paid using political donations. Just as importantly, Llgislators who ignore their jobs by missing 10 days of work unexcused must not be allowed to run for reelection.
I, and my friends, family and neighbors, have had enough. You can learn more about this movement at NoMoreCostlyWalkouts.com. These walkouts must end, and we won’t allow elected officials to shut down our government when our needs as a community are so urgent. Politicians like to say nice-sounding things about how much they support and admire our frontline workers. How about backing up those words with actions and doing the same thing nurses across Oregon did this past year when their jobs were hard: Show up and do your best to help Oregonians.
Linda Ramsey is a retired nurse living in Corvallis. She is an active member of the Oregon Nurses Association.