From Florida to the U.S. Supreme Court: 1199SEIU Nurses Stand Strong for Quality Care

May 15, 2015

Whether it is advocating in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the nation’s capital, or speaking up for patients on the front lines of hospitals and nursing homes across the country, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East nurses are standing up to make sure patients get the best care possible.

In Florida, 1199SEIU nurses are constantly making our voice heard in hospitals and nursing homes across the state and at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

But 1199SEIU Florida nurses' advocacy does not stop at the Florida border.

Marilyn Ralat Albernas, a registered nurse from Miami, and Bob Blair, a registered nurse from Port St. Lucie, live 130 miles apart in Florida, but on March 4 they stood side by side in front of the United States Supreme Court to speak out for their patients and others around the country who deserve quality, affordable healthcare.


Marilyn Ralat Albernas, RN, speaks at a press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court to advocate for keeping federal subsidies in place that have helped millions of people afford quality health insurance.

Ralat Albernas’ leadership on this issue led to her becoming one of eleven SEIU members and supporters to file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case King v. Burwell. She provided testimony in the brief on the importance of keeping federal subsidies in place so that hardworking families can afford quality health insurance.

“As a postpartum nurse, I have the great honor to witness the bond of mothers and infants in the first hours after delivery,” said Ralat Albernas in a blog post on “Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I have seen noticeable improvements in babies' health and the moms' readiness to care for their little ones.”

Blair was featured in a news story by the Tampa Bay Times about the Supreme Court case and the rally that SEIU nurses held outside the building to advocate for their patients.


Bob Blair, RN, gathers with fellow nurses and supporters to rally support for Americans whose healthcare coverage is in jeopardy.

“I traveled nearly 1,000 miles, away from the nice weather of Florida to this never-ending winter in Washington, D.C., for one reason: to make my voice heard on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices decide whether or not to gut the Affordable Care Act--an issue that is dear to my heart,” said Blair in a blog post on during his trip to Washington.

In Florida, nurses have been regularly holding 1199SEIU Florida Nurse Council meetings to develop solutions to the challenges we face at work and in the community. Recently, several nurses met on April 22 to discuss issues at our hospitals and shared best practices to address them. Oftentimes, the solutions that nurses develop together at Nurse Council meetings are brought to the Labor-Management Committees at our hospitals to improve our work environment and patient care.


Nurses Sheila Cherfrere, Pat Diaz and Betsy Marville get together for a picture at the 1199SEIU Florida Nurse Council meeting on April 22.

At University of Miami Hospital, nurses, transporters, management and other staff are currently working on a Labor-Management project to more efficiently transport patients between departments, with the goal of reducing wait times and increasing patient satisfaction.


Nurses, transporters, management and other staff at University of Miami Hospital discuss potential solutions for more efficiently transporting patients.

Some of the solutions that our nurses develop also make their way to Tallahassee as proposed legislation.

Sheila Cherfrere, one of our nurse leaders in West Palm Beach, worked with her colleagues, State Senator Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach) and State Representative Gwyn Clarke-Reed (D-Pompano Beach) to file legislation that addresses a dangerous, growing trend regarding patient care.

According to Florida’s Nurse Practice Act, licensed caregivers can be disciplined by the Florida Board of Nursing if they take patient assignments that they are not trained or licensed to perform. At the same time, caregivers can also be disciplined and/or fired by their employer for insubordination if they refuse an assignment to comply with state law.


1199SEIU nurse leader Sheila Cherfrere joins State Senator Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach) at a press conference to introduce legislation that would protect licensed caregivers and patients.

“Asking a non-critical care nurse to work in a critical care area, like ICU, is like asking a plastic surgeon to perform open-heart surgery,” said Cherfrere, a South Florida nurse with more than 10 years of experience. “Our nurses and caregivers go the extra mile to care for us and our families when we need it most. We are standing up for our patients and our professions by demanding that we not be disciplined when we refuse an assignment we are not licensed to perform. This isn’t rocket science, and we need to ensure that we, as caregivers, can work in an environment where we can deliver the best care possible and advocate for our patients without the threat of discipline or being fired.”

1199SEIU Florida nurse leader Pat Diaz from South Florida and several of her colleagues recently traveled to Tallahassee to continue their advocacy for Medicaid expansion as well, which would expand healthcare coverage to nearly one million hardworking Floridians. Senate Democrats, House Democrats and the vast majority of Senate Republicans support bipartisan legislation to expand healthcare, but unfortunately, it is being blocked by House Republican leadership and Governor Rick Scott.


1199SEIU nurse leader Pat Diaz leads a delegation of nurses to Tallahasee to lobby for Medicaid expansion, which would save lives, create jobs and strengthen our economy in Florida.

There are countless other examples of 1199SEIU nurses joining together to improve our work environment and stand up for our patients. Our nurses are standing strong for quality care from the sunny cities of Florida to the marble steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

If you are a nurse in Florida who would like to get active, please Contact Betsy Marville at (786) 594-4337 or to join the 1199SEIU Florida Nurse Council.