RoseAnn DeMoro has retired as executive director of National Nurses United, its affiliated National Nurses Organizing Committee and the California Nurses Association, and as a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council.
A simple statement like this seems entirely inadequate to commemorate DeMoro’s life’s work. It would be more fitting to shout this news into a bullhorn, or to fill up the sky with streaming banners, the way she did over the 2004 Super Bowl party of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger with signs reading, “It’s No Party for Nurses!” The banners were part of her campaign to defend hard-won nurse-patient ratios in California from attacks by the popular Republican governor. It took about a year, and 107 protests, but the nurses won, overturning his executive order. By that time the governor’s approval ratings were in the toilet, and his national political ambitions had been ruined.
DeMoro grew up in St. Louis before moving to California, where she worked as an organizer for AFT and the University of California clerical workers. She was the first woman to work as an organizer for the Western Conference of Teamsters. In 1986, she began working for the California Nurses Association.
Nurses are the fiercest advocates for patients, and DeMoro brought that sharp activism to bear for the nursing profession. She made her presence felt immediately, and over more than three decades, she transformed and grew the CNA, it’s affiliated National Nurses Organizing Committee and the NNU into a powerhouse for health care professionals and for the possibilities of transformative social change through universal health care. It wasn’t easy and, in the early years, some within the CNA fought against DeMoro as hard as her fiercest corporate opponents, even firing her and some of her supporters around Christmas in 1992. It didn’t work. DeMoro was impossible to intimidate, and she couldn’t be outhustled or overwhelmed. Each setback became a steppingstone for her, nurses and the cause of health care for all.
DeMoro joined the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 2007, and served on the Legislative, Public Policy, Organizing, Political, Women Workers and Union Repositioning committees. She helped shape AFL-CIO policy on health care reform and advocated for a tax on Wall Street transactions to pay for it. In large and small ways, but always with maximum impact, she fostered the growth of women leaders in the labor movement.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council thanks Sister RoseAnn DeMoro for her powerful and dedicated service and wishes her a long, healthy and well-earned retirement.