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California nurses urge a no vote on the Chesa Boudin recall

Illustration by Leo Cooperband

By Amy Erb

Amy Erb is a San Francisco critical care RN at a major San Francisco hospital and a current member of the Board of Directors of the California Nurses Association, the largest affiliate of National Nurses United. 

Now that the dust has cleared from the AD 17 race, it’s time to look ahead to the next election. Six weeks from now, California will go to the polls for its regularly scheduled primary. San Francisco voters will have to decide on the same slate of ballot propositions as everyone else statewide while answering one other thorny question: Should voters remove District Attorney Chesa Boudin from office? 

As a critical care nurse in San Francisco and a member of the Board of Directors of the California Nurses Association, I urge the electorate to consider Boudin’s performance in light of public health.

Simply put, nurses trust Boudin to protect our families and our communities, which is why my organization gave him our endorsement. Boudin’s priorities as DA directly address the social and legal issues harming the patients we see in our hospitals, particularly victims of gun violence, rape and substance abuse.

The California Nurses Association supports Chesa Boudin because our organization endorses his priorities and achievements. We oppose the recall election in June.

We have seen the effects of gun violence, including on young children who arrive in our emergency rooms, struggling to survive. Every shooting tears apart families and wounds our communities. Getting guns off our streets is an urgent necessity for public safety.

It takes political courage to challenge the gun lobby, as Boudin has done by suing three California companies that make and distribute “ghost guns”—those illegal, untraceable, build-it-yourself weapons that accounted for nearly half the firearms recovered in San Francisco in 2020. His leadership encouraged other political leaders, including the California Attorney General, to seek the removal of ghost guns from our cities.

For far too long, rape victims have had to endure both the pain of their attack and discrimination in the justice system. As nurses, we witness the physical and mental trauma that delays their healing and can persist for years.

We applaud Boudin for discovering that rape victims have been further violated by having evidence from rape kits used to prosecute them, adding to the pain. He has protected their privacy and their rights, in one instance by dismissing charges against a woman when her DNA was used to link her to an alleged property crime. His initiative has prompted others to follow in preventing this kind of abuse.

Nurses see the lives destroyed and families torn apart by decades of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and mass incarceration, often with lifelong adverse impacts on the children of those unjustly treated by police misconduct and overly harsh sentencing practices.

Chesa Boudin understands that “law and order” rhetoric damages society without any effect on crime rates. Overincarceration fractures our communities and has left a stain on our nation, which already has the most prisoners in the world by far.

We endorse his policy of ending cash bail, which criminalizes poverty and keeps low-income people, including many Black and Latino young men and women, incarcerated before trial, often for months. As nurses, we believe that personal safety is a key component of public health, so we also endorse his policy to stop charging practices resulting from racially-targeted stop-and-frisk operations and car stops for minor traffic violations.

Boudin’s efforts to support children are especially laudable. They include reducing the youth-to-prison pipeline by successfully cutting the number of young people in juvenile detention centers by 75% and creating a primary-caregiver diversion program aimed at keeping children united with their incarcerated parents.

Chesa Boudin has stood up for workers’ rights. He established a unit to prosecute crimes by employers against workers, including wage theft, immigration-related workplace retaliation and labor trafficking, and has sued to stop employers from classifying their workers as independent contractors rather than as employees.

When assessing any recall election, it is critical to examine the money trail and the hidden agenda behind it. Funding for this election has largely come from billionaire Silicon Valley hedge fund managers and investment bankers, donors to national Republican candidates, Downtown San Francisco development interests, and others who have also campaigned against other candidates fighting for Californians on issues of housing, tax policy and schools. 

Their goal to divide San Franciscans was evident in the deplorable dissemination of racist election materials denounced as anti-Asian by leaders in San Francisco’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. 

Nationally, the Republican Party and its wealthy far-right supporters are determined to make law-and-order a major cultural wedge issue for the midterm elections. But, in most areas, including San Francisco, violent crimes are not increasing, and crime numbers are unrelated to whether there is a progressive prosecutor or not. An analysis of 69 U.S. cities by Fordham University law professor John Pfaff showed the ideology of the DA had no impact on the rate of homicides.

In reality, crime statistics are related to social and economic factors, including job and educational opportunities, mental health services, youth programs and other social insurance programs. Chesa Boudin understands that such reforms are the real solution for building safer, more just communities. Nurses agree: We urge a no vote on the recall.

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