Saturday, October 14, 2017

Crossroads

Last week, while our president tweeted that we could not stay in Puerto Rico “forever,” a planeload of union members from various AFL-CIO unions flew to the island in a relief effort.  In that group were 30 or so AFT nurses and doctors.  
The reports back our horrifying. 
People unable to get needed medicines, clean water, food, and shelter.
Our union sisters and brothers are clearing roads, providing medical care, restoring power and communications the best they can, but it is difficult at best.
The working conditions are difficult, with heat and humidity.
These unionists gave up their time, using vacation pay, to volunteer for this assignment.
A big thank you to them.

Back home in Connecticut, we still have no state budget.
Some “Democratic” legislators crossed the isle to help pass a republican budget that would gut collective bargaining for state employees and bankrupt the city of Hartford.
After the governor vetoed it, republicans asked for a special “override session” of the house.  Not one of the majority who voted for the budget would make a motion to call a second vote, not one.

Why does the president tweet storm against Puerto Rico?
Why do legislators want to gut collective bargaining?
Why do we refuse to give our inner cities (Detroit, Fall River, Hartford, etc) the help they need to stay solvent?
Why do we continue to see executive actions intended to destroy healthcare?

We bailed out Wall Street and the Big Banks.
We provide help to rebuild homes along the coast when they are destroyed by hurricanes.
We provide tax breaks for Big Corporations.
We allow loopholes like the Carried Interest Loophole for the Rich.

But we attack Puerto Rico, Hartford, healthcare and collective bargaining.
Why?
Could it be a class thing?
Could it be a race thing?

Saying we are at a crossroads is probably overused.
But just maybe we are.
It’s a crossroads of ethics.
We need to decide, are we all sisters and brothers, or are we not.

Are the children of the inner city, the children of Puerto Rico, are they MY children?
Are the rights of the rich more important than the rights of the workers?
Do only those who can afford healthcare deserve it?
Do we have an moral obligation to give back to society according to our means?

You see, there are enough resources in this world to share.
No one need go hungry, thirsty, without shelter, or without healthcare.

It’s about priorities. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

I'm Home!

I got home Friday from a two week road trip.

The first week was a wonderful and much needed vacation with Michelle.
With work and other obligations, the chances to break away like this are infrequent and appreciated. (I may have posted a few pictures on Facebook)
I was home less than 24 hours when I left for DC for a couple of days of AFT Healthcare meetings, and when I returned I attended the Connecticut AFL-CIO convention.

2 weeks isn't a long time, but it's good to be back in my own bed. (People were starting to tell me I looked tired)

The remarkable thing is how much happened in those 2 weeks!

Just to name a few:
ACA repeal was defeated and healthcare for 26 million Americans will continue

The republican budget, which passed the Connecticut house and senate, and which would have imposed a 2% teacher's tax, decimated public sector collective bargaining rights, underfunded social programs, and increased the Connecticut deficit, was vetoed by Governor Malloy. (Thank you) When it came up for an override vote, not one person made a motion to override.
Not one.
Not one republican (who all voted for it)
Not one of democrat who voted for it. (Doyle, Slossberg, Hartley, Boyd, Reed, Rovero, Hampton, Rose, McCarthy)
No one.
Silence.
Crickets.

The relief effort in Puerto Rico continued, despite the fact that its an island in the middle of a very big ocean, as our President reminded us.
He did get to Puerto Rico and play some "paper towel football" with the residents.
I guess they can soak up the water from that "very big ocean" with them.
I am very grateful for organized labor stepping up to help our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico.
On Wednesday, a planeload of trade unionist from the AFL-CIO headed there for a 2 week commitment in a relief effort, most using their own vacation time.
Among them were 30 AFT nurses and doctors.
Other unionists have contributed richly with financial donations.
I am grateful and proud to be their brother.

In Connecticut, Anthem Insurance and Hartford Healthcare are unable to come to an agreement, leaving thousands in limbo over whether they can continue to see their provider.
These are Connecticut's largest insurance company and healthcare system, and their inability to put patients before profits is leaving their patients unsure if they will be able to seek treatment, all while they seek excessive profits and grossly over the top salaries (in the millions of dollars for many executives)
Both Anthem and HHC are at fault.
And people like my good friend Jan suffer the consequences of not knowing if her chemo treatments will be covered.

This is just a sampling of what occurred in the past 2 weeks.
What does it tell us?
It tells us that we have a lot of work to do to make this world what it should be.
We need to elect representatives who represent the values of the working class and believe in our rights.
We need to aide our sisters and brothers regardless if their native language is English and regardless of the color of their skin.
We need to accept that healthcare is a right for all and that making a profit off the illness of another is performing an unethical act.

But there is hope.
Although there will be more battles on this, we defeated ACA repeal, which was truly just a tax cut for the rich, and more and more people see the devastating effects of excessive profits and salaries in healthcare corporations, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical corporations, and are saying, NO this is not right, healthcare is a right.

Although Connecticut passed a shameless budget, our governor vetoed it, members spoke out against those who voted for it, and when the override vote came up their was silence.

Although some still do not believe climate change is real and leading to more and stronger storms, many more a coming to believe.
Although the relief effort for our Spanish speaking, brown skinned citizens was slow, labor pushed the issue and even sent some of our own to aide our sisters and brothers.

And there is hope in the words spoken at our state AFL-CIO convention, by speakers from other states and by members from Connecticut.
Union density, although still low, grew by 4% in Connecticut, as people gain the courage and see the value of standing together.

The battle for fairness and equality is never easy, but it is right.
Good to be home.
Good to be in this battle.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

It's time, lets work on healthcare

I was listening to our tour bus guide as he spoke about the hospital we passed on Prince Edward Island.  He said how it was relatively new and had a great reputation for cancer treatment and that about the only thing they couldn’t handle were open heart surgeries, for which patients would be helicoptered to Halifax, Nova Scotia, 20 minutes away.
He matter of factly stated that if you went to the hospital, or a clinic, or your own doctor, there was of course, no bill, that it is financed by taxes on liquor, etc.

NO bill.

Not for doctor visits, hospital stays, MRI, CAT scans, cancer treatment……..

Now that the zombie Obamacare repeal is dead, can we finally have real talks in our country about joining the rest of the world in recognizing that healthcare should be a right, not a privilege for the rich, as it is now?

We accept that veterans care is a right (although we often short change them), we accept that social security and Medicare health insurance in retirement years is a right.
Why do we continue to accept, in perhaps the most prosperous country the world has ever known, that access to quality, affordable healthcare is the right of only the rich, or those lucky enough to have fantastic healthcare coverage through their work?
Why do we put added pressure on small business owners who cannot compete with corporations when it comes to providing healthcare coverage their employees?
Why do we continue to place added pressure on our our corporations to provide healthcare coverage to their employees when their competitors in other countries do not have this pressure?

We are the richest country the world has ever seen.
The fact that healthcare is tied to our employment and can end the minute our employment ends (often through no fault of our own) is a travesty.

Yes it will require us to contribute through increased taxes.
But those taxes will be offset by decreased individual or group insurance premiums.

Yes it will end excessive profits to the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the healthcare industry.
But no one should profit from the cancer of another.
No one should profit from the mental illness of another.
No one should profit from the genetic weakness of another.

It appears that repeal of Obamacare, the zombie that just wouldn’t die, is finally dead.
Now let’s get to work.
Let’s show the world what a first class universal healthcare system is.
It won’t be easy.
The worthwhile things never are.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Being engaged is our strength

The state of Connecticut still does not have a budget, repeal of Obamacare just will not die, and Hartford is threatening bankruptcy.
It's a mess.

It's at times like this that I am most glad that we have a union that truely believes in engaged members, truely believes that we are stronger when we are all involved and each doing about part.

I'll be on the road for the nest two weeks.
First spending a little time with Michelle and then when we get back, on business.

But I know that because we have a leadership team, a staff and a membership that is engaged, my being on the road is fine. In fact, because some of it is business, it might be the way I can be most helpful.

I tell our Local presidents all the time that they cannot do all the work themselves.
Our most highly funcitioning Locals are the Locals with a president and leadership that empowers and encourages their members be engaged and each do their part, according to their available time, talents, and interest.

So,
While I'm gone,
Please keep up the fight for a state budget that treats all of Connecticut's citizens fairly.
Please do all you can to stop what will be a last ditch effort to steal healthcare from millions of Americans.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Walking with hope

"We are all walking each other home."

Those were the closing words to a moving blessing from the minister this morning at the conclusion of the "Hike for Hope" cancer fundraiser that Michelle and I participated in.
Michelle had signed us up a couple of months ago.
She lost both parents and we have both lost many relatives and friends to cancer. We also know many cancer survivors and those battling cancer today.
In fact, today would have been her mom's 81st birthday.
This kind of thing means a lot to us, so when she asked if I would walk with her, I said, "of course I will."

Since that time, my work partner and friend has entered this battle.
Yesterday was her first Chemo.

If cancer wasn't personal before, it sure is now.

The minister put words to my feelings.
This was my feeling yesterday as I watched the infusion begin.
My work partner is walking into battle.  No one can walk this walk for her.
But so many of us can walk with her.
And so many have stepped forward to do so.
Blankets to keep her warm during treatments, offers of rides, nurse friends to explain, cancer survivors and those now battling to share with, flowers and food and conversations, friends to check on her family, and more.
The outpouring of love is incredible.

This is who we are as a people.
None of us knows how long we have, but we all know our time is limited.
Our mission is to walk with each other, till we get home.

It's the mission I was taught by the La Salette priests of my parish, it's the mission that was reinforced at home whenever I was reminded of my immigrant Irish roots, it's probably why I ended up as a nurse, and it's what drives my work (and my work partner's work) today.

We have an ethical responsibility to walk each other home.

That's why I advocate for a society that cares for all people, not just the rich and connected.
That's why austerity budgets are fundamentally unethical.
That's why I am ashamed of the position taken by the Connecticut State Legislature last night.
In approving an austerity budget that will cut services to the most vulnerable, in refusing to consider raising taxes on those who have most benefitted and who can afford it the most, they have defacto raised taxes on the working class and the poor. 
While their friends sip expensive drinks on their yachts.

It's easy to give up hope.
It's easy to think people no longer believe the words of the minister.

But we are better than this.
I know we are.
I have seen the love directed towards my friend and the love of the walkers this morning.

I choose to have hope.
I choose to believe.
And I choose to walk with my sisters and brothers.