Saturday, March 25, 2017

We are one

Trumpcare is dead.
At least for now.

The AHCA, which would have replaced the ACA, was pulled from the floor of the House of Representatives moments before a vote.
We came very close to replacing a healthcare system which is in need of repair with one that would have been devastating.
It would have given a tax break to the top 1% of Americans while eliminating Healthcare coverage for 24 million Americans.

The pushback from Nurses and other Healthcare Professionals was predictable, although the level of pushback surprised even me and gave me a deep sense of pride. 
What I am also proud of is how other groups also pushed back.  In particular, members of my union AFT who work in education and public service, who joined in unity with their healthcare sisters and brothers in this fight.
I had seen this earlier in the year when Betsey Davos was nominated for Secretary of Education. It wasn't just Educators that objected, we all did.
I saw it again yesterday at the Connecticut State Capitol, when 96 anti public sector bills were heard in the Appropriations Committee, and members from healthcare and education joined public service members to speak at press conferences, a rally, and in testimony before the committee.

My sisters and brothers understand.

An attack on healthcare, on education, or on public services, is the same thing.
They are inter-related.

We are lucky in AFT Connecticut to have members from all the divisions of AFT:
K-12 Teachers
PSRP (Paraprofessionals and school related personnel)
Public Services
Nurses and other Healthcare Professions
Higher Education

I have always said that of our 30,000 members, a certain number are teachers, a certain number are healthcare, etc., but today I do not feel that way.
Although I have never stood at the front of a classroom or worked in state public service and although others have never stood at the bedside, today I paraphrase Jack Kennedy in 1963 when he said in Berlin, "Ich bin ein Berliner."

AFT Connecticut is a diverse union of 30,000 members.
AFT is a diverse union of 1.6 million members.
And each of us is an educator, and a healer, and a public servant.

Solidarity.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"No Irish Need Apply" is a call to action

Deciding what to write about this week was not easy.
This is going to be a full week.
My president, Jan, is away on international travel, representing AFT as a representative of North America to Public Services International.
Monday, at our state capitol, there are hearings in the Public Health and the Education committee, so many of us will be busy writing and presenting testimony.
Wednesday is a Day of Action for healthcare at the state capitol.
Thursday is the anniversary of the ACA, and a day that The House of Representatives may repeal it and begin the process that will strip 24 million Americans of their healthcare coverage and devastate state and local budgets.
On Friday, the Appropriations Committee will hear nearly 95 bills attacking worker's rights at the state capitol, and workers are planning to fight back with a Day of Action on Worker's Rights.
Saturday brings a bus trip to Fairfield County to call attention to the fact that although Connecticut is the richest state in the nation, it is also among the poorest (and it need not be that way) because the top 1% use tax loopholes to pay a smaller percentage in taxes than the middle class.
Add to that several workshops planned at AFT CT this week and you end up with a very full week.

Each of these events deserves a blog, a blog that I do not have time to write and you do not have time to read, but I found a clip of Rep Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts speaking this week that I think sums it up for me and for many of us.
He speaks of an immigrant family that came to this country because they believed in an America of fairness and opportunity, and although they faced discrimination because of their accents and religion, and customs, they worked hard, they organized, and they continue to believe in that vision of America.
He was speking of his own family and of being proud of his immigrant roots.
He spoke of his grandmother sitting with his father and showing newspaper help wanted ads that read "no Irish need apply."
Every Irish-American has stories like these. Like Joe, they were passed from my father to me, and from me to my sons, because we must never forget that like the immigrants that now flee poverty and war and oppressive governments and come to America in search of a better life for their families, our families did the same.
Whether we came from Ireland, or Italy, our France, or Poland, or any other country, our ancestors came here because they believed that America was different, was better, was fairer.

I still believe this is true.
I hope you do too.

So, our week is packed with work and events, and through them all, is this theme.
America is the land of opportunity, a land that welcomes the oppressed, the poor, the downtrodden.
It is a land that believes we have a moral obligation to each other to care for the sick, clothe the naked, feed the poor, educate all.
Immigrants have faced discrimination in this country before and they continue to face it today. It is not something our country should take pride in but it is something we must accept as true.
More than that, we must do what we have always done, we must stand together and say, "not here, not in my country."
We must organize.

I'll close with a call to action written thousands of years ago:
'When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I hope you can join us in the fight this week.



Friday, March 10, 2017

Caring for the sick

Donald Trump recently said that healthcare is complicated.
He is correct.
He is also wrong.

It's complicated in that changing one part of any healthcare plan changes many other parts.
It's almost like the gears on an old fashioned watch.
You move one and they all move.

But it's incredible simple in this regard.
Ask almost any doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider and they will tell you.
We have an ethical responsibility to care for the sick and to do what we can to help the well stay well.
I really don't care if you agree with me that healthcare is a "right."
To myself and others in the field, it is a responsibility.
Show up for care at an ER and we will not turn you away.

Nor should we.

The current plan being rushed through congress as a "repeal and replace" is nothing more than a tax cut for the rich and a tax increase on the middle class.
It provides tax shelters and repeals several taxes on the upper 1%, that were enacted to help pay for the care of middle and lower income workers, and it shifts costs to the middle class in the forms of cuts to states, increased costs to older Americans, increased costs to those with increased medical problems or who live in areas of the country where the cost of living is higher.
While it technically retains the ability to get insurance with pre-existing conditions, in increases the cost to the point that people may not be able to afford it and while it eliminates the "mandate" to have insurance, it imposes a penalty if one drops insurance and then at a later date re-acquires insurance.

Many experts predict that it will increase the deficit and strip healthcare insurance from millions of Americans.
The AMA, ANA, AARP, hospital groups, unions, community organizations and others have raised concerns and spoken against it.
Congress is now trying to rush passage of the bill before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office can evaluate it's cost and impact.

We can stop that.
Please contact your representatives and senators and express your concerns.
Please sign petitions, make phone calls, send emails, and attend rallies.
Obamacare isn't perfect, but lets not make it worse.
"Primum non nocere" is a Latin phase taught in med school. It translates to "First do no harm."

The ethical responsibility to care for the sick is not just held by healthcare professionals.
It is something we all are held to.



Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chasing the shiny object

I've been thinking a lot lately about distractions.
We all have certain things that are most important to us, be they in our personal life, our work life, our just in "life."
We work on them because of their importance.
Then, and sometimes it seems too often, something else comes up that grabs our attention and energy.
Only latter, after it has passed, do we realize that this "something else" was not as important as we thought at the time but it had pulled our attention and energy away from what we normally feel is a priority.
Some people refer it this phenomenon as "chasing the shinny object."

It's non-productive.  Worse, the distraction sucks up our time and energy.
I'll start a day knowing I have a few priority items to accomplish and if not careful, someone will come to me with an "issue" and I'll find myself chasing distractions. If I'm not careful, I'll find myself at the end of the day where I find my priorities not yet addressed.
It happens with groups of people too.
Some issue comes up and one party wants to avoid discussing it so they bring up another issue and voilĂ , distraction.

Right now, we face a multitude of priority issues; attacks on the rights of workers to stand together in unity, attacks on our healthcare system, attacks on our public school system, attacks on environmental protection; questions that threaten our sovereignty, and more.
No matter where you stand on these issues, I think everyone agrees resolving them would be a priority.
The last thing we need are distractions.
The last thing we need is to divert our time and energy whenever there is a new comment, tweet, or post about something not related to our priorities.

We need to stay focused and on track.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Owning our Democracy

There is a lot going on in the country and in the individual states that worry people. 
Evidence of that is seen at the "town halls" and rallies held by congressional legislators around the country this week.
I attended two such town halls this week in my congressional district.  In the first, Congressman Joe Courtney answered questions about the attacks on healthcare. (repeal of the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare) The second town hall was open to all topics and many of the expressed concerns were about protecting healthcare and public education.  There were numerous other town halls and rallies across Connecticut this week.
People wanted to know what they could do to push back, seeing how our Congressional Delegation is progressive on these issues and already "gets it."
Joe said a couple of times, we have to "own our democracy" on all levels, including town, state, and nationally.

In Connecticut, there are an unprecedented number of anti-worker, anti-middle class bills being proposed.  It's almost like those proposing them feel emboldened, like this is their moment to push this right wing agenda.  And it's happening in other states too. These movements have the financial backing of the Koch brothers and their allies.  The commonality in every one of their proposals is that they result in a shift of money from the middle class to the people at the top.

It is easy to think that the rich have all the money and power and "what can I do alone?"
This is true. One person alone can do little.
And yet, one person alone can do everything.
When one person alone decides to get involved, to "own their democracy" they encourage others to join them and together we can to anything.

This past week was a week of town halls and rallies and on Tuesday, 4,000 workers filled the legislative office building in Hartford and said to lawmakers, "I WILL own my democracy," in a pushback on multiple anti-workers bills.
We must continue.

Yesterday, nearly 200 AFT Connecticut members met at the capitol in our yearly legislative conference to discuss concerns with lawmakers and to learn from each other how to push back.



In the next 6 weeks, AFT Connecticut will hold legislative breakfasts in a different town each Saturday morning.  Information is available at http://aftct.org/
They are an opportunity to come out and speak to your area state senator and representative, an opportunity to own your democracy.