Wednesday, July 11, 2018

All roads lead to Pittsburg?

On a plane as I write this (yes, again)
Off to Pittsburg for the AFT national convention.
Over 100 Connecticut Delegates will represent our 30,000 members.
First, as Vice President, I need to pause and consider what an honor it is to be in this position.
30,0000 of the best Connecticut workers; teachers, paraprofessionals and school support staff, nurses, Techs, healthcare workers, probation officers, social workers, and so, so many other public servants, have selected us to be the delegates that represent them.
It is an honor, a privilege, and a great responsibility.
Our members share the fact that they have all dedicated their work lives to helping others, and they share the knowledge and belief that standing in unity gives them the power to do so.
That’s what a union is all about.
That’s why those of us privileged enough to be representing our sisters and brothers in Pittsburgh are taking these planes, trains and autos. We carry the voice of our members to chart the course of our union for the next 2 years.

Yesterday I had the privilege to represent Jan at a press conference with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CT AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier, and New Haven Federation of Teaches President David Cicarella.
The message was that the Janus decision will not cripple unions as the Koch Brothers, the DeVos family and other right wing groups hope.
It will not silence the voice of workers.
Workers understand that to be able to advocate for ourselves, our families, our students, our patients, and the public we serve, we must have a voice. And to have a voice we must stand together in unity.

This is the message the 100 plus AFT Connecticut delegates carry to our national convention on behalf of our members.
Our members will not be silenced.
We are strong, we are united, we are the union.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Be like Paul

Give me a break!

I pick up the paper and the headline reads:
Meals for seniors caught in latest state budget feud

Don’t tell me we are in a fiscal crisis when yachts line the Connecticut shore!

Let me tell you a story……

In achieve Rome lived a man names Saul.
He became famous for his persecution of the early Christians.
Then he had his “Come to Jesus moment.”
From that time on he was known as Paul, one of the great apostles of the Church.

In his letter to the Corinthians (II Corinthians 8:13-15), he said,
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

Sisters and brothers,
We live in the richest state in the richest country that has ever existed on this earth.
There is no shortage of treasure.

There is no fiscal crisis.
But there is a moral crisis.

We are Saul.
We need to be Paul.

Friday, June 29, 2018

I’m sticking with the union

In 2011 I received a phone call from a fellow nurse.  After some small talk, she told me she and others had been talking to a union organizer, and asked did I want to speak with him?
Without hesitation, my answer was yes.
When I started at my hospital 16 years prior it was a place I was proud of.  The staff worked together, our manager cared about our wellbeing, the CEO knew us by name and would visit departments on a regular basis.
Most importantly, the patients and their families were the center point of our attention. Everything we did was to support them.
Yes, it was a business, but it was a hospital first.

By 2011 that had all changed.
There was a change in leadership. Managers came and went so fast they never had a chance to develop relationships with the people in their departments.  The new CEO? On the rare occasion he came out of the office, people fled, fearful he was on an inspection tour to find something or someone in the wrong.
Supplies were cheapened and staffing became so short that we lacked the time to care for our patients properly.
We were no longer a hospital.
We were a business, that just happened to be a hospital.
Staff went from being a resource to being an operating expense.
Patients and their families were no longer the center point, profit was.

They had taken away our voice, and in so doing, has taken away the ability for us to fulfill our life’s mission.
So we joined together to regain our voice.

Things didn’t turn around immediately.
But this year in negotiations, the Backus Nurses packed the room with 1/3 of our members on a consistent basis.
Not bad for a group that works 24/7, so that the other 2/3 of the members were working at the time or sleeping in prep for the next shift.
That coming together has given us our voice back.

We are now partners at the table, not items on the menu.

The Betsy DeVos’ and Kotch brothers of this world would ask us to give up that voice.
They promise our union dues in return.

I have news for them.
For healthcare workers, for educators, for public employees, for all workers…….
It’s not about the money.
It’s about our voices.
It’s about our souls.

And they’re not for sale.

I’m sticking with the union, because these are my sisters and brothers.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Answer the call

I’ve been busy with conventions and fundraisers, and rallies, and town committees, and lobbying.
I never intended to get this involved.

It was a call from a Mary Ann at work that got me involved in our organizing drive at my hospital.
It was a call from Jan that got me involved with AFT Connecticut.
It was a call from Susan that got me involved with my town’s DTC.
(Maybe I need to stop taking calls? LOL)

I’m definitely not alone.
Jan got involved when the state threatened to close the school she was teaching at.
She stepped up to president of her local when their president stepped down.
She became AFT Connecticut president and a national VP only when asked repeatedly.

Answering the call is what our parents and grandparents did when the world was threatened by Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan.
Answering the call is what fills the roles of little league coaches and scout leaders and church leaders and town political leaders.

Thank God, people answer the call!

It’s easy to criticize those who answer the call to the many forms of  public service.
We would be well served to remember why it is called “public service.”
No, people are not perfect.
Yes, some people abuse their positions or make decisions that leave our heads shaking.

But when ordinary people fail to answer the call, a vacuum is created.
And when a vacuum is created it is filled, often by someone or something that does not serve us well.

My grandfather was a longtime state senator in RI.
In fact, for years he was president of the state senate.
I didn’t understand the significance or the many gavels on the piano in the living room of this house.
Now I know, each gavel represented a session of the senate.
Each gavel represented his answering the call to public service.

My parents did not enter politics, but they voted in every election and taught us that this was our civic right and responsibility.
Each of us needs to find the level of public service engagement that is right for us.
For some it will be as a volunteer in a youth program, a church program, at local schools.
For some it will be as a union building rep, or serving on a town committee, or as president of the PTO, or a volunteer firefighter.
For some it will mean leadership in a union or in governmental politics.

But all of us should answer the call to vote.

People immigrated to this country, people died in wars, because they answered the call so that we could have this basic civic right and responsibility.

In Connecticut, we will hold a primary on August 14 and a general election on November 6.
Please register, please vote.
Please answer the call.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I ain’t afraid of no ghost

The Supreme Court decision on the Janus case has been expected for weeks now.
It could come out tomorrow, but it certainly will come out within the next week before the end of the Supreme Court’s session.
It is widely expected that the court will rule against working men and women.
It will because the makeup of the Court is more conservative than progressive.
This country will be “Right to Work” for public sector workers and then the attention of the Billionaire Class will turn to private sector workers.

Don’t be fooled by the term “Right to Work.”
We call it “Right to Work for Less.”
It has nothing to do with your right to work, it is the legal ruling that is meant to weaken the role of unions and the voice of workers.
It attempts to do this by making the payment of union dues optional.

The Billionaire Class believes this will bankrupt unions and stifle the voice of workers.
But workers have been preparing for this ruling for over a year.
We understand that even with fully funded unions, our financial resources are dwarfed by the financial resources of the Billionaire Class.
We cannot compete financially with them.

But what the Billionaire Class fails to understand is that the strength of workers does not lie in our finances, our strength lies in our solidarity.
And the Billionaire Class cannot take that away form us.
This country was founded when workers, tied of having no voice, tired of being ruled by a king and those with the money and power, rose us and demanded that voice.
The recent teacher strikes in states that are already “Right to Work for Less” have reminded us that this basic human need to exercise our voices cannot be taken away when we stand united.

So I am glad we are preparing for this court decision.  It has increased our solidarity by increasing our conversations with one another about our need to stand as one.
I ain’t afraid of no ghost and I ain’t afraid of no Billionaire Class.
I stand in solidarity with my sister and brother workers, and together we are strong.