Friday, February 16, 2018

Parkland shooting

The school shootings in Florida were very disturbing to me.
I’m sure they were to everyone.
Besides the obvious reasons to be disturbed, Majory Stoneman Douglas High is an AFT school like Sandy Hook.
Unlike in 2012, I now personally know many more teachers, paraprofessionals, and other school personnel, including those at Sandy Hook.
I understand them better and understand that like healthcare workers, educators face daily safety threats to themselves and their students.
And these high school students are articulating what they are going through in a way that kindergarten students cannot.

It’s disturbing.
And it should be.

So many mass shootings since Sandy Hook, in schools and elsewhere.
When will we do something?

The influence of big money in elections is such a problem, and the gun lobby has big money and will spend it.
We’re told its not a “gun problem” it’s a “mental health problem,” yet the same people who claim this also vote to cut funds to treat mental health services.

The investigation will determine “the true problem,” but we already know what that is.
We elect people who fail time and again to address this.
They lack the courage.

There are common sense answers to decrease the chance that the wrong people will have guns and use them like this.
Legislators know this.

We need to force them to act or we need to replace them.
Please make sure you are registered, educated on the issues, and voting.
Make sure those around you do the same.

Enough school children have died.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Charting a course, somewhere over Ohio

The last 2 days have been Oakland at the AFT Healthcare Program and Policy Committee.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals from around the country, all AFT members, meeting to provide guidance to the Executive Committee on issues related to healthcare.

I’m at 37,000 feet over Cleveland, we’ve been in the air 4 hours, and with a change of planes in Baltimore and driving home, I hope to be there in another 4 hours.
It a long trip, but then again, it’s been a long trip since I became a Nurse in 1999.
And an interesting trip.

I fell into nursing by accident, due to downturns in the work I was doing building airplanes.
Nursing is a great career.
To be sure, all healthcare is incredibly challenging, dangerous, and stressful.
It’s not for everyone.
But it is for me.
I settled into the ER and loved the challenge, the variety, the teamwork, and the ability to leave at the end of the day knowing I made a difference.
I enjoyed that I had a voice in the care of my patients.
Staff were an asset that was valued.

Somewhere along the line that changed.
Hospitals became corporations.
Staff became an expense.
Patients became customers.

Bumps in a long journey.
Bumps that needed to be smoothed out.
We did that at Backus by forming a union.
We regained our voice.

As I became more involved, I came to see there were so many more lanes to the labor highway than healthcare.
In AFT we have education and public service, and in other unions the trades, the service industry, law enforcement, first responders, manufacturing, and others, even the people working on this plane.
Lots of lanes to this highway, all trying to get to that place that provides a voice for themselves and the people they serve.

And lots of bumps in the road.
There are people in power who prefer we not find that voice, they like things the way they are, they like their power.
Sometimes the bumps in the form of distractions.
Dark state, fake news, crooked Hillary, Birthers, tweets……..
It’s easy to get distracted,
It’s easy to only respond to these distraction bumps in the road.
The danger is that we can forget where we are trying to go.
One of the things that I like about the Mueller investigation into Russian involvement in our elections is that in spite of all the distractions, all the chaos, all the bumps, the investigation moves forward, seemingly never losing site of its goal, the truth.

That’s a lesson for us.

We started out to gain a voice.
We must not forget that.

That’s why we met in Oakland.
To make sure we were still on course and to chart it for the future.
That’s why we in AFT Connecticut set a statewide strategic plan and why our affiliated unions are doing the same.
It’s our road map.
So when the bumps come (often in the form of a crisis or distraction) we deal with them but do not lose focus of our goal, a voice for all workers.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Bishops stand with Labor

The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is backing public sector unions in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
They have filed an amicus brief in support of the union in the Janus v AFSCME case which challenges the union’s right to collect money from non members for collective bargaining.

In so doing, they stand against the Trump administration and conservatives in a legal battle over how organized labor is financed.
Because the Catholic Bishops are a conservative group on most issues, this might seem perplexing.

However, the Catholic Church has long opposed “right to work” legislation, which doesn’t allow employees to be charged for union representation they didn’t ask for, even if they might benefit from it.
The bishops point to various papal statements and encyclicals in support of labor rights dating back to Pope Leo in 1891, opposition to the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act and Pope Francis in 2017, when he said in an address to the Confederation of Trade Unions in Italy, “There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries, that does not transform the discarded stones of the economy into its cornerstones.”

As a practicing Catholic I thank the bishops for standing on the core belief that all work has dignity and that all workers deserve respect. 

Editors note: This case and so callled “right to work” laws are an attempt to strip unions of financing and thereby strip workers of a voice in the workplace.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Thanks Lori

I want to thank Lori Pelletier for a recent editorial in the Hartford Current
Lori points out that while it is popular to blame public sector workers for the state’s budget problems, it missies the mark.
There is a call for the legislature to set state healthcare and retirement benefits, as opposed to being collectively bargained as they are now.
Lori reminds us that this was the way it was until state workers gained the right to bargain in the 1970s.
She also reminds us that for 32 years, the legislature failed to put a single penny into the system that it established by law.
In fact, she reminds us, in 2017, 82 % of the  payment into the pension fund was to make up for this period on non funding.

So, we see how well the legislature did in managing the pension fund.
Why would we want to return to that?
Collective bargaining forced the state to do what it should have done 32 years prior, fund a system it had itself established!

While all of this is extremely important, I think Lori’s opening statement says the most.

“All working people who work hard and play by the rules should be able to retire with dignity.”

This is not a “public worker issue,” it is a worker issue.

They say that a rising tide lifts all boats.
The fancy yachts of the rich are rising with the stock market, but what about the rowboats of the workers?
Our muscles fuel the ecconomy in the same way that our muscles pull the oars of our boats.
The rich spend a lot of money trying to convince one group of workers that another group of workers is the reason that their own boat is not rising with the tide. They pit public sector worker against private sector worker, saying “your taxes pay for their benefits.”

No, my friends.

The tax breaks of the rich are the cause.
That’s why the tide lifts the yachts but not the rowboats.

Lori finishes her editorial with this statement and she is spot on.
“These attacks are nothing more than a concentrated effort by anti-worker politicians to distract from the mess created decades ago and pursue an agenda of austerity and union busting.”

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Respecting women

The idea that if a women dresses in a “certain way” that she is “asking for it” upsets me to no end.
It is simply an excuse to justify sexual harassment and assault.
It is wrong.

A guest editorial in the Norwich Bulletin, my local paper, today is titled, “Half-naked actresses warn against sexual harassment.”

It speaks of the recent Golden Globe awards and the number of actresses who spoke out against sexual harassment.
It states, “Lots of pretty actresses appeared half-naked, posing in turn for photographs, embodying the sexual temptation on which the industry is built, but this time their skimpy clothing was colored black as a protest against the supposedly unwanted sexual interest they were striving to tempt.”

“Supposedly” unwanted sexual interest?

The editorial disgusted me.

The editorial goes on to criticize CT State Senator Mae Flexor for her efforts to protect victims.
Senator Flexor has been a champion of victims of domestic and sexual abuse and should be praised for her efforts, not criticized.

Let me be very clear.
Sexual harassment and assault is not about sex.
It is about domination, it is about control.

Any inference that “pretty women” dressing in “skimpy clothing” is the problem is a further attempt of males to exert control.
It’s equivalent to saying a young black male wearing a hoody is asking to be shot.
Give me a break!

Women have the right to dress nicely, they have the right to fix up their hair, do up their nails, wear makeup and heals, without inviting sexual advances, let alone sexual harassment, sexual assault, or criticism that they may be the problem.

On top of that, evening gowns are as appropriate dress for the Golden Globes as tuxedos.

Whenever we treat another human being as an object that we can denigrate or control (be they women, Haitians, Africans, or people of color) we diminish our own humanness.
Our society needs to reject the hateful ideas of this guest writer, as it must reject the hateful ideas of our president, and embrace love and respect for all people.