Saturday, May 26, 2018

Standing for Social Justice

We were at the poor people’s campaign rally in Hartford again this past Monday and will be there again on Tuesday at 3:00.
No, we did not get arrested again this week.
But four activists did.

A reporter wanted to talk to me.
Actually, he wanted to talk to Jan, because the arrest of the president of one of the state’s largest unions sends a message. I resisted the urge to tell him that Jan was with me, only 20 feet away, and answered his questions myself.

He wanted to know about the experience of being arrested, about whether we were nervous beforehand, and about our motivation.
I told him the Hartford Police Officers were professional, polite, and respectful.
(The next day some of us had to appear at Hartford community court, and everyone there was equally professional, polite, and respectful. Throughout this, many officials expressed support for the stand we had taken. We were given 3 days of community service, which we will proudly serve)

As far as motivation, the decision to take an arrest for social justice is a very personal choice.
Speaking for myself, I felt that if Jan had the courage to take a stand, the least I could do is stand with her. Additionally, 3 of our members and 2 of our staff were arrested with us.
How could I ask them to do something that I wasn’t willing to do myself?
But there’s more to it than standing with my president, members and staff.

We celebrate Memorial Day this weekend. A day dedicated to those who gave their lives for the values this country should stand for, so eloquently stated by Abraham Lincoln. We are a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. These are the values that I learned from my parents, my teachers, my church.
However, as a society, we often fail to live up to that dedication, and in so doing, we dishonor the memories of those who gave their lives.
While we may “believe” that all are created equal, we often do not treat all people as equals.
Social injustice (racial, gender, religious, class, etc) continues in our society.
The wealthy have the power and so often are unwilling to share it.
It is up to us to stand up for the principles this country was founded upon, stand up and respect the memories of those who died for these principles, stand up against the voices of hatred, bigotry, and nationalism, and stand up for ALL people.

Sometimes, standing up means you have to take a knee, or an arrest.

We elect those who serve us.
We need to ask all candidates…..
Do you stand for social justice?
Which side are you on?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Walking the walk

Seven years ago, the nurses of Backus Hospital voted to form a union.
This year, we sent five nurses to the Virgin Islands on a humanitarian mission and one nurse to jail.

Seven years ago we were afraid to say the word “union” out load.
Yesterday I stood in the middle of the street in front of the State Capitol in Hartford and sang “we are not afraid.”

We have found our voice.
Today we use that voice to help those in need.
I am proud of my sisters who gave a week of their lives to help children in the Virgin Islands and I am proud to have stood with my sisters and brothers in Hartford for social justice.

Our civil disobedience was the beginning of 40 days of peaceful resistance against social injustice.

We are using our voice.

It was an honor to stand with AFT Connecticut’s Greg, Meagan, Alisha, Stephanie, John, Jan and and sisters and brothers from other unions and movements, and be joined by others in 40 other state Capitals.
When we were organizing to gain our voice at the hospital, managers would pull me into tiny rooms to read me the riot act about attempting to form a union. These meetings are called “captive audience meetings.”
My cell was bigger than these rooms, my cell mates were better company,  and I am not afraid and will never give up my voice.
My strength comes from my sisters and brothers.

Leaders lead, and no one exemplifies that better than my friend and president, Jan.
You know the phrase “I would follow her through the gates of hell”?
Yesterday we followed her through the gates of a cell.

The Hartford Police were for the most part respectful and should be commended for this.
I am sorry we caused them more work but they understood and supported our efforts.
I am not sorry for standing up for justice and I am not afraid.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Road Ahead

The 71st annual AFT Connecticut Business Convention was held yesterday.
I submitted my written report as Executive VP and it’s in the packet, but let me share some thoughts behind the report.

Every day brings new challenges, not just to our union, but to all unions and the entire social justice movement.
This is nothing new, it has been going on for ages.
At the heart of it is a fundamental difference in how we see our roles as humans inhabiting this small, fragile planet.
Some believe in the old adage, “from each according to their means, to each according to their needs,” and some do not.
Because of this, there are powerful people who wish to remain so. They are willing to use their resources to retain this power.
They are willing to fund lawsuits and legislative campaigns and politicians who will fight to end collective bargaining, the right to organize, pay equity, equality, and economic and social justice, because without a voice, those who are marginalized have no hope.

These are the challenges we face every day.
But we face them together.

A special thank you to our AFT CT members, my fellow officers, and many from around the country for the support you have shown us this year.
Jan expressed the same sentiment in her remarks to the convention when she spoke of her battle this year with cancer.  She spoke of how the support has helped her.
Randi spoke of the inspiration that Jan has been because of the way she has fought both cancer, and the powers who challenge us daily.
I agree completely with both of them.
Jan is an inspiration to us all, and that inspiration is possible because of the strength that flows from our members.

At our convention we honored some of our members who gave of their time and treasure to help AFT sisters and brothers in need this past year in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Texas, Florida, and Alaska.  They did so because they understand the “U and I in Union,” as our current campaign states.
They, like our other members, understand that we are stronger together.
They understand that we have a responsibility to help a sister and brothers in need.
They understand that this solidarity is what it means to be in a union and in the social justice movement.

Like the support that Jan spoke of, these fundamental beliefs are what we are all about.
They are the reason that, despite Supreme Court cases, despite horrible attempts at “right to work for less” laws, despite powerful interest aligned against us, we will carry on.

Because we are sisters and brothers.
And sisters and brothers take care of each other.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Another trip around the sun

I was sharing with a friend tonight a few thoughts on the celebration of my 63rd trip around the sun

I can’t believe that I started today in tropical Florida and ended it in my favorite pizza place in Danielson with chocolate cake.
I  know it’s 2018 and all, and air travel has been around for decades,  but that still amazes me that it’s possible.
And I’m grateful it still amazes me.
In spite of being all grownup, I can still see the world with the eyes and faith of a child at times.
I’m blessed for that.
Perhaps that’s why I had the faith to take the leaps to become a nurse, help form a union, run as VP of a 30,000 member labor federation.

God has blessed me.
God knows I have had challenges.
But I’ve never had to face them alone.
My wonderful wife and family, my nursing colleagues, my work partners, and my members are always there to walk with me.

I have no great words of wisdom
Perhaps that’s my greatest gift.
God has helped me find my voice.
Now my job is to use that voice and help others find their voice.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


I few weeks ago I was approached by a friend about my Democratic Town Committee.
She said the committee was in need of support as those serving on the committee had done so for years and were looking for new people to become involved.
My answer was, “Of course, I’ll do what I can to help.”

I’m now chairman.

Political Town Committees are nothing more than the residents of a political party in a town who gather together to promote values and candidates that they believe in.
I have avoided being involved, even though I have worked on campaigns and even been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, mostly through my activism in the union.

When I called the chairman and told him I wanted to get involved, he asked where I had been all this time.
It was a legitimate question and my “I was busy” was a poor excuse, although not completely untrue.

I’m not sure I understood the importance of being involved for most of my life.
Interesting, because I grew up looking at my grandfather’s multiple gavels from his years of service as President of the Rhode Island Senate and hearing how Irish immigrants became involved in politics.
Anyway, since becoming involved in my organizing drive at my hospital, and especially since becoming AFT CT Vice President, I see how if we don’t have a seat at the table, we’re on the menu.

So I find myself Chair of the Sterling Connecticut DTC.
We’re a small rural town of under 3500 residents, fairly equally split between democrats, republicans, and unaffiliated, with far too many unregistered.
My hope is that along with the dedicated members who have served so long on the committee, we can involve newer members and increase voter roles and participation.

I invite all town democrats to contact us and become involved to the extent they can and wish.
(And in your own town committees)
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