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.

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.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Our road map

Yesterday we met with our Delegate Assembly for our quarterly meeting.  This meeting was accompanied by an all day planning session.
The goal was to draft AFT Connecticut’s strategic plan for the next year.

We started with a mission statement and goals, and 6 areas of concentration; political, membership engagement, external organizing, community engagement, communications, and professional development.
The idea was to incorporate the delegates experience and knowledge into a strategic plan for the State Federation as a whole and to assist individual Locals to establish like plans on the Local level, to better collaborate with Locals and members, and to effectively use resources, so that we can accomplish our goal of a robust, member driven union.

The participation among our delegates was truly amazing, and I think our plan will reflect this.

Facilitators moved about the large room, spending 30 minutes with each table, discussing one of the six areas of concentration with the group, building on the discussion from the previous group.
When the facilitators moved on to the next table, the next set of facilitators would replace them, and the group at that table would shift gears and discuss the next area of concentration.  In this way, each delegate had input into each area of concentration.

I was privileged to work with our Communications Director, Matt O’Connor.
We were appropriately tasked with Communications as our focus area.
Obviously, this is an area we both spend a lot of time thinking of.
Still, ideas came from the discussions that could only come from the people working at the Local level, who face challenges of time, resources, and energy that are unique to them.  It was beneficial to hear what they had to contribute, but I think it was also beneficial for them to hear the challenges of their sisters and brothers from other Locals and other professional divisions.
Several people spoke about wanting to stay connected with other Locals to share experiences, resources, and strength.

That was great to hear.

At the end of the day, each group of facilitators reported out to the entire group what they had heard when we moved from table to table.
We will now take this information and summarize it into a draft strategic plan that the Delegates will review, modify, and adopt.
The next step after that will be to implement the plan, help Locals to establish their own strategic plans if they are so inclined, and perhaps most important, to regularly review our progress and adjust as needed.

Someone once said that you cannot get to were you want to be if you do not know where you are going.
This is our road map.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Practicing what we preach

This weekend in church, in honor of Labor Day, we prayed for all union workers, all day laborers, all teachers, all healthcare workers, etc, and for dignity, respect, and a living wage.

I don’t think I’ve every been so proud of my faith.

This morning, we marched in Hartford with Fight for $15.

It is my belief that any business that is doing well enough financially that it can afford to pay its workers a living wage, has an ethical obligation to do so.
To be financially able, and to refuse to do so, is ethically wrong to the employees and to society.
It keeps employees as indentured servants and shifts costs of food and shelter to society, while individuals in power reap the benefits.

I’m not taking about small mom and pop stores who struggle to survive.
I’m taking about businesses in which the owner or CEO is able to make 6 or 7 figures or more and who underplays their workers out of greed, not necessity.

It’s not just wrong, it’s ethically wrong.

I also believe that those who come to our country in search of freedom or a better life, have a right to live peacefully in this country.
It the path most of our ancestors took.
Building a wall instead of caring for each other is wrong.
Deporting children and adults who have peacefully made this their home in wrong.

It’s not just wrong, it’s ethically wrong.

Almost all faiths, almost all philosophies, teach that we have an obligation to help the least amongst us.
Certainly my faith does.

As Matthew wrote,”For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

We pledge allegiance to a country “under God.”
We put “in God we trust” on our currency.

If we truly believe this, then we should practice what we preach.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Labor Day 2017

"Where ya from?"
The voice came from behind me while waiting in line to order chowda and clam cakes at Aunt Carrie's (Point Judith, RI) last weekend.
Turning, I replied, "Connecticut."
"I saw your T-shirt, What union?" He said.

"AFT. You in a union?"
"No, but I'm a union supporter.  I just believe in fair wages and equality for all," he replied.
I thanked him, got my chowda, and wished him well.

That man understands the movement and Organized Labor.
He understands the power that comes when workers stand in solidarity.
He understands that the need for the right to organize and collectively bargain to be protected.
He "gets" it.
He understands how workers who are union have helped workers who do not yet have that opportunity.  I'm sure he knows about the fights for weekends, 40 hour work weeks, an end to child labor, FMLA, worker safety laws, minimum wage, healthcare and retirement security, migrant rights, and more.

But we who are lucky enough to be in unions must also understand the role that the non-unionized supporters of the movement play.
People like this man.
People in community advocacy groups.
The clergy.
The civil rights movement.
The gay rights movement.
Women's suffrage.

Need I go on?

This is a movement of equality.
And if all people are to be considered equal, we in the labor movement must first accept our role in the greater "movement."

One small gesture by this man reminded me of this.
Happy Labor Day.