Tuesday, May 26, 2015
While there, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Alice Leo, the president of the Porter Federation of Nurses and health professionals.
She told her story about how they became frustrated with trying and failing to improve care at their hospital in Vermont and how they worried for their employment if they spoke out too vigorously.
Then she told how they organized and gained a voice.
As she spoke I felt she was telling MY story, and probably the story of anyone who has lived through an organizing drive.
Afterwards, I approached her, introduced myself, and explained how her story had touched me.
We shared the commonalities of how we had organized, became leaders, and then presidents.
We shared our worries, worries that perhaps only presidents understand.
I offered her my support, for her, and her members.
One of the primary responsibilities of anyone who works in healthcare, education, or public service is to advocate for those in they care for, educate or serve.
If we cannot do this without fear of reprisal, then we cannot be effective.
That is what lead the nurses of Backus and Porter to organize, that is what is leading our brothers and sisters of Danbury.
I salute the nurses of Porter and the workers at Danbury and pledge my support, my solidarity.
Together, we are strong.
Friday, May 22, 2015
I am in Chicago for the AFT/NFN professional issues conference/Labor Academy.
It has been an incredible conference in terms of speakers, presentations, and the opportunity to connect and reconnect with other activists. For the first time, I was asked to be a presenter.
I have also had multiple chances to meet with my fellow AFT Connecticut Vice President Jean Morningstar and national staff and leadership about the future of the state fed/national relationship and how we can work together for the good of our members and how we can organize future members.
A lot has happened in a short amount of time but perhaps that's fitting. A lot has happened in my life in the past 5 years and in this country in the last 30 years.
Income inequality grows daily.
The top 25 hedge fund managers now make more than the combined wages of all the kindergarten teachers in the country!
CEOs and other top hospital executives make over a million dollars a year while patients lay on stretchers in the hall.
Workers are fired because they need time off to care for elderly parents or are are injured on the job and their FMLA runs out.
Parents are forced to work 2 or more jobs and miss valuable needed time with their children.
Profits come before family, students, and patients.
But all is not dire my brothers and sisters.
People are becoming aware and with that awareness, they are becoming active.
They are speaking with their legislators, they are organizing community activism groups, they are forming unions and they are fighting back.
They are demanding patients before profits.
I am very glad my nurses and I have a new contract. It is important. But collective action has and always will be more powerful than collective bargaining.
We have much work to do.
We must adapt a culture of activism, and the belief that we are the union.
We must reach out to our non union brothers and sisters and help them find their voice, whether that be by organizing into unions or community groups.
It can be done.
I know, I have seen it happen, I have been a part of it.
Once I had no voice, and now I do.
Now is the time for us all to use that voice.