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.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Do we stand together, or stand alone?

When we nurses at Backus Hospital decided that the conditions for our patients had gotten bad enough we complained to management.
When multiple individual complaints and pleading brought no change, we decided to speak with one voice.
It was not easy. Management faught us every step of the way, but we stood together because we had tried standing separately to no avail.
Management spent around a million dollars trying to convince 400 nurses not to unionize.
A million dollars!
All we wanted was a voice so we could care for our patients properly.

They claimed they were looking our for us nurses, protecting us from an outside entity (the union) that would take our money and our voice.
What they failed to understand is that the only outside entity trying to take from us was our own management.
“The Union” is not a thing.
It is not an “outside entity.”
It is not a “third party.”

The union is a group of workers standing together to work collectively on things that are of importance to us, because we realize that unless we stand together, management has all the power.

And that’s why management was willing to spend a million dollars to keep us from unionizing, they want to retain power and control. (Also, remember this, they were not spending money out of their own pockets, they were spending hospital funds.)

A similar situation is playing out across our nation.
So called “Right to Work” groups are telling workers, “drop out of the union, save your union dues, give yourself a raise.”
Again, why?
Is it because they care about workers?

They care about power.
They know when they have power they can write the rules to favor themselves.

Like the nurses at Backus, all workers have a decision to make, a decision that has been ours to make since we started being employed by someone else.
Do we stand together or do we stand alone.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Citizen Carla

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the naturalization ceremony of a dear friend, Carla Borlaug, with her family and friends.
Carla is a loving mother, wife and friend, and the Unites States is much, much better that she chose to become one of our citizens. We are better for it.

The road to citizenship is long and difficult.
The 54 people who took the oath yesterday had to work for years to get to that point and did not take these steps lightly.
I would think that they now know more about this country and what it stands for than most Americans who were born in this country.

The ceremony was moving.
54 candidates and their families and friends crowded the federal courtroom.
When the judge entered the room we stood.
The federal immigration agent presented the candidates to the judge as being qualified.
Then Carla and the other candidates stood, raised their right hands, and took the oath of citizenship, pledging to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Then, after just pledging to “renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty,” the elderly judge spoke to our newest citizens, telling them that his own parents were immigrants to this country.
He offered this advise:

Vote and be involved in your government.
Learn English as best you can but remember your native language and culture and pass them on to your children and grandchildren.
Take every opportunity that your time and resources allow to learn.
Practice the religion of your choice or none at all.
Exercise your new rights including the right to peacefully protest.

I was proud at that moment to be an American.

Carla took no oath to any elected official or ideology.
Her oath was to the Constitution.
In this area of heightened nationalism, this elderly judge and these new citizens were a refreshing reminder that we do not pledge allegiance to a nation, a person, a party, or an ideology.
We pledge allegiance to an ideal.
Liberty and Justice for all.

Congratulations Carla.
Thank you for the reminder.

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.