Sunday, April 22, 2018

DTC

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)
We are on Facebook https://facebook.com/SterlingDTC/


Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Road Ahead

This week, members of AFT Connecticut will travel to Alaska to be part of a Public Employee Organizing Blitz.
And, this week, members of AFT Connecticut will travel to the Virgin Islands as part of a team on a healthcare mission to hurricane ravaged islands.
And, next week, members of AFT Connecticut will travel to Parkland, Florida to continue to provide support to the teachers and students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Taking time from their own busy lives, these dedicated members are on the road to help their sister and brother AFT members in Alaska, Florida and the Virgin Islands because they recognize that we are bigger than our individual workplace or Local or even State Federation. We are part of a 1.7 member family that is AFT.
And, we are part of the greater union movement.

My utmost thanks goes out to them all, my heart travels with them and my pride in being a small part of this family runs over.
It is both ironic and fitting that several months ago, we chose a slogan for the AFT Connecticut convention in May,
“The Road Ahead.”
These dedicated members, being literally on the road, are showing us the road ahead.

Our members in Alaska this week are part of a Public Sector Organizing Blitz, something that has gone on for at least 7 years, where members and staff come together in a week filled with honing organizing skills and practicing those skills through mapping of units, door knocking, and site visits.
It is an exhausting and fulfilling week.
It literally changes lives.
If you ever get the opportunity to go, take it.

Our members in Parkland next week are from the Newtown Federation of Teachers.
They are members of a fraternity that no teacher wants to belong, a fraternity of school shooting survivors.
Their goal is to help the newest members of that fraternity, in ways only they can.
This is their second trip since the shooting.
Our prayers are with them.

Our members in the Virgin Islands are not on vacation.
The Virgin Islands, like Puerto Rico, were devastated by 2 hurricanes last fall.
As a result, they have a housing shortage and the nursing shortage has become so severe that the schools are 10,000 basic hearing, vision and dental screenings behind.
These screenings catch problems before complications set in and students fall behind in their studies.
5 of our nurses will be part of a team of 26 AFT Healthcare members from around the country who will do their best to screen as many as possible over this coming week.

I have a particular pride in this group.
Our 5 members are from my local, the Backus Federation of Nurses.
It is wonderful to see that the work and struggles we went through 7 years ago to organize have led to a local with members willing to sacrifice for their sisters and brothers of the AFT Virgin Island Teacher’s Local.
It is fitting because without the help of AFT Connecticut, AFT, and the greater labor movement, we would never have been successful in organizing.

The challenges ahead are immense but to me the road ahead is not dark.
We are a diverse union and in that diversity is our strength.
Our members are showing the way.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Lessons of Easter

To the Christian world, Easter is a big day.

But to me, it’s not the fact that Jesus rose from the dead that is so amazing.
It’s how he lived his life and what he taught by his words and example.

Born homeless, to an unwed mother, forced into exile for his own safety while still an infant, persecuted and killed for his beliefs, and still he said, “forgive them father, they know not what they do.”

He knew what it was to be poor.
He knew what it was to be an immigrant.
He knew what it was to be beaten.
He knew what it was to be persecuted for his beliefs.
He knew what it was to be “us.”

He chose to be friends with the outcasts of his society, and was criticized for it.
He did not judge, he forgave and led by example.

To some, his rising on Easter is proof that he is God, and man.
To me, it is a day to celebrate the Movement.

The Movement that chooses love over hate,
Justice over privilege,
A voice for all over a voice for a few,
And truly believes that our neighbor is the foreigner we meet on the side of the road,
And that we are all sisters and brothers.

His teachings and example are the teachings and example for the Movement.
They are the teachings of Gandhi, King, Chavez, and so many more.
Christians believe that he was God, made man and that our duty is to follow the example he gave and the lessons he taught.
We must ask ourselves two things.

If he was God, why did he choose to live a life as he did, in poverty, befriending those on the margins of society, teaching love, forgiveness, and acceptance?
Are we following him?

He rose on Easter.
He lives on in us.





Tuesday, March 27, 2018

New conscience protections are disingenuous

A recent letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from AFT President Randi Weingarten spoke against proposed rule changes regarding the ability of the Office for Civil Rights to impose new procedures to enforce existing laws concerning the rights of health professionals to participate in certain medical procedures.
I thank Randi for her advocacy on healthcare issues because this proposed rule is offered under the false pretense that it protects a healthcare worker from having to participate in a procedure based on his or her religious or ethical beliefs.
Although originally founded as a teachers union, the AFT now represents public service workers and healthcare professionals too. In fact, the AFT is the second-largest representative of registered nurses in the country. As such, we embrace our duty to advocate for all healthcare workers and our patients.
When I first heard about the proposed rule, it sounded like a reasonable protection for healthcare workers. But, when I read the rule, I realized it would not only allow the Civil Rights Division to respond to complaints from healthcare workers, it could also interfere with the rights of patients to receive care.
You see, under current law, healthcare workers are already protected from being forced into participating in any procedure they object to, based on religious beliefs or concerns of conscience.
So why the proposed rule change?
Could it be because under the new rule, healthcare providers would have the right to refuse to treat a patient, not based on the procedure, but based on the patient’s income, race, ethnicity, gender, background, political or religious beliefs, sexual identity, or almost anything? The new rule would also extend these rights to healthcare institutions. These new rules are clearly an attempt to institutionalize discrimination based on who the patient is.
As a registered nurse, it’s my right — legally and ethically — to refuse to participate in certain procedures based on my beliefs. I do not need any new rules to guarantee me this right. I also have a moral obligation to provide care to every patient equally, and I have the same moral obligation to refer any patient to a provider who feels differently than I do, and who can provide them the care they seek.
Healthcare professionals, like everyone, have varying ethical beliefs when it comes to certain procedures. Some of us may object to performing or assisting in abortions, or administering vaccinations, or providing certain end-of-life care, or participating in lethal injections. I vigorously defend their right to object, and the rules as they stand now protect their rights as well.
However, there is no place in healthcare for a provider (or facility) to decide whether to participate or provide a procedure based on a person’s religion, politics, sexual orientation, race or legal status. This proposed rule is not only unnecessary in protecting healthcare workers’ right to practice according to their ethical beliefs, it is potentially harmful to the very patients we have dedicated our lives to care for.

This blog has been posted on AFT Voices at:
https://aftvoices.org/new-conscience-protections-are-disingenuous-e502d37f5d36


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I am not a captive

I testified today in Hartford.
Seems like I’ve been doing a lot of that recently.
This time it was before the Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill on Captive Audience Meetings.

I told the committee of my experience in 2011 when, along with my fellow nurses at Backus Hospital, we grew tired of not having a voice and thereby not being able to advocate for our patients, and after trying to get management to listen to us and failing, we formed a union.
I told them of the multiple captive audience meetings I survived.
Meetings in which a manager would pull me into a small room, close the door and then stand in front of it, and tell me that my “union” activities were harming my patients and my coworkers and that I should back down from the effort.
I told them that these meetings were so traumatizing that I would debrief with my organizer (thank you Ole) after the meetings, much as I would after caring for a child in the ER who didn’t survive.
I told them how at one point, two managers cornered me in a 10 foot by 10 foot storage room and berated me for my efforts.

One committee member stated that this sounds much like the size of a prison cell (6 ft X 10 ft) and how it must have felt like I was in a cell at the moment.
Another member said she considers herself a strong person who can stand up to anyone and that my story sounded intimidating even to her.
The chair, whom I have known for some time, said he never thought of me as someone who would back down from intimidation.

While I appreciate that statement, the truth is I am quite sensitive.
I told him this, and that it takes a lot to make me overcome my sensitivity, but not having a voice to advocate for my patients and fearing that some of the younger nurses might be vulnerable to intimidation, allowed me to have the courage to stand up and gain a voice.

Workers should not need to overcome management coercion or intimidation to come together and form a union and gain a voice.
My experience has made me stronger, but it was not easy.
I pray that any work I do makes it easy for others.