Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day Message

All work has dignity and meaning.
All workers deserve respect.

Labor Day is set aside to honor these two beliefs.

I salute all workers,  and in particular, I salute organized Labor.
The workplace protections we now enjoy are the result of many men and women standing together in unity and standing up for themselves.

Labor Day is also a time to look at were we have come from and where we hope to go.

This past year we won a major victory at L+M Hospital.  Locals 5049, 5051, and 5123 showed us what solidarity means. They also showed us how to work with other locals, other unions, and the community to build on that solidarity.
In the end, "right" won, "justice" won, and "greed" lost.
I am particularly proud that young Local 5149, the nurses of Backus Hospital, still in our first contract, played a supporting role.  Through it, we matured as unionists.

I see great hope for the Labor movement.  I see my members finding and using their voice in growing numbers. I see non union workers standing up for their rights in Walmarts and fast food.  I see Healthcare unions willing to do what ever it takes to put patients first. I see workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere, mobilizing to fight back against the Scott Walkers of the world who wish to strip them of a voice. I see unions in Florida, and other right to work for less states enrolling members because workers see the benefit of standing together. I see Locals such as the teachers in New Haven and Meriden and the public employees of Connecticut, with the self confidence to work with employers when possible for the common good.

I see these things and I am excited about the future, anxious to be a part of it, ready to redouble our efforts.

This is why I said yes to that first phone call four years ago when a fellow nurse asked would I be willing to talk to a guy from a union.
I was tired and I felt hopeless.

I may be tired now, but it is a good tired.
I have a voice and I use it.
I can advocate for my patients and increasingly, for students and the public my union serves.
I have friends who feel the same way.

My sisters and brothers, enjoy your holiday if you are off.
If, like me, you are working, know that the work you do has meaning and makes a difference.
Rest if you can.
Tuesday begins a new year in the workers calender and we have much to do.
We will do it, we will be successful, because we will do it in solidarity.
i have tried to write this Labor Day blog several times but something in aech draft just didn't seem right.
i think I was trying to send a message.  there's nothing wrong with that, and often it is what is needed, but somehow it didn'e feeel right.
Maybe it's becasue Labor Day and the Labor Movement is so personal to me that something was telling me to just speak from the heart.
So, let me try again.

Labor Day is set aside to honor workers and the work they do.
All work has dignity and all workers desearve respect.
They do not, however, always get treated with that respect.
Often, the people in charge treat them as a business expense, instead of the mother or father, son or daughter, sister or brother, they are, who are involved in churches and civic, and community organizations, who have hopes and dreams and talents that the boss has no idea of.
The work they do may not be "professionsl" in the sense we use the term but they may carry it out in a more professional way than the most professional person on earth.
More and more, teachers, nurses, and other "professionals" are treated with an increasing las=ck of respect also, no job title semms to be except.

There is something fundimentally and morally wrong with this.
There is also someting morally wrong with companies making insanely large profits and insanely large bonuses, and not paying their workers a living wage.
It's wrong on a moral level.
Some day, the people making these decisions will have to answer, to God or Karma or whatever, and you know the saying, Karma is a bitch.

My work caneer has taken so many twists and turns that I have come to realize that it is a very curved road and I can seldome see too far ahead.
I have worked in textile mills, warehouses, egg research plants, lumberyards, and aircraft assembly plants. I have been the boss, the employee, and the union leader.
I did not realize it but each experience prepared me for the next, and evantially I found my way to helathcare, where i have worked full time for the last 20 years.  Being a nurse has been emensly fulfilling, and tiring, and frustrating.  I am sometimes asked if I wish I had found it earlier in life, but I would not have been ready. I needded certain life experiences to be ready for the task.
I sometimes wish i had found unionism earlier in life, but again, it came at the point of my life when I was ready and when God called me to it.
My work has given me the opportunity to support myself and my family and it has given me fulfillment.
I could have never seen the twists and turns that have taken me to where I am now.
i could have never imagined even siz years ago, that I would be called on to serve the nurses of Backus as their president, or the AFT memebers in Connectic and nationally on committees and at conferences, to speak in public, to discuss issues with elected officials and community leaders, to sit at table with mangement as equals, to sit in members living rooms as equals.
It has been amax=zing and I am greatful for it and I am open to continuing in whatever role God and the universe places in front of me in the future.
There is much work left to be done, and all of it has dignity.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Round one to Malloy

It's on!
The first of the gubernatorial debates for the Connecticut governor race was held last night in Norwich. 
It might be impossiblele for me to give an accurate assessment of who was the winner and who was the loser because I clearly favor the Governor in this race, but I think the "experts" will agree, Malloy won by a mile.

Dan Malloy knows his facts and figures and can recall them in a moment's notice.  Tom Foley is reduced to speaking in generalities, and offers no definitive plan for the future.
The Governor can speak to specific investments in infrastructure or education and all Foley can say is we need reform, we need to invest more and cut taxes and balance the budget, but offers no specifics on how he would do so.
I could go on, but I'll let you read it all in the papers and on social media.
Bottom line, Dan Malloy is not perfect, he has made mistakes, but his heart is with the working class and disadvantaged of this state and he works hard for us each and every day.
Last night he clearly apologized to teachers for remarks he had made in the past about tenure. He said "I was wrong" and he praised teachers.
Somewhere, Dan Malloy's teachers, must have smiled.

Tom Foley has no specifics, even though he ran for governor 4 years ago.
He comes to small town Eastern Connecticut and tells the select woman/senator, whom he doesn't recognize, and the mill workers, that THEY FAILED and that is why their mill closed.

One final note.
You can tell a lot about a leader by who they chose as a running mate.
Is that running mate a strong person in their own right?
Are they a partner, or window dressing?
Are they capable of taking over in a moment's notice if needed?
Are they as hard a worker, as dedicated to the cause, as passionate about what they do, as the candidate?
Lt Governor Nancy Wyman is all this and more.
That says a lot about the governor.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Erin

The estimate of how much my hospital spent fighting it's own employees when we organized runs as high as $11million. The hospital admitted to almost $1million.
I know, crazy, right?

Contrast that to what Meriden Federation of Teachers president Erin Benham has been able to accomplish with a cooperative relationship with her superintendent, Mark Benigni . http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/winter1314/Dubin.pdf

I got to know Erin and hear of the cooperative program last year when we served together on the AFT Small Union Task Force, along with AFT leaders from across the country.
She told me how she and Mark speak on the phone every morning as they head off to school, of how signage of the Meriden Federation of Teachers hangs in the entrance of the school, and how teachers and administration work as a partnership to the benefit of students.
She told me that it was not always this way, in fact, some previous administrations were quite hostile towards teachers.  Erin stood up to them, meeting force with force, but always offering an olive branch if they were interested in a better way.  Eventually, by a combination of standing her ground and offering cooperation, the relationship started to change and when Mark became superintendant, the cooperation bloomed.

Erin demonstrated what AFT President Randi Weingarten calls "a little bit bad ass, and solution driven unionism," and serves as an example of what is possible.
And the real winners?
The students.

I try to imitate Erin's approach and haven't given up hope that it is possible.  We recently reached a tentative agreement to have joint Labor/Management training on working together with the Federal Mediation services.

So, when Governor Malloy was looking for a new member of the Connecticut State Board of Ed, Erin was a natural choice. She was appointed this week.
http://www.myrecordjournal.com/meriden/meridennews/5375300-129/malloy-appoints-meriden-teacher-to-state-board-of-education.html
The students and in fact, all the people of Connecticut, are lucky to have Erin in this new role.

I am lucky to have her as a friend and mentor.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gotta do much more than believe

In his song "Waiting on the world to change", John Mayer sings,
It's hard to beat the system 
When we're standing at a distance 
So we keep waiting 
Waiting on the world to change 


I love this song. It has a melody that just begs you to sing along.
I understand the frustration that leads to the lyrics and do not dispute them.
But they also make me sad.
They speak of a feeling of hopelessness to change things.
However, later in the same song he sings, 

Now if we had the power 
To bring our neighbors home from war 
They would have never missed a Christmas 
No more ribbons on their door


and,
 One day our generation 
Is gonna rule the population
So we keep on waiting 
Waiting on the world to change 

Thus he offers hope and a belief that change will come.

Is that enough?

Another favorite singer/songwriter, Dave Matthews sings in "Gaucho",
We gotta do much more than believe
if we really wanna change things
We gotta do much more than believe
if we wanna see the world change

and,
Please wake up
Please wake up
Please wake up

Together, these lyrics speak of the frustrations with the way things are, a doubt that we can effect change, the pain of waiting for change to occur, the belief that change can happen, and a call to wake up and effect that change.

We have all been frustrated with situations we felt we could not change.
We have all felt the feeling of waiting for the world to change.

It's hard. We want to get on with it. We want to sing the next line of the song. We want to believe, to wake up, to change the world.

Again, is that enough?

We have to believe, we have to dream big, but we also have to take care of the little details day in and day out that can lead to the change.  To take care of those details requires us to make a plan, and work that plan.
That takes careful thought, and time.

It's not sexy, it's not the fun part, but without it, we don't effect change, we don't change the world.
They say patience is a virtue.
It's one I'm trying to work on.