Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thank you Connecticut State Employees

It's a typical morning in Connecticut.
As the sun peaks over the hills to the east, and sleepy New England town squares come alive, a nurse begins her shift, checking the IV fluids and receiving report from the evening nurse. Across town a teacher enters his classroom, flipping the switches to power the equipment in his shop class, checking all the safety devises that will keep his students safe. Downtown a social worker enters her courthouse, her mind on the young man she will try to get to drug treatment and his family she will help.

The nurse, teacher, and social worker all have something in common.
They are all State of Connecticut employees.
In fact, the are all AFT Connecticut members.

As a caring society, we have determined that there are certain services we should offer to all residents. This is rooted in our Judeo/Christian/Muslin beliefs.
Among them are safe roads and bridges, fire and police protection, education of our youth, care for our sick, and a judicial system based on a chance for a fair trial and rehabilitation.
Dedicated Public Employees provide these services.

I get upset when so called "think tanks" like The Yankee Institute spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to convince Connecticut's middle class taxpayers and small business owners that State Employees are "the problem."
These "think tanks" are funded by people who control large corporations and could not care in the least about middle class tax payers or small business owners.
They care about one thing.
Having power and keeping it.

It's time we woke up and recognized State Employees for what they are. Our neighbors, people like ourselves, who provide the services WE have determined we as a caring society that WE should provide.
I've never been a Public Employee but I've often benefited from their dedicate service.
Thank you.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Inspiration from Local 33

There was a sitcom in the early 60's that was followed by a movie of the same name in the 90's, featuring 2 lovable NYC cops, Toody and Muldoon.
The Theme song spoke of everything going wrong at the same time:

There's a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights;
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights;
There's a Scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev's due at Idlewild ...
Car 54, Where Are You??


Sometimes, as a Labor leader, the world feels like the NYC depicted in that song.

We have a new Supreme Court Justice who tips the court in the favor of large corporate interests and away from the interests of working families.
We have an administration and House of Representatives who need a "victory" so bad they they have passed a healthcare bill that will strip 24 million Americans of coverage, and devastate state, local and hospital budgets.
We have a Secretary of Education who doesn't believe in public education.
In spite of record low unemployment, we have a budget crisis in many states, including Connecticut, the richest state in the richest country in the world, because we lack the courage to stand up to corporations and ask the top 1% to pay their fair share to a society from which they have received the most.
As we speak, many of our state employee members are receiving layoff notices, while their leadership works to try to find a way to protect their jobs and their hard earned benefits. 
And there's more.

Sometimes, in the mist of dealing with all this, you have to take a deep breath, and return to your roots for strength.

Last Saturday at the AFT Connecticut convention, we invited speakers from Unite Here Local 33 to share with us their fight.
I was moved.
I have been following this but to hear it from them was powerful.
The grad students at Yale University have been fighting for the right to form a union for 23 years.
23 years!
Recently, they were successful in gaining the right to have a vote in which they voted yes and are now a union.
Yale refuses to to negotiate, probably hoping the Trump Administration will change the makeup of the NLRB, which regulates private sector unions, and reverse their right to vote yes.
The grad students have entered into a period of actions, including a month long fast in which 8 grad students are consuming nothing but water, to try to force Yale to the table.
As someone who faced strong opposition and intimidation in the organizing of my hospital, such dedication is personal and very moving to me.

On Tuesday, the leadership of the Connecticut AFL-CIO visited the fasters.  Unable to join them, I visited yesterday. 
Being a nurse, they put me to work doing a wellness check. The fasters are closely monitored by a physician team and daily wellness checks are performed, including vital signs and blood sugar checks, by nurses and other healthcare professionals.

As Jan described her visit on Tuesday, "It's powerful."
I agree.

This is the "why" of our advocacy. It's about finding a voice for working men and women. 
This is returning to our roots.
This is the inspiration and strength that allows us to fight the multiple simultaneous "crisis's."

Monday morning, the Labor Movement will stand with our grad students at the Yale Commencement and demand the University treat them with repsect.
I hope you can join us.

For more inf see Local 33 web site and FB page.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

#UnionProud

Just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the members of AFT Connecticut.

It has been my privilege to serve as your Executive Vice President for the past two years and an honor to be re-elected for another term yesterday. It is an honor to serve under the leadership Jan, and alongside, Jean, Ed, and the VPs and Local presidents that represent you.

We are 30,000 strong; teachers, paraprofessionals and other school related personnel, nurses and other healthcare professionals, and public service workers.
We are a diverse group belonging to over 90 autonomous Locals, but we are united in our work of service to others, our solidarity as sisters and brothers, and our commitment to a society that places students, patients, and the community we serve ahead of corporate greed.

We face enormous challenges in the next two years, but we also have tremendous opportunities.
As our president Jan says, our challenge is not from the right to work for less movement, but from the danger that our members may not understand the benefit of standing in union with their sisters and brothers.
This is our opportunity.
If we engage our members, if we have the thousands of one on one conversations needed to reach our members, then we will survive any challenge from the top 1% who covet power and greed at the expense of others.
We will be strong because we are always strong when we stand together.

So, we have much work to do.
We will do it together.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Healthcare is a right

Not going to lie.

 Like most healthcare professionals I'm not a good patient.

 When I started with blurred vision in my left eye about a week ago, I tried to ignore it. When I went to the doctor on Tuesday I was told I had a tear in my left retina and that fluid had seeped in and it was separating the retina from the back of the eyeball. Had I waited much longer that separation could have spread and I could've lost my vision completely.  Surgery was performed on Wednesday and at my follow up appointment on Thursday the doctor said everything looks good.

 This is a tribute to the wonderful advances in medicine and dedicated and  professional talents of the doctors nurses and other healthcare professionals who cared for me. It is also a testimony  on the nature of the American people, prioritizing healthcare so that these advancements are possible.

 That is why the repeal of the ACA,  just one day after my surgery is so sad. In a country where we except the right of free speech and the right to bear arms, we do not yet except that healthcare, a living wage, adequate housing  and nutrition are a right of every citizen.

 My delay of a few days in seeing the doctor had to do with my fear of what I would find out, but I had no fear over the cost of the care, because I am lucky enough  to have adequate insurance. Repeal of the a ACA will remove that certainty from 24 million Americans.  What will be the result if they delay their care?

 It is time we answered these questions;
 When I was hungry did you feed me?
 When I was sick did you care for me?
When I was naked did you cloth me?

 In this, the richest country in the world, healthcare , a living wage, adequate housing and nutrition  are a right of every citizen.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

In the House!

"Right to work for less" will not be the death of the labor movement, but members not knowing the value of union membership could be."
So said Jan at the recent UHP convention (University health Professionals, the fine men and women of  the University of Connecticut Health Center)
Day in and day out, Jan reminds us that the strength of the union is in our members and their engagement and ownership of their union and their community.
That is why it is so important to understand the value of the union.  Only by standing together can we advocate for ourselves and our communities.

This past Tuesday we stood together in Hartford and we were successful.  Joshua Hall, the VP of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, was elected Connecticut State Representative!
Joshua is a democrat.  In fact, he was state party treasurer until he resigned to be able to run.  He sought the Democratic nomination and was denied, even though he make it clear that we would run on another line if he had to.

Apparently, they didn't believe him.

Apparently they were wrong.

Joshua sought the endorsement of the Connecticut Working Families Party, the Hartford Federation of Teachers, and AFT Connecticut.  When he received all those endorsements, other unions came to his side and endorsed him.  Union sisters and brothers canvassed the North End knocking on doors and making house calls.

Three reasons drove our decision to back him (Any one alone would have been reason enough):
We believe in Joshua.
We believe in Connecticut Working Families Party.
We believe in the Labor Movement.

For too long Labor in Connecticut has felt that the two major political parties have looked at us and said, "Where they gonna go, we're the only game in town."
On Tuesday we told them where we will go. (Perhaps we told them where to go?)
We will go to the people, to the movement, to our roots.

We took a chance.  Failure would have strengthened the argument that the two parties were correct. But we were taking a chance on Josh, on WFP, and on our union sisters and brothers.
My friend Jesse from the CTU says that sometimes you have to fight a battle because it's the right thing to do, even if you're not sure what the outcome will be.
Jan is correct. Our strength is in our collective action.

Josh was sworn in on Friday.  It was a privilege to be there.