Thursday, March 17, 2011
No Irish Need Apply
"No Irish need apply" the young lad read the sign in the shop as he stepped off the boat in Boston. Poor, with little formal education, he, like many, came to this country, fleeing the famine back home. They were discriminated against and taken advantage of. If he could find work it would be dangerous and dirty. He would be payed poorly not because his employer couldn't pay more but because he didn't have too. His landlord would overcharge him and crowd him and 10 others into a house made for 4, because the landlord could. The young man's assets; his strong back and hands, his willingness to work hard, and the shear number of his kind. They banded together in religious, fraternal, political, and union organizations. They took over the politics of the eastern cities. The police and fire departments became there homes. In 1900, Irish Americans of birth or descent held the leadership of almost half of the 110 unions in the American Federation of Labor. What they could not do alone they could and did do together. There's is a courageous story, a heroic story, but not an unique story. It is repeated in various forms by immigrant groups over and over. Discrimination leads to organization and then betterment for all. Whatever land our ancestors came from, whatever race, color or creed, discrimination found us. But it made us stronger and smarter and more compassionate for our fellow human beings. That is why, when you see your co-workers manipulated or lied to, as the nurses of A2 were recently when told they could not talk about their union unless they punched out and left the floor, it gnaws at your stomach. That is why when your patients have their peanut butter and Italian ice taken away because it "costs too much" your heart cries for them. That is why when they force you to use substandard equipment on your patients your soul cries out "enough"! That is why when they tell you that a float pool nurse is worth more than you, an experienced Oncology, Med-surg, cardiac, CCU, Emergency, OR, Recovery, etc nurse, your anger boils. Just like that lad fresh off the boat in Boston, alone we can do little, but like him we have strong hands, a strong back, a strong work ethic, and a compassion for our fellow human being. Just like him we are strong when we stand together. We can and we will stand together. We can and we will make things better. They say on St Patrick's Day everyone is Irish. In the sense that like the early Irish Americans we are united, they are right.