Thursday, November 29, 2012

112 people

The fire broke out on Saturday, killing 112 people.

112 people dead!

It was a garment factory.  There are thousands in Bangladesh, and fires are common, due to faulty wiring.  They exist because they produce garments very cheaply, which get sold in the US and other "developed" nations.  This particular factory made clothing for Wal-Mart, although Wal-Mart would not say how recently.  Wal-Mart and other large retailers have contracts with suppliers who contract with these factories, the goal, cheap labor, low prices, high profits.
Let's be honest, we look for that too, when we decide where to shop.
What we need to realize, what the large retailers need to realize, is that our decisions effect real people and their families.
Our dollars speak.
Third World sweat shops that fail to follow appropriate safety and environmental rules and pay their employees too little to make a living are little better than the cotton plantations of the Old South.  As consumers we need to be aware of this.  When investors ship jobs overseas in the name of lower prices for consumers, they hurt not only the Americans whose jobs are lost, but the people who are forced by economic reality to take the jobs in unsafe sweatshops that pollute the environment.
What can we do?
We can speak out.
We can buy "fair trade" when possible.
We already have the beginning of fair trade with coffee.
We can demand that investors, suppliers, and retailers be accountable for the conditions that lead to their profits.
We have been down this road in this country.  In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City led to reforms and regulations.
I know "regulations" have a bad name, but when profits are placed before people, ethically minded people need to act.
Right now the families of 112 people are grieving.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Early morning thoughts

Early mornings have always been special to me. The day hasn't yet become busy and hectic, my thoughts are on the bigger things of life.
I'm usually up before Michelle and the time alone with my thoughts is special to me.  Latter in the day, my thoughts are not as clear, not as pure, and caught up with the "tasks" of life.
Whether at home, or away on vacation, I'm usually the first one up. Some of my favorite memories are sitting and sipping coffee or tea and watching the sun come up.
Several years ago on a cruise vacation, I developed the habit to get up early and go to the ships breakfast area.  It was on the stern of the ship and when I arrived the same small group of people would usually be there, the "morning people."  Some would have cameras in hand, waiting to catch the spectacular sunrise over the water, others would just sit and sip their coffee and enjoy the quiet.  The crew was busy getting things started, but they were moving at a more relaxed pace and even though they were up only because we were, they seemed to appreciate us "morning people." 
One day, sitting there and sipping coffee, I had my note pad out and the thoughts were just flowing.  I was writing frantically, trying to capture my thoughts, and a crew member who recognized me from other mornings came over and said in a warm way, "no work on vacation." 
It wasn't work, it was writing, it was meditation, it was prayer, it was spending time coming to know myself and my place in the world.
I've heard of other people doing the same.  I've also heard of people taking a late night walk after all the "work" of the day is over, or sitting or walking in a special place at lunch time to do the same.  These "early mornings" come at different times and are spent in different ways.
Some meditate, some pray, some write, some listen to music, some drink coffee. 
There is a saying I like, "the time you enjoy waisting is not wasted time." 
There is much work that needs to be done in each day, there is much good that needs to be accomplished, and there is much that can be gained from "early mornings."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Let the shopping begin!

Now that Thanksgiving is over we begin the preparation for the REAL holiday, Christmas, in a season we call "Advent", or to the commercialized world, "Advertisement."
Yes, just when you thought it was safe to start watching TV again and checking your mailbox, because the political ads are done, comes the dreaded Christmas advertising season.
For the next 4+ weeks we will be deluged with print, TV, and radio ads, songs on the radio, and TV specials designed with one purpose, to separate us from our money.
Don't get me wrong, gift giving serves an important purpose.  The tradition of giving gifts dates back to the three wise men for Christmas and ancient Israel for Hanukkah.  Santa Clause is the patron saint of gift giving, ensuring that all people of all religions or no religion, can participate.  Giving to each other is truly a wonderful human trait and should be encouraged.  In addition, the spending of our money gives a boost to the economy. 
But I believe that as important a part of the holiday season as gift giving is, it should remain just that, a PART of the holiday season.
How often as we stressed out over our ability to have the time, the money, or the knowledge, of getting that "perfect gift?"  How often have we heard the statement, "I'll just be glad when it's over?"
Like most things in life, there is a place of balance and our job is to find that place.
May we all find the time and take the time this busy holiday season, to remember that it is at it's core, a spiritual season of rededication, celebration of life, and a giving of ourselves, and may we not get trapped up in the commercialization to the point that we are looking for it to just be over.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks

If there is a good thing about the commercialization of Christmas, it's that the retailers more or less leave Thanksgiving alone.  Thanksgiving remains, for the most part, a time to be with family, over eat, watch football or old movies, and nap.  If we resist the urge to run out to all the Thanksgiving pre Black Friday sales, it can be a good day. 
Before I go on, let me say a word about Black Friday.  I understand the sales are enticing, and we're all trying to stretch our dollars, but there is a movement starting across the country to try to get people to NOT hit the stores on Thanksgiving afternoon and evening.  The thinking is that employees of the stores that are open on Thanksgiving have no option of working or being home with their families, they are ordered to be at work.  Please give this consideration when deciding when to hit the stores.
Now, back to Thanksgiving.
Besides being a day of family, food, TV, and naps, Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on all our blessings.  It is easy to dwell on the negatives, it's good we have a holiday dedicated to the idea of us thinking of the positives.
I was going to go into detail about everything I have to be thankful for, and there is much, but instead, I'd like you to take some time this week and reflect on your own life.  Find a little time in your busy schedule to look inside.  Try to look beyond the daily struggles and see what, in spite of these, you have to give thanks for.
Then, in your own way, say thanks to whatever Higher Power you believe in.
Enjoy the food, football, and family.
Happy Thanksgiving!   

Friday, November 16, 2012

2 hospitals, 5 Locals, 1 common goal

Last night we held our Fall General Membership Meeting. It was an opportunity to present our financial statement to date and our budget for next year.  It was also an opportunity to discuss issues around the hospital and to spend some time with and thank many who have helped us along the way.
Our invited guests included the leadership of our three L+M AFT sister locals, 5051, 5049, and 5123, our sister local at Backus, SPFPA (security guards and support staff), and AFT Connecticut.
All have been instrumental in our success. 
SPFPA broke new ground and showed us how to have the courage to stand up for our rights. 
The L+M locals have supported us and mentored us every step of the way. 
AFT Connecticut made it all possible. 
We owe them all a huge dept of gratitude.
We invited them last night so that our members could say thanks and could see that they belong to something much larger than the 400 nurses at Backus.  Together we represent 29,000 members in health care, education, and public service.  We hold a common commitment to help our fellow man and to protect the rights of workers and their families.
As important as it was for us to say thank you, it was also an opportunity to strengthen our relationship and recommit ourselves to working together.  The leadership of each Local and our State Federation have agreed to continue to meet on a regular schedule to share ideas and struggles.
There is much for us to do, but we need never do it alone.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day (service to others/strength in numbers)

My wife’s shoulder surgery last week has added to my workload. It’s amazing how much we are normally able to do on our own, from dressing, to showering, to even closing car doors.
Our recent election was an example to me of how a large amount of work is made easier when many hands are doing it. Our recent devastation from super storm Sandy has also shown that the recovery is not possible without everyone pitching in to help.
Whether it’s helping my wife, the election process, or the recovery effort, many hands make the work easier.
This election was a record maker in terms of money spent. Perhaps the biggest example of this was right here in the Connecticut US Senate race. One candidate spent $40 million of her own money, in addition to all the PAC and party money. In the last 2 US Senate races she has spent $77 million of her own!
She was defeated both times.
She was defeated because although she could outspend, she could not outwork. The number of people making phone calls and going door to door for her opponent overwhelmed her money. In the end, people beat money.
Prior to the storm FEMA prepared to respond.  New Jersey Governor Chrisie praised the response of the federal government. We cannot rebuild storm hit communities alone but together we can and will. FEMA, the Red Cross, all the church groups, labor organizations, and other groups that have responded are making a difference, again showing that together we are stronger than alone.
We all need help every day, no man is an island.
On Veterans Day we honor those who have served and now serve in the military, the men and women who put themselves in harms way because helping our fellow man is the right thing to do. The men and women who, like my father and uncles, dropped everything and came to the aid of their fellow citizens at Pearl Harbor, after 9/11, and throughout history. These brave people understood better than most, that sometimes we all need help, sometimes we cannot do it alone, and always there is strength in numbers.
Our forefathers founded our nation on the premise that we are a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. United we are strong.
Let us honor our veterans by continuing the traditions that they embody, service to others and strength in unity.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The role of "Government"

One of the big debates in our country right now is over the role of government. It is not a new debate and it is a legitimate debate. I think most of us want a governments that can take care of the basic needs of society but not be intrusive. I think most of us agree that some things are decided better by individuals, some by local governments, some by states and some as a nation.
But in my mind I think the real problem is that we have made government a "third party", it it is not, or at least should not be. The founders of our great country envisioned a nation "of the people, for the people, and by the people". I think they would disappointed to see that we now speak of the government that they forged as something we are not a part of.
Not everyone can hold political office, but we can all be involved, and by "involved" I do not mean merely complaining.
Complaining about the weather is great, it gives us something to do about a situation that we can not control, but our government and our society is something that we can influence, so complaining without action is just....well, I'm not sure what it is.
Asking everyone to become involved in "government" might be too large a step, but most of us are already involved in "society" are various levels. Most are somehow involved in youth sports, PTO, fire departments, church groups, etc.
My good friend Rick says I've become a politician, and when he first said that, I said, no, no! But he's right, I was elected to represent the 400 nurses I work with. To represent them effectively, I need to attend certain meetings and functions with management, elected officials, and other Union leaders. That's how the concerns of our nurses and our patients are heard. I am happy to do this because I believe in those concerns. I have seen how decisions made at various levels of government effect those concerns, and I want to influence that, if even in a small way.
I guess what I'm saying is that my involvement has removed that "third party" aspect for me. We all are a part of our society, our government.
Most of us will never hold public office, that 's fine, but it should not prevent us from being involved, being part of the solution. I think that's what our founding fathers hoped for.

Please vote today.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Politics is Beautiful

In a few days the election will be all over.  We will be pleased with some of the results and displeased by others.  One thing we can reach consensus on is that we will be happy the TV ads and the phone calls are over.
It has been said that politics is ugly, and it is, but it is also, at the same time, beautiful.
Yes, we have to put up with a barrage of campaign rhetoric, much of it negative, and it gets to be sickening.  Campaign reform is needed.  The money spent could go to greater uses. The Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United has had unfortunate consequences.
But this is our democracy in action.
The alternative is a society where descent and freedom of speech is prohibited. Where we do not have a system of checks and balances between the three branches on government.  As much as we complain that only the elite run the world, it could be worse, it has been worse throughout history, and is some places, it is worse.
Since the battle of Bunker Hill men and women have sacrificed life, limb, and fortune to give us the freedoms we have.  They have fought on the battlefields, home and abroad, they have marched in protest on our streets, they have gained freedom and equality and the right to vote and hold office, or the right to not vote, not participate, not hold office. 
The choice is ours.
It is not that way everywhere in the world, and certainly not for all people.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"minor" surgery

My wife's in surgery.

It's minor surgery, put then again, I have always defined "minor surgery" as surgery being done to someone I do not personally know.

Start cutting into me or someone I care about and it quickly becomes "major surgery", I don't care if I am only getting my teeth cleaned.

Anyway, my wife injured her shoulder and it hasn't responded to physical therapy, so they're going to go in and fix things up.  I'm sure her followup instructions will include no cooking or cleaning and much TV watching and being waited upon by her husband.

Surgery isn't being done at my hospital, so I'm an "undercover RN" today.  Eventually, my wife will spill the beans and tell them what I do for a living, she always does. Then they'll expect me to know what they're talking about. 
I'm not an orthopedic nurse and I'm not a surgical services nurse. 
I don't expect the anesthesiologist to be able to perform the surgery, they shouldn't expect me to know how to convalesce a shoulder surgery.

Wish me well.  With your help I'm confident I'll get through this. 

One more thing...
She'd kill me if she knew I was blogging about her so mums the word.
Lucky for me she never reads my blog.