Sunday, February 9, 2014

First they came.....

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime. He spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Germany, 1937.

One of my roles as a member of my union's grievance committee is to defend coworkers wrongly accused.
Often I am asked why I care so much that 23 union and nonunion employees will have to go a year without health insurance. 
They missed the two week sign up period didn't they?
I am asked why I defend a particular nurse for being late in a snowstorm.
The rest of us got here on time didn't we?
I am asked why I defend someone who misses days of work.
I'm here, should she be too?
I'm asked why I stand up for the nurse who after 35 years of service may have lost a step.
I shouldn't have to pick up her work should I?
I'm asked why I defend a nurse who isn't pro union.
She stood with management when we tried to organize didn't she?

Forget for a moment that some people didn't sign up for insurance because they were a half hour late handing in the paperwork, or were out of the country for a month, or were tied up in the operating room on the last day, or were called to a sick child at school on the last day and forgot till morning.
Forget that the nurse may live on a country road that had trees down blocking the road.
Forget that the nurse may have a legitimate chronic illness but doesn't qualify for a FMLA  because she hasn't worked here a full year.
Forget that a 35 year nurse has gained more in experience that she is willing to pass on than she could ever lose in speed.
Forget that we live in a country with a range of beliefs from conservative to liberal and that all have merit.

Forget all that for a moment and remember what Niemöller said.
The oppressors will not come, at first, for the strong, the popular, the sociable, the young or the beautiful.
They will not come, at first, for the employees who are on top of their game.
They will come, at first, for those on the margins, on the fringe.
They will came, at first, for the one's that other employees could easily say, "I guess I can see why they're in trouble, they came in late, they are out sick, they are getting older, they are, they are, they are,"

If they come first for the weak, will not the strong fail to protest, will not the strong eventually take notice and fall in line?

Then remember that eventually they came for Niemöller too.

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