Saturday, January 30, 2016


If, like most people, you are busy with work, your children's school and recreation activities and well...
and if you're not into keeping up with Supreme Court cases,
you might have missed an important event a few weeks ago in Washington that will effect all of our lives.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on a case, Friedrichs v California Teachers.
A decision is expected by summer.
Why should you care?

It's generally accepted that the income inequality in this country is at a historically bad point.
The top 1% of the American population holds more wealth than the entire bottom 90%.
Add to that the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case that basically said placing spending limits on campaign financing is illegal.

This opened the door to the top 1% to spend, and spend, and spend.....and in so doing, control the political process for their benefit.
The only balance to that power is you and I, the working people of this country. IF will all contribute and if we are involved (knocking on doors, getting workers out to vote, educating on the issues) we can at least partially balance their unlimited money. 

But, like we said, we're all busy, right?

So how do we do it? How do we balance the spending power of the top 1%?

We stand together. 
The most effective force to balance the power and influence of the top 1% is organized labor, unions. 

Guess what, the top 1% know this. 

Which brings us to Friedrichs. 
What if they could bankrupt unions? Who would stand against them?
That is why they have brought the Friedrichs case to the Supreme Court. 
When workers vote to unionize, that union has an obligation under law to represent ALL the workers. 
If the top 1% win this case, unions will still have to represent all the workers, but the workers of public employee unions will have the OPTION of paying dues or not. 
The top 1% is already sending information and even paying people to go door to door. Their message is simple, "If Friedrichs goes the way they hope, give yourself a raise, stop paying your union dues. Your Union will still have to represent you."
Sounds good, right?

So, if my fellow nurses decided to "give themselves a raise," I would have to pay for their representation?????

What's next?
My neighbors all stop paying their taxes and I have to pay for their roads to be plowed?

They shouldn't have called it "Friedrichs," they should have called it what it is, freeloading.

And while I'm fighting with my fellow nurses and my neighbors, the top 1% are laughing all the way to the bank,, because my Union can no longer afford to spend the money electing people who will stand up for the workers.

What can we do?
If your in a Union, educate yourself and your coworkers.
If your not in a Union, think about forming one.
If you're a Union leader or employee, fight like hell for your member's rights. Be a good steward of their hard earned union dues. Help people want to be Union. 

If we don't do this, the power of the 1% will grow and grow and grow, and unless you believe the top 1% will "take care of us," this should scare you.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

We are brothers

I'd like to share with you a part of a conversation that I had with a young man this week.
I had attended the UAW Region 9A Civil Rights Dinner in my role as AFT CT Executive VP but also as a member of the National Writers Union, a UAW local.
After the dinner, Jan, Ed and I were invited to a post dinner gathering by Region 9A Director, Julie Kushner.
I had the opportunity to speak with many interesting and inspiring people, including those who were honored for their work in the movement.
Among them were Carmen Dixon and Julius Jones of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Julius and I had the chance to chat, and this is where it gets interesting.
From the podium it was clear that he is a bright young man who understands the issues and can speak on them in an inspirational way, yet with humility and spirituality.
I found him to be the same when I spoke to him in person.
Although I am nearly twice his age and come from a vastly different background, we found a bond in our desire to understand each other and our belief that in spite of our differences, our core beliefs coincide.
We shared our journey on how we each came to be standing in that room that night.
We discussed how he attended an almost all black high school and I an almost all white and how each of us knew people close to us who have spent time in jail when treatment would have been a better option.
I told him how I had not understood "white privilege" or "driving while black" until recently and only after hearing from one friend that becoming a teacher seldom occurs to a child if there are no role models standing at the front of the classroom that look like themselves and by another friend how she could not drive in one town after dark without being stopped.
I told him that having friends tell me about these two issues made it personal to me.  It wasn't just someone on TV, it was my brother and my sister.
I told him that nursing never occurred to me until my 30's when it was suggested to me, because I had no male nurse role models.
I told him about this blog, he told me he likes to write, and I encouraged him to do so because he has a story to tell.

We parted knowing that in spite of our many differences, we are brothers.

I spoke to many people that night, many of them important in the political field and that is important for my members and for the movement, but my conversation with Julius is what it's all about. 
It's what Dr King dreamed of.
A day when we two people of different ages and color, from different backgrounds, can meet and come to know each other, and care for each other, a little better.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dr Muhammed Qureshi

Truth be told, nurses have a rating system for doctors.
The biggest factor in the system is the degree of respect shown toward nurses.

I first met Dr Qureshi when I worked in the Backus ER.
He always received the highest rating from the nurses.

Last week, he attended the State of the Union address as a guest of Congressman Joe Courtney.
He wrote about it in the local paper and I encourage you to read his words.

He is an Ahmadi Muslim immigrant from England, who has recently become the face of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community from Baitul Aman Mosque in Meriden, CT.  In November a neighbor fired gun shots at the Mosque and the Muslim community forgave him.

This caught the attention of Congressman Courtney as well it should, but Dr Qureshi and his community were simply living out their beliefs of peace, love, forgiveness and prayer. 

In his article in the paper, this humble man who practices medicine at the hospital and at United Community & Family Services, (a clinic that treats all, regardless of ability to pay) gives credit to God, his faith, his community, and the nurses, doctors, and other workers he calls colleagues.

In this day of hate speech from so many people, his voice is one that we should all listen to.

Thank you Dr Qureshi for your service and your example.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Has anybody here seen..........

In 1968 the folk singer Dion asked has anybody seen Abraham, Martin, John and Bobby.
"They freed a lot of people, but it seems the good, they die young."
They were dreamers, they were leaders, they were believers.
And they made us believe too.

We might sing the same question today. We might ask, are the dreamers gone? Is the dream gone?

Dr King was killed in Memphis where he was supporting a sanitation workers strike.  He saw the Civil Rights movement and the Labor movement as intertwined, as one.
And so they are.

While in Memphis, Dr King said, "Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. And so just as I said, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around. We aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on."

Today we face incredibly rich and powerful dream killers.
Income inequality is greater than ever in our country.
20% of our children live below the poverty level.
The rich pay a smaller percentage of taxes than those working 2 jobs to make ends meet.

If Dr King were alive today, what would he think, what would his message to us be?

This morning Labor, Faith groups, citizen advocacy groups and civil rights groups came together in Bloomfield Connecticut and committed to a solidarity pledge.
I think the pledge captured the message of Dr King and I think our actions keep his dream, the dream of Abraham, John, and Bobby, and our dream, alive:

"We recognize that the struggle for a more just, inclusive, and democratic society is one struggle, and that we can move forward only if we do so together."

"We are going on."

Sunday, January 10, 2016

8 days, 2 funerals

Yesterday was the second Saturday in a row that I attended a friend's funeral.
Leroy was older, Mary only 59.
Both had been ill off and on for some time (Mary with cancer), but neither had been laid up for a long time. 
Both funerals were packed. They were both quite involved with the community.  My Uncle Matt always called a packed funeral a "good show."

Funerals are hard. To listen to Mary's 20 something year old daughter give a eulogy brought tears to everyone's eyes and to listen to the beautiful folk music played by Leroy's cousins did the same.
We honor a life when we attend a funeral, we contemplate and evaluate our own life, we help others and ourselves through the grievance process, and we say goodbye, at least for now.

I believe we'll see them all again someday.
I have no proof, but I still believe.
I also feel we carry them with us.
As much as we carry the DNA of our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, I believe we also carry their spirit.....they are a part of us.
Our friend's spirits become a part of us too.

We come from what was once stardust and when we die, our bodies return to whence we came.
We are set free, body and spirit.

Mary, Leroy and all our loved ones who have passed on are free, free of pain and suffering from their illnesses. They have left us in the physical sense and we shall miss them badly, but they will always be a part of us.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

What is the cost of a child's life?

The president came before the nation and announced some modest plans to curtail gun violence.
He has done so many times before, often offering more aggressive steps.
This week, he again listed some of the victims
Fort Hood.  Binghamton.  Aurora.  Oak Creek.  Newtown.  The Navy Yard.  Santa Barbara.  Charleston.  San Bernardino. 
 · The Wall Street Journal · 1/5/2016

and when he spoke of the first graders in Newtown Connecticut he could not hold back the tears.

Tears of sadness for the children, the students, the soldiers, the citizens and all their families but I think also tears of sadness for America, because we seem to be unable to take any action to protect ourselves from further incidents.

I understand this is complicated.
I understand constitutional rights.
But every right has a corresponding duty.
Every right comes with a price.

What is the price of a child's life?

Are universal background checks to prevent those who could be dangerous and could cause a tragedy from obtaining a gun too large a price?

Is the expenditure of appropriate public dollars on mental health screening and treatment in this country too large a price?

What is the price of a child's life?