Saturday, September 3, 2016

What Labor Day means to me

I joined the labor movement in 2010, when I became involved in an organizing campaign at my hospital.  We were seeking one thing, the chance to have a voice in advocating for our patients. This is something we were  taught in nursing school, that advocating for our patients was the single most important role of a nurse, that when we saw something wrong, from a doctor, an administrator, or from anyone else, that as hard as it was to stand up and advocate for our patients, that was what we must do.
I'll be honest, there was a time early in my nursing career and the careers of my colleagues, where we felt we could do so.
But times change.
It had gotten to the point where speaking up and advocating had become dangerous. Increasingly, advocating for our patients would bring retaliation.
Faced with this difficulty in doing what were had been taught we must, we stood together in solidarity and strength and regained our voice.
So I became part of the Labor Movement, but I soon realized that The Movement had been a part of me my whole life and the life of my family.

I had grown up with and been taught the principles of the movement without knowing it.
My family were not members of a union, but we were taught that we held a responsibility for our neighbor's well being. We were taught that everyone, regardless of sex, color, race, or religion, was our neighbor.
We were taught as John the Baptist cried out in the desert, "That the man who has two coats should give one to he who has none."
These principles are in stark contrast to the "I'll get mine, screw you" mentality of the greed that is often practiced by those with the financial power.

These principles of caring for neighbor were a part of my family and thankfully, are a part of most of us.
It is like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus never directly answers the question, he lets the man asking the question answer it himself, because the man already knows the answer:

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30Jesus took up this question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
31Now by chance a priest was going down the same road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32So too, when a Levite came to that spot and saw him, he passed by on the other side.
33But when a Samaritan on a journey came upon him, he looked at him and had compassion. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35The next day he took out two denariie and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he said, ‘and on my return I will repay you for any additional expense.’
36Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37“The one who showed him mercy,” replied the expert in the law.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

I grew up with the principles of the Labor Movement, many of us do.
The principles are love of neighbor, of solidarity, of speaking out for those who have no voice.

Labor Day to me is a celebration of those principles that are ingrained in most of us growing up. 
It is a celebration to the men and women who had, and continue to have, the courage to advocate for their neighbors against the powerful who are motivated by greed.
It is a celebration of all hardworking men and women across our shrinking planet.
It is a celebration of love and solidarity.

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