Saturday, December 31, 2016

A walk through 2016

2016 had it's share of challenges and trials for me. I won't rehash them all, we all face them. Nor will I attempt to predict what 2018 will bring, your guess is as good as mine.

I will say that overall, I am glad for 2016.
I think I grew, personally and professionally.
I think I became a better listener, to others and to that voice inside me.

I want to thank all of you who walked beside me on the journey of 2016.
A good friend tells me that while she may not always agree or approve of the decisions I make, she will always be there for me.
What more can one ask?
I know that I have many friends and family who feel the same, and I know that while I must walk my own journey, I never have to walk it alone.

2017 will surly bring it's own trials.
I hope you remember as you walk your journey, that their are others who will always be there for you.

I wish you a happy and healthy 2017.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holiday Wishes

I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Joyous Maulid al-Nabia, a Blessed Kwanzaa, a Joyous Festivus, or what ever you celebrate this time of the year.

Whether you celebrate as a secular or religious holiday, I hope this time of the year can be a time of peace in an unsettled world.

I will once again celebrate the birth of Jesus the Nazarene.
Growing up I learned that he came to be born so that he could save us from our sins.
I still believe this to be true, but I think he did it more by his life, than his death.
When I think about his teachings, and those of John the Baptist, his cousin; and how they lived their lives, I see the real beauty in what he did.
He spent most of his life as a carpenter, a laborer.
He came to know the life and struggles of the ordinary people.
At age 30, he began his mission of preaching the message of love.  He went to the people, roaming from village to village, recruiting fishermen and even a tax collector to help him.  He did not preach from a position of authority, he had no pulpit, he held no office. Within 3 years the ruling party became concerned enough that they crucified him.
But still, his message of love of God and of our neighbor did not die with him. It spread to all corners of the world.

Without a doubt, his name and his message have been used to justify great horrors, but that does not change the fundamental truths which he taught:
That we are all neighbors.
That God (however we understand our higher power) is love.
That it is not our place to judge others.
That we have an obligation to forgive.
That we have a responsibility to share our fortunes with others.
That it is morally wrong to oppress others.

These teachings are not unique to Jesus.
Other spiritual leaders have independently preach the same, which makes it universal.
Many of my friends who do not believe in God, believe in these teachings.

So my friends, my wish for you this season is that you find moments of peace in this troubled world, that you find rest in the fact that your Higher Power is Love, that you remain strong in your convictions to these universal teachings.

Have a Blessed Holiday.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Voice in Vancouver

I was sitting in a meeting of state workers this week and one of our newly organized AAGs (Assistant Attorney Generals) said that it was a good feeling now that "they had a voice."

I got emotional when she said it.
You see, that's why we organized at my hospital.
We negotiate for wages, benefits and working conditions but we organize for a voice.
Hearing her saying this reminded me of how universal it is.

This week, over 900 service and maintenance workers at Peach Health SW Hospital in Vancouver, Washington voted to have a voice.
They voted to join AFT as part of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals, as over 300 Technicians and Technologists did in a separate vote earlier this year. These two groups join the RNs, who are members of the Washington State Nurses Association, an AFT affiliate.

I am so happy for our newest sisters and brothers.
I am happy for the many people who worked to make this possible.
I am happy that I belong to a union that believes in it's growing healthcare division and believes healthcare workers need to have a voice to advocate for themselves, their families, their patients, and their communities.

When AFT reached out for help in this major project, state affiliates from across the country responded. I want to thank in a special way, Connecticut's organizing team for the incredible work they did and the sacrifice they made in being away from home for several weeks.
It was my privileged to spend a week with them in Vancouver. A privilege to work with the AFT organizing staff, all the wonderful organizers who came from across the country, the leadership of OFNHP and WSNA, and the workers in the hospital.
Whatever help I may have been pales in what I got out of the experience.
Thank you Jan for having the wisdom to send me.

The AFT started when teachers joined in union to have a voice.
It is based on a philosophy of the "organizing model" because from our earliest days we understood that to have a voice was everything, and that the only way to have a voice was to come together in unity.
Today our members work in Education, Healthcare and Public Service. We are teachers, para-educators, nurses and other healthcare workers, lawyers, social workers, judicial professionals, accountants, and so many more.
We are diverse but we share common interests.
We care for people, the students, patients, and public we serve.
We believe in the organizing model, that everyone should have a voice.
We started with a group of teachers looking for a voice.
Today we are 1.6 million voices in unity.

Today, that includes the voices of Peach Health SW Hospital.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

SEBAC explained by a private sector worker

I think many things in the public sector can be confusing to those who work in the private sector.
SEBAC, which was in the news again this week, is one of those.

SEBAC is a coalition of Connecticut state workers who bargain as a group for healthcare and retirement benefits.
It makes a lot of sense, otherwise, the state could potentially have different healthcare and retirement plans for each agency, which would not only be a nightmare to administer, but would be much more costly, since there are savings in plans with more members.

Unfortunately, the state has underfunded the retirement plan since the 1930s.
You don't have to be an accountant to understand where this would lead.
Once baby boomer state workers started coming of retirement age, we were in trouble.
Kind of like falling behind on your home improvement loan and then one day,
it's due!
It's not the state workers fault.
Frankly, it's the residents of Connecticut fault, for allowing our elected leaders to do this.

Of course, the state workers are an easy scapegoat.
It's easier than admitting we are all part of the problem.
And of course, the state workers have a real interest in fixing the problem.

So twice, in 2009 and 2011, the workers gave concessions to fix a problem they did not make.
But the problem remains because of chronic under-funding and more recent market performance.

So this week, once again, the state employees agreed to changes in the plan.
The new agreement is a long-term plan to properly fund the system and to use a more conservative assumption on the expected return on investments, while at the same time, protecting the hard earned retirement of our public service workers.  Instead of trying to "pay the bill" all at once, it stretches it over several years.

To me, this seems like a win-win.
The residents of the state of Connecticut get out of a retirement problem that we, and those who came before us, caused, and the state workers have their retirement protected.

I have already seen some say that the retirement benefits of state workers are too rich.
I disagree.
The concessions of 2009 and 2011 provided for multiple tiers, based on when a person started working for the state.  New employees retirement is not as it once was. New employee retirement is in line with the private sector.
The only people getting great retirements in this day and age are the millionaires, some of whom love to drive a wedge between private and public sector workers, so we are distracted from their imminence wealth and refusal to pay their fair share of taxes, while they laugh all the way to the bank. (which is probably in the Cayman Islands)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Duke Abdalla "The Indian"

My heart is heavy.
Duke Abdalla, the man who carried my father to safety after he had been hit by a phosphorus grenade on a South Pacific beach in 1945, passed away this morning. Duke's love for my father drove him to risk his life to save my dad. Had it not been for that day, I and my 5 siblings would have never been born. Growning up my family knew of this story, but Duke never talked about it due to PTSD. I always found it interesting that he named his oldest son Brady. 
Then in 2005 Duke opened up to another Mariene. Duke then told his story to his Grandson's wife and she wrote it down in a book, Stand Like a Man. This is a clip of part of his story.  At the 1:00 mark he tells about my dad. Recently, through some research my sister-in-law was doing, we found out about the book and the effort to get Duke the recognition he deserves but never received, and our 2 families have connected. 
Duke was the great-grandson of Chief Running Bull of the Yankton Sioux. He was a U S Marine. He was my father's brother. My heart is heavy but I know he and my dad and my uncles are hanging out together in heaven today.
Below is the email from his eldest grandson, Doug.

Cpl. Loren Duke Abdalla "The Indian" 1925 - 2016
Cpl. Loren Duke Abdalla "The Indian" passed away this morning peacefully. I will follow up with  another email with funeral arrangements.
GOD Bless his son and wife, my Uncle Brady and Aunt Verna for the unbelievable care he received all through his elder years. Anything he needed 24/7 they were there and things always looked good, because they were behind the scene taking care of business all the way to the end of his trail.
Thank You to my Beautiful Wife, Donna, for getting all the facts and writing them down and telling his story in the book that was written Extremely Well, Stand Like a Man: The Story of Duke "The Indian" I pray his story will be told for many generations to come.
The last book he signed for me was for The Brady Family, as they heard about Duke's story just last month, while looking up their Dad on the internet, Cpl. John Brady, and they could not wait to help Duke get the proper recognition he deserved and contacted my wife through her website for the book, and quickly wrote a witness letter for the DOD stating how Duke carried their Dad out of heavy fire, and they are all grateful to him for saving his life on May 5, 1945. With this 2nd witness letter, Grandpa Duke now knew his story was now complete and had went full circle, like the  Native American Medicine Wheel. This was his closure, and now he can Rest in Peace. To The Brady Family, Thank You!!!
Everyone did Everything they could to support him, and these last 8 years have been a True Blessing!! He Stood Like a Man and was recognized by many, City of Chicago, Cook and Lake County's, State Capitol of Illinois, and most recently last year he was recognized by The Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and placed on a buffalo skin rug with a sacred ceremony and Honored with a painted Red Eagle Feather and given the name of his Great-Grandfather Running Bull. He swelled with Pride, and I was a lucky grandson, who he liked to call his driver, and I would parade him around and present his story like I was presenting a Rolls Royce. 15 Governors from Alabama to Wyoming Thanked him as well, and SD Governor Dennis Daugaard even Honored him with "Loren Duke Abdalla Day" on June 18, 2012, his birthday. He was a Member of The Old Breed and the Greatest Generation and he walked with Giants, and he was gonna make sure his story was told and his swan song was more like a Roar of a Lion. I knew Grandpa was always a Family Treasure and Loving to all of us, but when I heard what he did during the Battles of Peleliu and Okinawa during WWII, that is when I knew he was a National Treasure and we needed to get his story out there somehow.
The best part of this is Everyone did come together and he knew Everyone was Thankful for his Service, and he enjoyed this time.
Thank You Everyone for ALL of Your Love and Support for a True Hero!!!
May the Story of Cpl. Loren Duke Abdalla "The Indian" Live Forever and a Day!!!
GOD Bless and Rest in Peace Grandpa Duke.... We Love You!!!
Doug Nykolaycuyk

Eldest Grandson

DeVos and Price

It has been said that President-Elect Trump is not a "detail" guy, but more of a "big picture" guy. 
I get that.
I'm kind of like that myself at times.
I know I don't have to be the expert or the best at doing everything, I just have to surround myself with those types of people and support them.

So let me comment of my concerns about the choices the President-Elect is making in the people he is surrounding himself with.
In particular, let me comment on two of those recent choices, Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services.
They have something in common.

They both believe in privatization.

Good, you might say.
Private enterprise is what made this country great.
It's the American way.
That's what Capitalism is about.
Our schools and our healthcare system need a shakeup.

There is some truth to this.
Many of our schools are in need of improvement.
Our healthcare system is expensive and out of the reach of some.
We should reform them.

But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

DeVois is a proponent of charter schools. Charter schools were designed to be incubators of new ideas that could then be brought into all public schools so that all would benefit.  They have evolved into private schools who are funded with taxpayer dollars and can often hand select students who will not require extra help due to learning disabilities. It's like a sports team being given all the best players in the league and then winning the championship.
Big surprise.
Except in this case, they often do not even win the championship. Often, they do not outperform the local public schools, even though the playing field is not level.
Why is that?

Price believes we should privatize healthcare. 
To be sure, there are issues with the ACA, with Medicare, with Medicaid, with the VA healthcare system, with social security, that need addressing.
But let me ask a few questions.
Does anyone believe that our seniors or our disabled should have to decide between food and medical care?  Do we believe that nurses should be told to turn away patients if they lack insurance and the ability to pay?  Do we think that large insurance companies and large healthcare corporations have our interests first, our their own interests first?
We should reform our healthcare system.
We should provide care for all.
We should provide financial security for our seniors.
These are not "entitlements."  We have been paying into these programs our entire working lives.

At the same time, we need to control costs, we need to protect access, we need to put small business owners on a level paying field with big business, and big business in this country on a level playing field with big business oversees.
As is education, there is need for reform.
But again, let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There is a reason some people want to privatize education and healthcare.
Let's be honest here.

There is money to be made.
If there were not, private companies would not want to own schools, hospitals, insurance companies, and drug companies.

But what's wrong with that?
Isn't that capitalism, isn't that what makes this country great?
Except that those who want to privatize our education  and healthcare system want to do it with my money. 
And your money.

They want your tax money, your social security contributions, your insurance premiums.
We should tell them, keep your hands off my money. 
The Price (and DeVos) is not right.