Friday, September 22, 2017

Being engaged is our strength

The state of Connecticut still does not have a budget, repeal of Obamacare just will not die, and Hartford is threatening bankruptcy.
It's a mess.

It's at times like this that I am most glad that we have a union that truely believes in engaged members, truely believes that we are stronger when we are all involved and each doing about part.

I'll be on the road for the nest two weeks.
First spending a little time with Michelle and then when we get back, on business.

But I know that because we have a leadership team, a staff and a membership that is engaged, my being on the road is fine. In fact, because some of it is business, it might be the way I can be most helpful.

I tell our Local presidents all the time that they cannot do all the work themselves.
Our most highly funcitioning Locals are the Locals with a president and leadership that empowers and encourages their members be engaged and each do their part, according to their available time, talents, and interest.

So,
While I'm gone,
Please keep up the fight for a state budget that treats all of Connecticut's citizens fairly.
Please do all you can to stop what will be a last ditch effort to steal healthcare from millions of Americans.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Walking with hope

"We are all walking each other home."

Those were the closing words to a moving blessing from the minister this morning at the conclusion of the "Hike for Hope" cancer fundraiser that Michelle and I participated in.
Michelle had signed us up a couple of months ago.
She lost both parents and we have both lost many relatives and friends to cancer. We also know many cancer survivors and those battling cancer today.
In fact, today would have been her mom's 81st birthday.
This kind of thing means a lot to us, so when she asked if I would walk with her, I said, "of course I will."

Since that time, my work partner and friend has entered this battle.
Yesterday was her first Chemo.

If cancer wasn't personal before, it sure is now.

The minister put words to my feelings.
This was my feeling yesterday as I watched the infusion begin.
My work partner is walking into battle.  No one can walk this walk for her.
But so many of us can walk with her.
And so many have stepped forward to do so.
Blankets to keep her warm during treatments, offers of rides, nurse friends to explain, cancer survivors and those now battling to share with, flowers and food and conversations, friends to check on her family, and more.
The outpouring of love is incredible.

This is who we are as a people.
None of us knows how long we have, but we all know our time is limited.
Our mission is to walk with each other, till we get home.

It's the mission I was taught by the La Salette priests of my parish, it's the mission that was reinforced at home whenever I was reminded of my immigrant Irish roots, it's probably why I ended up as a nurse, and it's what drives my work (and my work partner's work) today.

We have an ethical responsibility to walk each other home.

That's why I advocate for a society that cares for all people, not just the rich and connected.
That's why austerity budgets are fundamentally unethical.
That's why I am ashamed of the position taken by the Connecticut State Legislature last night.
In approving an austerity budget that will cut services to the most vulnerable, in refusing to consider raising taxes on those who have most benefitted and who can afford it the most, they have defacto raised taxes on the working class and the poor. 
While their friends sip expensive drinks on their yachts.

It's easy to give up hope.
It's easy to think people no longer believe the words of the minister.

But we are better than this.
I know we are.
I have seen the love directed towards my friend and the love of the walkers this morning.

I choose to have hope.
I choose to believe.
And I choose to walk with my sisters and brothers.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Our road map

Yesterday we met with our Delegate Assembly for our quarterly meeting.  This meeting was accompanied by an all day planning session.
The goal was to draft AFT Connecticut’s strategic plan for the next year.

We started with a mission statement and goals, and 6 areas of concentration; political, membership engagement, external organizing, community engagement, communications, and professional development.
The idea was to incorporate the delegates experience and knowledge into a strategic plan for the State Federation as a whole and to assist individual Locals to establish like plans on the Local level, to better collaborate with Locals and members, and to effectively use resources, so that we can accomplish our goal of a robust, member driven union.

The participation among our delegates was truly amazing, and I think our plan will reflect this.

Facilitators moved about the large room, spending 30 minutes with each table, discussing one of the six areas of concentration with the group, building on the discussion from the previous group.
When the facilitators moved on to the next table, the next set of facilitators would replace them, and the group at that table would shift gears and discuss the next area of concentration.  In this way, each delegate had input into each area of concentration.

I was privileged to work with our Communications Director, Matt O’Connor.
We were appropriately tasked with Communications as our focus area.
Obviously, this is an area we both spend a lot of time thinking of.
Still, ideas came from the discussions that could only come from the people working at the Local level, who face challenges of time, resources, and energy that are unique to them.  It was beneficial to hear what they had to contribute, but I think it was also beneficial for them to hear the challenges of their sisters and brothers from other Locals and other professional divisions.
Several people spoke about wanting to stay connected with other Locals to share experiences, resources, and strength.

That was great to hear.

At the end of the day, each group of facilitators reported out to the entire group what they had heard when we moved from table to table.
We will now take this information and summarize it into a draft strategic plan that the Delegates will review, modify, and adopt.
The next step after that will be to implement the plan, help Locals to establish their own strategic plans if they are so inclined, and perhaps most important, to regularly review our progress and adjust as needed.

Someone once said that you cannot get to were you want to be if you do not know where you are going.
This is our road map.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Practicing what we preach

This weekend in church, in honor of Labor Day, we prayed for all union workers, all day laborers, all teachers, all healthcare workers, etc, and for dignity, respect, and a living wage.

I don’t think I’ve every been so proud of my faith.

This morning, we marched in Hartford with Fight for $15.

It is my belief that any business that is doing well enough financially that it can afford to pay its workers a living wage, has an ethical obligation to do so.
To be financially able, and to refuse to do so, is ethically wrong to the employees and to society.
It keeps employees as indentured servants and shifts costs of food and shelter to society, while individuals in power reap the benefits.

I’m not taking about small mom and pop stores who struggle to survive.
I’m taking about businesses in which the owner or CEO is able to make 6 or 7 figures or more and who underplays their workers out of greed, not necessity.

It’s not just wrong, it’s ethically wrong.

I also believe that those who come to our country in search of freedom or a better life, have a right to live peacefully in this country.
It the path most of our ancestors took.
Building a wall instead of caring for each other is wrong.
Deporting children and adults who have peacefully made this their home in wrong.

It’s not just wrong, it’s ethically wrong.

Almost all faiths, almost all philosophies, teach that we have an obligation to help the least amongst us.
Certainly my faith does.

As Matthew wrote,”For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

We pledge allegiance to a country “under God.”
We put “in God we trust” on our currency.

If we truly believe this, then we should practice what we preach.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Labor Day 2017

"Where ya from?"
The voice came from behind me while waiting in line to order chowda and clam cakes at Aunt Carrie's (Point Judith, RI) last weekend.
Turning, I replied, "Connecticut."
"I saw your T-shirt, What union?" He said.



"AFT. You in a union?"
"No, but I'm a union supporter.  I just believe in fair wages and equality for all," he replied.
I thanked him, got my chowda, and wished him well.

That man understands the movement and Organized Labor.
He understands the power that comes when workers stand in solidarity.
He understands that the need for the right to organize and collectively bargain to be protected.
He "gets" it.
He understands how workers who are union have helped workers who do not yet have that opportunity.  I'm sure he knows about the fights for weekends, 40 hour work weeks, an end to child labor, FMLA, worker safety laws, minimum wage, healthcare and retirement security, migrant rights, and more.

But we who are lucky enough to be in unions must also understand the role that the non-unionized supporters of the movement play.
People like this man.
People in community advocacy groups.
The clergy.
The civil rights movement.
The gay rights movement.
Women's suffrage.

Need I go on?

This is a movement of equality.
And if all people are to be considered equal, we in the labor movement must first accept our role in the greater "movement."

One small gesture by this man reminded me of this.
Happy Labor Day.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Pardon me

Sheriff Joe Arpaio took an oath to uphold the law.
He then broke the law. Donald Trump took an oath to uphold the constitution.
Now he's pardoned Arpaio, not out of compassion for an 85 year old man who might serve time in prison, but because, "He kept Arizona safe!"

No, he broke the law.

What part of praising and pardoning a law enforcement officer for breaking the law is being tough on crime,
what part keeps Arizona safe,
and what makes America great again?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

August

The heat came on in the house this morning.
It’s August 27th.

August is an interesting month in southern New England.
It can have some of the hottest, most humid weather you can imagine.
The “Dog Days of August.”
And then, a week or two later, it can drop into the 50s at night.

The days start shortening, the shadows become longer.
Everyone rushes to get their school shopping done, and to squeeze in one more beach day.

In some ways, it’s a microcosm of life.
Time rolls on, often while we’re not paying attention.

Time is funny like that.
It’s not constant, it bends.
When we’re waiting for a day,  like summer vacation or Christmas or the end of a school day as a child, it can move so, so slowly.
And then, when in the mist of that vacation, or holiday, or time off, it goes so quickly.

I can remember more than once, working at the bedside, on an interesting case, being so focused on titrating IV medications and monitoring breathing and vital signs, that suddenly, I would realize how hungry I was, or how I really needed a restroom break, and then realize that hours had passed.
Hours that had felt like minutes.

The first time I sat and had an in depth conversation with my current work partner, I suddenly realized it was getting dark outside.  We had been talking for four hours.
It had felt like minutes.

What does all this mean?
I don’t know.
Maybe that time is precious. Don’t waste it.
Maybe that time is eternal.  Don’t worry about it.
I don’t know.

I just know that August is an interesting month.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I denounce hatred

The events last weekend in Charlottesville were horrific.
The taking of a life by another always is, but even more so, when the motivation is hatred.
The blame is not only on the person who drove the car that killed Heather Heyer, the blame is on everyone who fuels the flames of hatred and everyone who does not speak out against it.

I think many of us thought we had moved past such bigotry, and in some ways we have, but in other ways, we have not.  It may not be as open as it was in the 1950 and 60s but its there in the underfunding of programs designed to lift all of society out of poverty, its there in the suppression of minority voting, its there in the suppression of wages and workers rights, its there in the growing economic inequality, its there in suspicion of others because of race or religion or place of birth, its there in the daily deaths of young men of color, and its there in glass ceilings.
Often it is just out of view, or at least out of our view, for we often choose not to look at our own ugliness.
But its there.

It's waiting for someone to add fuel, and then it erupts into violence.
And then, we can no longer ignor it.

I know I am not a president, or a senator, or someone famous.
I know I am but one single person.
But I am a nurse and as such have dedicated my life to healing.
I am a trade unionist and as such have dedicated my life to solidarity.
I am a person of faith and as such have dedicated my life to love.
For what it is worth, as a nurse, as a trade unionist, as a person of faith, I denounce such hatred, such bigotry and all who perpetrate it and all who support it by their actions, or their inactions.
I ask others to do the same.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Life is short, (life is busy)

Sometimes, at the end of one of my many long days, as I step into the shower, I am faced with that deja vu feeling.......didn't I just do this?
Another day has flown by.
Another day fighting bad bosses, fighting for funding for schools, fighting for healthcare coverage for all, dealing with "issues" at home and work with children and employees, answering phone calls, attending meetings, paying bills, and on and on.
Before you know it, another day, another week, and other month has raced by.

I know you know.

Then something stops you in your tracks.
Something that reminds you that this thing called life doesn't last forever.
Something that makes you pause.

Our work, our home life, our "mission"in life are extremely important.
These are the "things" that make up "life," that give us purpose.

But they don't make us who we are.
What makes us who we are is our relationships with other people and our Higher Power.
It is these relationships that give us the strength and the drive to accomplish the "tasks" that keep our life so busy.

Nothing wrong with the meetings, the phone calls, the business of life.....as long as we remember the really important things.
As long as we occasionally put down the iPhone and the iPad, and the iAmTooBusy, and spend time on our relationship with the people most important to us and our Higher Power.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Rhetoric v Results

We live in strange political times.
Times when the U S House of Representatives passes a healthcare reform bill, holds a celebration in the Rose Garden with the President, only to have the President latter tweet that it is a "mean bill."

No matter what viewpoint I look at this, I fail to a the logic in this strategy, in fact, I fail to see a strategy at all, unless it is to build an opportunity to spew rhetoric.

But this is just one example, and so many of us are guilty off it.
Republicans, Democrats, Conservative and Liberal "think tanks," politicians and everyday citizens who have a social media account.
I get why it happens.
It's effective.
It's one of the reasons why we have a populist president who ran with no real agenda other than to "Make America Great Again," whatever that means.
We bought it because we love it, just like we love gossip, scandals, and reality TV.
We'd rather talk how we need to "drain the swamp" because of dirty politicians than about what would make a good politician and how we could elect them. We'd rather repeat the negative ads in campaign season than cheer the occasional campaigner who speaks about the issues.

I guess my point is this.
We wonder what the reason is that there seem to be so much rhetoric and so little real results. 
Maybe we need to look in the mirror. 
Maybe our encouragement is contributing to it.

Yesterday I had coffee with a conservative member of the Connecticut legislature.
We began a discussion through a mutual friend on a particular bill that I had worked against and they had voted for.  They were willing to meet and listen. 
As it tunes out, although our political views are at opposite ends of the spectrum, we have much in common outside of politics.  We spoke about this bill but also about many other things like the role of regulations on business and the role of unions in society.

There was no rhetoric because there was no audience, and no attempt to convince the other that they were wrong, just an opportunity for two people with a different look on politics to sit an talk about it, and maybe better understand where the other person is coming from.

I think what we both found was a person who shared similar values on many topics, including topics close to my heart, like a society that cares for its weakest and most vulnerable citizens, and for the working class.
Where we differed, was not on these core values, but on how we as a society achieve these goals.
While we may never agree on how to achieve these goals, and while we may argue that the other's point of view may worsen our chances to achieve these goals, agreeing on shared values is a real good start.

We also agreed to continue our discussion.
Maybe if we all did this, we could have less rhetoric and more results.
Maybe we could start by accepting the others point of view while not agreeing with it, and debate the issues, not the personalities.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Next steps on healthcare in America

Obamacare has been on life support since January 20.
To be truthful, it's been ill for some time before that.

Obamacare is not perfect.
It's an imperfect healthcare plan and always has been, but it provides healthcare for millions on Americans who would otherwise not have access, and it improves healthcare for those who already had access by removing pre-existing coverage requirements and lifetime limits, and by requiring coverage of essential benefits, preventative care, and some employer coverage.
Again, not perfect, but an improvement over what was the case prior to it.

It needs to be improved because in some areas of the country, insurance companies are dropping out of the marketplace and because premiums continue to climb,

Since January 20, Congress has been trying to repeal Obamacare, first outright, and then with a replacement. The problem is, both of these approaches takes an imperfect system and makes it worse, not better.

I am hopeful, but not confident, that Congress is done this attempt and will work in a bipartisan way to improve, not make worse, healthcare in this country.
But I am not confident.

In addition, the President speaks of starving Obamacare so that it slowly dies, "then they'll be willing to deal."
I don't even know where to start on a statement like that.
The thing is, by directing agencies to enforce or not enforce provisions of Obamacare, Trump can affect it's survivability, but it is at the expense of millions of Americans.

Many people have spent many thousands of hours, writing, calling, and visiting legislators, at town halls across this country and in Washington.  They have spent hours at rallies and protests and on social media.  Some have been willing to be arrested in acts of civil disobedience, all to save healthcare for Americans. I have never heard any of them claim they were unwilling to "deal" or that Obamacare does not need improvement.

The good news is that all these efforts engaged millions of Americans in a fight to save a vital human service  for their fellow man, the bad news is that even with all these efforts, even will polls that showed repeal and replace to be incredibly unpopular, even with no viable alternative put forward, the House of Representatives and 49 U S Senators still voted for millions a Americans to lose healthcare and for premiums to increase.

I wish the battle was over. 
I think Americans now see healthcare as a right.
I wish we could move to a single payer system or at least a public option, so that the rest of America could be covered.

I am hopeful, but I am not confident, that we can find a way.
I'm proud of those who have worked so hard on this, community groups, healthcare groups, unions, and so many more.
Thank you.
Thank you to the legislators who stand on our side on this.
The work continues.
Lets continue to improve healthcare in America.




Friday, July 21, 2017

Who is my brother?

"I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor,” Pope Francis

I begin with the pontiff's prayer because today I am troubled by what I see as a society where looking out for number one is considered a positive trait.
I offer three examples.

I know a professional man who works in a union shop.  This man is friends with the CEO and believes that he can get a better deal on his own than standing with his sister and brother co-workers.
He probably can, what with his personal relationship with the boss. 
But what of his coworkers?
Where is his care for them?
Where is his responsibility for them?
This man has filed a petition to dissolve the union.
Because HE can do better.

State of Connecticut employees have voted to give the state concessions that will total in the billions over the next ten years with their overwhelming ratification of the new SEBAC agreement on pensions and healthcare.
This is the third time since 2007 that they have given concessions.
Why would they do this?
These are the people who work in our state tech schools, hospitals, prisons, courtrooms, road crews, parole offices, etc.
They care about the people of Connecticut.  They know the Connecticut budget faced a deficit.
They stepped up and did their part to help because that's who they are.

Now legislators must approve the deal, use the savings the state employees have given them (from their own pockets) and adopt a budget.
There are some in the legislature who want to reject the deal.
Why would anyone reject a giveback?
These legislators are not interested in a deal with the employees, they seek to bust the unions because state employees are not their friends. 
State employees believe in shared sacrifice.
These legislators do not.

That is why these same legislators will not even consider raising taxes on Connecticut residents lucky enough to be making a quarter or half a million dollars/year or more.
Like the guy who can get the better deal because he knows the CEO, the rich already have the better deal, and they want to keep it.
So, after givebacks from the state employees, they will look to cut social programs for the most disadvantaged among us, rather than ask the richest to do their part.

The last example is the effort in Washington to strip 23 million of the oldest, sickest, and poorest Americans of healthcare while giving the savings to the richest Americans and corporations in the form of tax cuts.
It is an effort that will just not die, despite that fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose it.

It's disgusting.
All three examples are disgusting.
We have a moral obligation to help our sister and brother.  Our society applauds those who do the opposite.

I share the pontiff's prayer.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Flip flops

Came down to the beach yesterday, renting a cottage for the week, in Galilee RI.
We stayed in this cottage a couple of years ago.
It’s small; a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a living room, and open from the living room and kitchen to the screen porch, which doubles as an eating area.
It’s a bit noisy, right on the road leading out of town, but close to the action.
Salty Brine State Beach is 200 yards from the front door and Capt. Wheeler State Beach is a quarter mile down the road in the other direction.
One can walk the beach between the two, along private beach cottages, for about a one mile round trip stroll in some of the prettiest beachfront I have found.
The fishing village of Galilee is a 2 minute walk from the cottage with several great places to eat and the best seafood and views in the world.
One of my favorite activities is to visit Champlin’s, order my seafood, grab a beer, and sit on the outside deck overlooking the harbor, watching the fishing boats heading out to sea and returning full of catch. 
Sometimes, if our timing is right, we can watch them unload lobster on the dock below us and bring it into the restaurant. 
On those days, we eat lobster!
The harbor is also home to sail and motor boats for pleasure, as well as the large ferries that run to Block Island, 13 miles off the coast and just visible from the beach on a clear day.
This mixture of fishing boat, ferry, and pleasure boats, as well as the beach and restaurants, gives Galilee the vibe of both a tourist beach town and a fishing village, and the locals and the seasonals can be seen sitting together as the local watering holes.

I will try to keep my work to a minimum this week.
We’ll see how I do.

The fact is, it’s not just “work.”
Like nursing, union work is a calling.
It’s not something you just “turn off.”

I did turn down a last minute request to fly to Washington this Wednesday for an AFT rally to protect healthcare coverage. The Senate is close to moving forward with a plan to eliminate healthcare for 22 million Americans, devastate state and municipal budgets through Medicaid cuts, and injure our poorest, oldest, and sickest citizens.
All to be able to give a tax cut to the wealthy.
I have been in the thick of this fight since January, and not being at the rally will be hard, but we have several great members from Connecticut who will attend and represent us well, and Michelle and I deserve this week.  Michelle is the most tolerant partner a guy could hope for when it comes to putting up to my late night meetings and frequent trips.  She understands this is calling and supports it and I understand that I am but one of 30,000 AFT Connecticut members, and we are strongest when we are all active.
So this week, I’ll trade dress shoes for flip flops.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Why austerity budgets fail

We hear a lot these days about the need to cut taxes and cut services to make states more "business friendly" and grow the economy.
Seems like a good idea.
I know, I just paid my town taxes, it hurt to write the check.
I wouldn't mind if they were lower.
If they were lower, I would probably spend part of the savings and bank the rest of it. The part I would spend would stimulate the economy a bit.
The problem with this approach to stimulating the economy is multifold.

While I would slightly stimulate the economy with the extra spending, the rest of it would go to savings and do little towards stimulating.
If I paid less in taxes, some service would have to go.
Perhaps the roads would not get repaired or plowed as well.  Perhaps a teacher would be let go.
Besides the loss of these services, which I have said through my vote that I find beneficial, there would be a loss of income for the worker who previously provided that service which I believed in.
That loss of income would cause a loss of spending, and that decrease in spending would more than negate the economic stimulus that my slight increase in spending provided.
In addition, that worker would need assistance from me in the form of unemployment insurance, medical care, food assistance, etc.

So, in my attempt to stimulate the economy through a tax break, I would have caused a net decrease in spending and economic stimulus,
and,
increased cost to the town (and me) in the form of economic assistance to the person who used to provide the service that I wanted in the first place.

Kind of like shooting myself in the foot.

What if I took the opposite approach?

What if I took anyone in my town who was unemployed or underemployed and provided them with a job that paid a living wage and provided healthcare and other basic needs?

I would love to have an extra hand to help repair the potholes in my street or provide other needed service in my town.
At the same time, I would save money that I now spend on unemployment and other assistance.
But also, as far as stimulating the economy, the newly employed people would spend their newly earned money in local shops and stimulate the local economy. Those local shop owners would spend their increased income in other shops or investments in their own shops and the economic stimulus continues.

Perhaps ironically, by investing in people instead of giving myself a tax break, I would achieve an economic stimulus and the more "business friendly" state that I sought.

There is disagreement in what caused the Great Depression of the 1930s and what helped end it, but what is generally agreed upon, even in the difference of opinions, is that government spending played a positive role towards ending it, because it led to increased employment and the increased private spending that came with it.

This is the basis of why austerity budgets have the opposite effect that people seek.
People seek a boost to the economy and a decrease in taxes but because austerity budgets lead to higher unemployment and lower wage scales, they depress an economy and cause a loss of services and increases in taxes.
Legislators in Kansas and Illinois have recently overridden their governor's vetoes in a rejection of austerity budgets, not because they have suddenly become anti-business, but because they understand that austerity budgets harm the very goal of becoming "business friendly."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

E pluribus unum-Out of many, one

The tradition motto of our country, E pluribu unum, adorns the Great Seal of the United States.
It originates from the idea that out of 13 colonies emerged a single nation.
13 colonies with 13 different ideas of what a government should look like somehow put aside enough differences to become one nation, imperfect for sure, but agreeing to certain principles and most importantly, to work together as one people.

In the years since 1776 we have continued to evolve as a people.
The Suffragette movement, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, the Gay Rights movement, and the Union movement are examples of that evolution.
Each evolutionary step has tested our ability to hold to our motto.
At times this evolution has threatened to pull us apart, often it has led to bloody confrontation, but we have grown as a people through this.
Often, compromises have to be reached, just as they were in 1776.
Sometimes this evolution takes a step backward, at least temporally.

The idea that our strength in being able to come together as one people, as our motto says, is not universally accepted.
There are those who have there own agenda, who see our division, as a way to divide and conquer us.
Sometimes they like the status quo and do not wish change and they know that as hard as change is, it is nearly impossible if we are a divided people.

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act is an example.
Repeal of "Obamacare" has become such a rallying call that common sense seems to have left us.
Most Americans believe that there are parts of the ACA that should remain.  Most believe that kids should stay on insurance till 26, that sick, disabled, and elderly people should have healthcare, that those who work but make very low wages and receive no employer provided insurance should have access to coverage, that preexisting conditions should not limit one's ability to have coverage and that life time limits are cruel.
Ironically, the parts that people do not like, like the individual mandates and rising rates for those on the health exchanges, are a result of compromises to insurance companies and those opposed to a public option.
Those who want to divide us do not point out the parts of the ACA that we agree on. They paint the ACA as the work of a "liberal big government" gone too far.
Meanwhile, in the background while we are distracted fighting among ourselves, they plan tax cuts for themselves, rollbacks of financial institutions that led to the last great banking failure, limits to voter registration and immigration to those who tend to vote their interests, and more.

Our founding fathers were not perfect.  The fact that they were founding "fathers" is one indication. But they realized that to gain freedom from the English king, they needed to find what common ground they could.

E pluribus unum.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Healthcare is an unalienable right

There is currently a fight in our country over the future of healthcare.
At it's core is one fundamental question.

Is Healthcare a right of all our people?


I gave my opinion a few weeks ago on what I felt our ethical obligation is, in  "Healthcare is a Right." Today, let me address what I feel our founding fathers were saying when they penned these words:


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

What is the meaning of these words, words that led us to seek independence, words that summarize our reason for doing so.

What is a right, and is healthcare for all one of them?


In the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers declared that certain rights came from our Higher Power and could not be questioned or restricted by any earthly power. 


Our founding fathers declared that the right to life and the pursuit of happiness were such fundamental rights.

What could be more tied to the rights of life and happiness than quality, affordable healthcare?
Certainly, the right to life and happiness are restricted if access to quality, affordable healthcare is denied to a group of citizens, be they the poor, the elderly, or the otherwise marginalized.

Our founding fathers also declared that the right to liberty was a fundamental right.
Certainly, the right to liberty is restricted if a citizen cannot speak freely in the workplace for fear that loss of employment also means loss of quality, affordable healthcare.

You see, the right to quality, affordable healthcare, independent of employment, is closely tied to the rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Quality, affordable healthcare is something that could be available to every citizen of our country. We have the science, the technology, and the infrastructure to make that happen.
Since it is possible, and since denial of such available healthcare to any one person or group of persons is intimately tied to their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, then I believe it follows that denial of quality affordable healthcare is a violation of fundamental, unalienable rights.

Healthcare is a right.



Sunday, June 18, 2017

Becoming engaged is not difficult

When the Irish came to this country by the millions, fleeing famine and an oppressive government, they were met with signs that said, "No Irish need apply."
The only jobs they could get were the dirtiest and the most dangerous. So dangerous that many men died, leaving widows and children behind.
I'm sure they complained about the injustice, but they did more, they realized they lacked money and political power, but they did have people, and they were growing in numbers, so they organized.
They took over the cities by electing their leaders, they took over the workplaces by organizing their workers. They demanded a government that worked for them and a workplace with basic safety.

It is common today to complain.
I get that.
It's also common to think we cannot not make a difference.
I get that too.
But it's untrue.
The United States has a history of people joining together, becoming engaged, and making a difference.The Revolutionary War, the takeover of the cities by the Irish, the Civil Rights Movement, and on and on.
It is our culture.
WE THE PEOPLE need to return to it.

We need to get informed, get involved and change things.
When there is injustice in our government, we need to support candidates who believe as we do.
We need to run for public office ourselves.
WE NEED TO VOTE!
When there is injustice in the workplace, we need to join in unity with our coworkers and speak with one voice.

Complain yes, but don't let it end there. That's what those in power want. They want you to complain about Trump, Obama, Hillary, the democrats, the republicans, etc.
What they don't want you to do is become engaged.

Right now, there are a few steps you can take to start.  They aren't hard. Pick one.

The is a bill on the desk of the Governor of Connecticut, HB 7174.
It would take a role that has been  done by licensed health care professionals, nurses, paramedics, CAT scan techs and others, and allow non-licensed, non-trained personnel to perform it, the flushing of an IV line with Normal Saline.
It's a patient safety issue and CT state Rep Peter Tercyak had it right when he said on the floor of the house that if this was a bill concerning a predominately male profession, it would never pass.
Please take a moment and send the governor a short note asking him to Veto this bill. You can follow this link.

Right now, in the United States Senate, 13 men are meeting behind closed doors to decide the future of health care coverage in this country.  It is expected that they will soon emerge and present a bill to the Senate, limit debate to 24 hours, and call for a vote.
It is expected to be similar to the ACHA recently passed by the house and it is expected to become law.
Please email your senator and complain that this should be an open discussion with public hearings.  Let them know that like most Americans, you do not believe taking health care away from 23 million Americans is a good idea, that taking health care away from 18-26 years olds is a good idea, that taking health care away from 50-65 year olds is a good idea, that taking health care away from those with preexisting conditions is a good idea.
Please do it now!

The Connecticut State Legislature ended the regular session without a budget agreement.  That means that they will be soon called back into session to complete this work.  The question is, will the rich benefit at the hands of the middle class and poor?  Please write your legislator and tell them not to cut vital services.  Tell them to enact a budget in which everyone does their share, not just the middle class and poor. Tell them to reject an austerity budget and ask the rich to share the sacrifice.
You can follow this link to do so.

Take one small step, please.
That's how it starts and it's not hard.
But it is important.





Sunday, June 11, 2017

A government of the people

I'm exhausted.

2 weeks ago, we spent spent several days in Washington, DC with about 50 AFT CT Healthcare and Public Employee members at our joint Professional Issues Conference.
We attended classes germane to our professions and our unionism.
For many, it was their first PIC and when people see they are a part of something bigger than their department, building, or state, when they see, hear, and learn from colleagues across the country, they return fired up to do even more for their patients, students, and communities they serve.

This week was the last week of the Connecticut Legislative session and we needed that fire.
It meant late nights at the capital, frantic text and last minute meetings with legislators, and calls at 1:00 in the morning from our dedicated lobbyists.
Nightly, we had members go to the capital after work and speak to their senators and representatives.
Wednesday night I counted members from 8 locals, and have a picture of some of them speaking to 3 state reps who are current or retired AFT CT members.
Wednesday night we huddled around the TV counting down till the final gavel at midnight, the deadline for business, hoping no onerous bills would slip through.
The bill that our healthcare members fraught so hard against, HB 7174, the Saline Flush bill looked dead and came back to life so many times we may have to rename it the Lazarus bill.
In the last hour it passed the senate and will go to the governor to be signed.  We will continue our efforts and ask the governor to consider a veto. Failing that, we will seek to amend it next year.

This was particularly disappointing to me.  So many of our healthcare members, who understand this bill, invested so much of themselves to help legislators understand their concerns. I have been replaying our efforts and wondering if we could have done something different, and thus achieved a different outcome. I take solace in the fact that this is a less harmful bill than it started out as being, all though our member's efforts.
Mostly, I know that this was an effort our healthcare workers believed we needed to invest in. they became engaged in the legislative process, some of them for the first time, and while we did not achieve all we felt we needed, we did achieve some, and our patients will be better for our efforts.
And.....we are not done.

The legislative process is not always pretty. But as we often say, if we're not at the table, we're on the menu.
There will be a special session this summer, to approve a state budget. I am sure we will again face conservative calls to gut collective bargaining. Our members will fight back for working families.
We have friends in the legislature who believe as we do, that government should work for regular people, not the elite.  But we have enemies also.  Elections have consequences, and it starts with engaged members and the public.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

HB 7174 This is what democracy looks like

My blog this weekend is more a call to action than a blog.
A bill which passed the Connecticut house last night (HB 7174) would allow IV lines (and the medication in those lines) to be flushed by unlicensed people, who lack the training of a Nurse.
As a nurse, I am concerned about the effect of this bill on my patient's safety. As an elected leader, I am hearing from healthcare members, both nurses and non nurses, that they are similarly concerned. I ask you to reach out to the members of the Connecticut State Senate and help us protect our patients. 
Urge them to vote NO is this comes to the state senate floor.
You can use this link:
https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp

You can click here to see the bill. The important part is section 2, (3b)

Thanks and don't stop there. Whatever state you live in, there is probably a similar way to contact your legislators.
It makes a difference.
As they say, if you're not at the table, you're on the menu.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thank you Connecticut State Employees

It's a typical morning in Connecticut.
As the sun peaks over the hills to the east, and sleepy New England town squares come alive, a nurse begins her shift, checking the IV fluids and receiving report from the evening nurse. Across town a teacher enters his classroom, flipping the switches to power the equipment in his shop class, checking all the safety devises that will keep his students safe. Downtown a social worker enters her courthouse, her mind on the young man she will try to get to drug treatment and his family she will help.

The nurse, teacher, and social worker all have something in common.
They are all State of Connecticut employees.
In fact, the are all AFT Connecticut members.

As a caring society, we have determined that there are certain services we should offer to all residents. This is rooted in our Judeo/Christian/Muslin beliefs.
Among them are safe roads and bridges, fire and police protection, education of our youth, care for our sick, and a judicial system based on a chance for a fair trial and rehabilitation.
Dedicated Public Employees provide these services.

I get upset when so called "think tanks" like The Yankee Institute spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to convince Connecticut's middle class taxpayers and small business owners that State Employees are "the problem."
These "think tanks" are funded by people who control large corporations and could not care in the least about middle class tax payers or small business owners.
They care about one thing.
Having power and keeping it.

It's time we woke up and recognized State Employees for what they are. Our neighbors, people like ourselves, who provide the services WE have determined we as a caring society that WE should provide.
I've never been a Public Employee but I've often benefited from their dedicate service.
Thank you.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Inspiration from Local 33

There was a sitcom in the early 60's that was followed by a movie of the same name in the 90's, featuring 2 lovable NYC cops, Toody and Muldoon.
The Theme song spoke of everything going wrong at the same time:

There's a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights;
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights;
There's a Scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev's due at Idlewild ...
Car 54, Where Are You??


Sometimes, as a Labor leader, the world feels like the NYC depicted in that song.

We have a new Supreme Court Justice who tips the court in the favor of large corporate interests and away from the interests of working families.
We have an administration and House of Representatives who need a "victory" so bad they they have passed a healthcare bill that will strip 24 million Americans of coverage, and devastate state, local and hospital budgets.
We have a Secretary of Education who doesn't believe in public education.
In spite of record low unemployment, we have a budget crisis in many states, including Connecticut, the richest state in the richest country in the world, because we lack the courage to stand up to corporations and ask the top 1% to pay their fair share to a society from which they have received the most.
As we speak, many of our state employee members are receiving layoff notices, while their leadership works to try to find a way to protect their jobs and their hard earned benefits. 
And there's more.

Sometimes, in the mist of dealing with all this, you have to take a deep breath, and return to your roots for strength.

Last Saturday at the AFT Connecticut convention, we invited speakers from Unite Here Local 33 to share with us their fight.
I was moved.
I have been following this but to hear it from them was powerful.
The grad students at Yale University have been fighting for the right to form a union for 23 years.
23 years!
Recently, they were successful in gaining the right to have a vote in which they voted yes and are now a union.
Yale refuses to to negotiate, probably hoping the Trump Administration will change the makeup of the NLRB, which regulates private sector unions, and reverse their right to vote yes.
The grad students have entered into a period of actions, including a month long fast in which 8 grad students are consuming nothing but water, to try to force Yale to the table.
As someone who faced strong opposition and intimidation in the organizing of my hospital, such dedication is personal and very moving to me.

On Tuesday, the leadership of the Connecticut AFL-CIO visited the fasters.  Unable to join them, I visited yesterday. 
Being a nurse, they put me to work doing a wellness check. The fasters are closely monitored by a physician team and daily wellness checks are performed, including vital signs and blood sugar checks, by nurses and other healthcare professionals.

As Jan described her visit on Tuesday, "It's powerful."
I agree.

This is the "why" of our advocacy. It's about finding a voice for working men and women. 
This is returning to our roots.
This is the inspiration and strength that allows us to fight the multiple simultaneous "crisis's."

Monday morning, the Labor Movement will stand with our grad students at the Yale Commencement and demand the University treat them with repsect.
I hope you can join us.

For more inf see Local 33 web site and FB page.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

#UnionProud

Just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the members of AFT Connecticut.

It has been my privilege to serve as your Executive Vice President for the past two years and an honor to be re-elected for another term yesterday. It is an honor to serve under the leadership Jan, and alongside, Jean, Ed, and the VPs and Local presidents that represent you.

We are 30,000 strong; teachers, paraprofessionals and other school related personnel, nurses and other healthcare professionals, and public service workers.
We are a diverse group belonging to over 90 autonomous Locals, but we are united in our work of service to others, our solidarity as sisters and brothers, and our commitment to a society that places students, patients, and the community we serve ahead of corporate greed.

We face enormous challenges in the next two years, but we also have tremendous opportunities.
As our president Jan says, our challenge is not from the right to work for less movement, but from the danger that our members may not understand the benefit of standing in union with their sisters and brothers.
This is our opportunity.
If we engage our members, if we have the thousands of one on one conversations needed to reach our members, then we will survive any challenge from the top 1% who covet power and greed at the expense of others.
We will be strong because we are always strong when we stand together.

So, we have much work to do.
We will do it together.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Healthcare is a right

Not going to lie.

 Like most healthcare professionals I'm not a good patient.

 When I started with blurred vision in my left eye about a week ago, I tried to ignore it. When I went to the doctor on Tuesday I was told I had a tear in my left retina and that fluid had seeped in and it was separating the retina from the back of the eyeball. Had I waited much longer that separation could have spread and I could've lost my vision completely.  Surgery was performed on Wednesday and at my follow up appointment on Thursday the doctor said everything looks good.

 This is a tribute to the wonderful advances in medicine and dedicated and  professional talents of the doctors nurses and other healthcare professionals who cared for me. It is also a testimony  on the nature of the American people, prioritizing healthcare so that these advancements are possible.

 That is why the repeal of the ACA,  just one day after my surgery is so sad. In a country where we except the right of free speech and the right to bear arms, we do not yet except that healthcare, a living wage, adequate housing  and nutrition are a right of every citizen.

 My delay of a few days in seeing the doctor had to do with my fear of what I would find out, but I had no fear over the cost of the care, because I am lucky enough  to have adequate insurance. Repeal of the a ACA will remove that certainty from 24 million Americans.  What will be the result if they delay their care?

 It is time we answered these questions;
 When I was hungry did you feed me?
 When I was sick did you care for me?
When I was naked did you cloth me?

 In this, the richest country in the world, healthcare , a living wage, adequate housing and nutrition  are a right of every citizen.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

In the House!

"Right to work for less" will not be the death of the labor movement, but members not knowing the value of union membership could be."
So said Jan at the recent UHP convention (University health Professionals, the fine men and women of  the University of Connecticut Health Center)
Day in and day out, Jan reminds us that the strength of the union is in our members and their engagement and ownership of their union and their community.
That is why it is so important to understand the value of the union.  Only by standing together can we advocate for ourselves and our communities.

This past Tuesday we stood together in Hartford and we were successful.  Joshua Hall, the VP of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, was elected Connecticut State Representative!
Joshua is a democrat.  In fact, he was state party treasurer until he resigned to be able to run.  He sought the Democratic nomination and was denied, even though he make it clear that we would run on another line if he had to.

Apparently, they didn't believe him.

Apparently they were wrong.

Joshua sought the endorsement of the Connecticut Working Families Party, the Hartford Federation of Teachers, and AFT Connecticut.  When he received all those endorsements, other unions came to his side and endorsed him.  Union sisters and brothers canvassed the North End knocking on doors and making house calls.

Three reasons drove our decision to back him (Any one alone would have been reason enough):
We believe in Joshua.
We believe in Connecticut Working Families Party.
We believe in the Labor Movement.

For too long Labor in Connecticut has felt that the two major political parties have looked at us and said, "Where they gonna go, we're the only game in town."
On Tuesday we told them where we will go. (Perhaps we told them where to go?)
We will go to the people, to the movement, to our roots.

We took a chance.  Failure would have strengthened the argument that the two parties were correct. But we were taking a chance on Josh, on WFP, and on our union sisters and brothers.
My friend Jesse from the CTU says that sometimes you have to fight a battle because it's the right thing to do, even if you're not sure what the outcome will be.
Jan is correct. Our strength is in our collective action.

Josh was sworn in on Friday.  It was a privilege to be there.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Joshua Hall

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

Today I would like to ask your help.
My friend and union brother, Joshua Hall is running for Connecticut State Representative in the 7th district in Hartford, in a special election on Tuesday due to an open seat.

I'd like you to consider supporting him and if you live in the neighborhood, getting out with your family and friends and voting for him this Tuesday, April 26th..

He is a democrat who is running on the Connecticut Working Families Party line (row C)
There is another democrat running and I'm sure he's a nice enough guy, but he's not Josh.

I've know Joshua for about 6 years.  I've sat beside him at AFT Trustee meetings (where I was a guest and he is a trustee) and seen the depth of his knowledge on pensions and investments and how he has advocated as a great steward of member's money.
I've walked beside him and heard him speak at rallies for healthcare workers fighting for first contracts.
I've heard from my own family members who teach in Hartford of his school visits with members.
He is always prepared, always knowledgeable, always articulate, always respectful of others, and always humble.

Joshua grew up in this neighborhood in the north end of Hartford.
He understands this community and loves it.
That's why after college, he stayed in the community, buying a home 4 doors down the street from his mom, is raising a family there, has taught for 12 years at Weaver High in Hartford, and serves as the 1st Vice President of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, our AFT Local.

In my opinion, we could not ask for a better representative of working families than Joshua.

The election will be this Tuesday, April 25.
Please get out and vote if you are in the district and if you can help in any way please do so.
There is more info on Joshua and the campaign on the Connecticut Working Families Face Book Page.

Thank you.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jesus was an immigrant

 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him"...... For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  So writes Matthew, describing the migration of Joseph the Carpenter and his family to Egypt and about how we will be judged, not on our accomplishment but on how we live our lives and how we treat one another.
It seems fitting in this Holy Week of Passover and Easter that my thoughts turn to the spiritual.
I entered the Union Movement in 2010, but I was raised with certain beliefs that our consistent with the way that Jesus of Nazareth lived His life. Growing up I understood them to be Christian beliefs, but I now understand that they are the beliefs shared by all major religions and philosophies. 
Today, some criticize them as a "progressive or liberal agenda," but caring for the hungry, the sick, the immigrant, etc is not liberal or conservative, it is central to these core beliefs. Allowing people to go hungry, go without healthcare, be denied the opportunity to better their lives in a new land, are not a conservative agenda, they are an Anti-Christian, Anti-Jewish, Anti-Muslim, Anti-everyone agenda.
This week we remember that Jesus entered Jerusalem a hero, celebrated Passover with his friends, was arrested, tried, crucified, and rose from the dead. He was and continues to be a great gift to us. 
His life and his teachings are an example for us to emulate: Feed the hungry, care for the sick, welcome in strangers, everyone is my brother, serve others.
My favorite moment in the passion of Holy Week occurs at the Last Super, when Jesus moves around the table, bending to a knee before each disciple, washing their feet in an example of love, of service, and of leadership.
May you have a blessed Easter and Passover.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

"Is this a union issue?"

"We are involved in educational issues because we are educators, political issues because we are State workers, and labor issues because we are union members......We rarely ask in the office anymore, "Is this a union issue?"  The SVFT is your union, so you should have a voice and decide which issues should be addressed."
These are the words of my good friend, SVFT President, and AFT CT Secretary Treasurer, Ed Leavy, in his most recent edition of Vocational Instructor, the monthly newsletter of The State Vocational Federation of Teachers.

As he often does in his writings, Ed hits at the core of what being part of the union means. His words speak specifically to his members, but with just a word or two change, they could equally apply to the members of all 90 AFT CT locals, regardless if they are educators, healthcare, or public service. They could also apply to our sisters and brothers involved in community advocacy groups.

Ed speaks in this article about how belonging to a union cannot be just about the contract, as important as this is.
Belonging to a union must be about using our collective voice on issues of importance to us, be they work related, professional, or social.
He speaks with rightful pride of how engaged his members are in the legislative and election realm but he also says that "engaging in issues cannot only be about politics. We must also engage members by addressing issues that effect their work."

In speaking about the union he says, "It must be a voice in the classroom, a voice in the principal's office, a voice in Central Office, a voice in the legislature, and a voice in our communities."
He reminded me of something another good friend, Lesa Hanson, said when we were organizing our hospital. She said, "I once thought my work was at the bedside. Now I realize it means advocating at the bedside, in the boardroom, and in the Capitol."

The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is likely to lead to an erosion of worker's rights.
We will never outspend the top 1%, many of whom do not believe in a society that lifts all boats.

But our strength is in our members.
If we stand in unity, if we engage our members on issues that are important to them, if our members truly believe they are the union, there is a path forward.
Collective Bargaining is an important right, but Collective Bargaining without member engagement and Collective Action is not a union, and it will not lead to a society in which we see each other as sisters and brothers and see lifting all boats as our life's work.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

And they whispered "courage"

This week we celebrated the birthday of Cesar Chavez, a leader in the movement for farm workers in California and the Southwest.
Tuesday we remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, while he was in Memphis supporting sanitation workers striking for living wages and safer working conditions.
Two great leaders who led with different styles.

It made me think of what my organizer at Backus told me one time of our role in the movement.
He said that not everyone gets to stand out front, in the public eye, but the role of those "behind the scenes" is just as important.

He told me of a protest in which the leadership took the front line and they were confronted by the authorities.
It got tense.
It was the strength of the people standing behind the front line leaders who made it successful.
You see, as they faced off, the people behind started whispering in unison, "courage, courage, courage."

It's an important lesson to remember.
There are many roles in the movement.
Many of us will play all of these roles at one time or another.
It's hard to be on the front line, it takes skill and courage.
It's also hard to be behind, in a support role, whispering "courage."
But each role is equally important and the movement falls apart if we each do not fill our role, whatever that might be at the time.

As we remember Chavez and King this week, lets also remember those who whispered "courage."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

We are one

Trumpcare is dead.
At least for now.

The AHCA, which would have replaced the ACA, was pulled from the floor of the House of Representatives moments before a vote.
We came very close to replacing a healthcare system which is in need of repair with one that would have been devastating.
It would have given a tax break to the top 1% of Americans while eliminating Healthcare coverage for 24 million Americans.

The pushback from Nurses and other Healthcare Professionals was predictable, although the level of pushback surprised even me and gave me a deep sense of pride. 
What I am also proud of is how other groups also pushed back.  In particular, members of my union AFT who work in education and public service, who joined in unity with their healthcare sisters and brothers in this fight.
I had seen this earlier in the year when Betsey Davos was nominated for Secretary of Education. It wasn't just Educators that objected, we all did.
I saw it again yesterday at the Connecticut State Capitol, when 96 anti public sector bills were heard in the Appropriations Committee, and members from healthcare and education joined public service members to speak at press conferences, a rally, and in testimony before the committee.

My sisters and brothers understand.

An attack on healthcare, on education, or on public services, is the same thing.
They are inter-related.

We are lucky in AFT Connecticut to have members from all the divisions of AFT:
K-12 Teachers
PSRP (Paraprofessionals and school related personnel)
Public Services
Nurses and other Healthcare Professions
Higher Education

I have always said that of our 30,000 members, a certain number are teachers, a certain number are healthcare, etc., but today I do not feel that way.
Although I have never stood at the front of a classroom or worked in state public service and although others have never stood at the bedside, today I paraphrase Jack Kennedy in 1963 when he said in Berlin, "Ich bin ein Berliner."

AFT Connecticut is a diverse union of 30,000 members.
AFT is a diverse union of 1.6 million members.
And each of us is an educator, and a healer, and a public servant.

Solidarity.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"No Irish Need Apply" is a call to action

Deciding what to write about this week was not easy.
This is going to be a full week.
My president, Jan, is away on international travel, representing AFT as a representative of North America to Public Services International.
Monday, at our state capitol, there are hearings in the Public Health and the Education committee, so many of us will be busy writing and presenting testimony.
Wednesday is a Day of Action for healthcare at the state capitol.
Thursday is the anniversary of the ACA, and a day that The House of Representatives may repeal it and begin the process that will strip 24 million Americans of their healthcare coverage and devastate state and local budgets.
On Friday, the Appropriations Committee will hear nearly 95 bills attacking worker's rights at the state capitol, and workers are planning to fight back with a Day of Action on Worker's Rights.
Saturday brings a bus trip to Fairfield County to call attention to the fact that although Connecticut is the richest state in the nation, it is also among the poorest (and it need not be that way) because the top 1% use tax loopholes to pay a smaller percentage in taxes than the middle class.
Add to that several workshops planned at AFT CT this week and you end up with a very full week.

Each of these events deserves a blog, a blog that I do not have time to write and you do not have time to read, but I found a clip of Rep Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts speaking this week that I think sums it up for me and for many of us.
He speaks of an immigrant family that came to this country because they believed in an America of fairness and opportunity, and although they faced discrimination because of their accents and religion, and customs, they worked hard, they organized, and they continue to believe in that vision of America.
He was speking of his own family and of being proud of his immigrant roots.
He spoke of his grandmother sitting with his father and showing newspaper help wanted ads that read "no Irish need apply."
Every Irish-American has stories like these. Like Joe, they were passed from my father to me, and from me to my sons, because we must never forget that like the immigrants that now flee poverty and war and oppressive governments and come to America in search of a better life for their families, our families did the same.
Whether we came from Ireland, or Italy, our France, or Poland, or any other country, our ancestors came here because they believed that America was different, was better, was fairer.

I still believe this is true.
I hope you do too.

So, our week is packed with work and events, and through them all, is this theme.
America is the land of opportunity, a land that welcomes the oppressed, the poor, the downtrodden.
It is a land that believes we have a moral obligation to each other to care for the sick, clothe the naked, feed the poor, educate all.
Immigrants have faced discrimination in this country before and they continue to face it today. It is not something our country should take pride in but it is something we must accept as true.
More than that, we must do what we have always done, we must stand together and say, "not here, not in my country."
We must organize.

I'll close with a call to action written thousands of years ago:
'When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I hope you can join us in the fight this week.



Friday, March 10, 2017

Caring for the sick

Donald Trump recently said that healthcare is complicated.
He is correct.
He is also wrong.

It's complicated in that changing one part of any healthcare plan changes many other parts.
It's almost like the gears on an old fashioned watch.
You move one and they all move.

But it's incredible simple in this regard.
Ask almost any doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider and they will tell you.
We have an ethical responsibility to care for the sick and to do what we can to help the well stay well.
I really don't care if you agree with me that healthcare is a "right."
To myself and others in the field, it is a responsibility.
Show up for care at an ER and we will not turn you away.

Nor should we.

The current plan being rushed through congress as a "repeal and replace" is nothing more than a tax cut for the rich and a tax increase on the middle class.
It provides tax shelters and repeals several taxes on the upper 1%, that were enacted to help pay for the care of middle and lower income workers, and it shifts costs to the middle class in the forms of cuts to states, increased costs to older Americans, increased costs to those with increased medical problems or who live in areas of the country where the cost of living is higher.
While it technically retains the ability to get insurance with pre-existing conditions, in increases the cost to the point that people may not be able to afford it and while it eliminates the "mandate" to have insurance, it imposes a penalty if one drops insurance and then at a later date re-acquires insurance.

Many experts predict that it will increase the deficit and strip healthcare insurance from millions of Americans.
The AMA, ANA, AARP, hospital groups, unions, community organizations and others have raised concerns and spoken against it.
Congress is now trying to rush passage of the bill before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office can evaluate it's cost and impact.

We can stop that.
Please contact your representatives and senators and express your concerns.
Please sign petitions, make phone calls, send emails, and attend rallies.
Obamacare isn't perfect, but lets not make it worse.
"Primum non nocere" is a Latin phase taught in med school. It translates to "First do no harm."

The ethical responsibility to care for the sick is not just held by healthcare professionals.
It is something we all are held to.



Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chasing the shiny object

I've been thinking a lot lately about distractions.
We all have certain things that are most important to us, be they in our personal life, our work life, our just in "life."
We work on them because of their importance.
Then, and sometimes it seems too often, something else comes up that grabs our attention and energy.
Only latter, after it has passed, do we realize that this "something else" was not as important as we thought at the time but it had pulled our attention and energy away from what we normally feel is a priority.
Some people refer it this phenomenon as "chasing the shinny object."

It's non-productive.  Worse, the distraction sucks up our time and energy.
I'll start a day knowing I have a few priority items to accomplish and if not careful, someone will come to me with an "issue" and I'll find myself chasing distractions. If I'm not careful, I'll find myself at the end of the day where I find my priorities not yet addressed.
It happens with groups of people too.
Some issue comes up and one party wants to avoid discussing it so they bring up another issue and voilĂ , distraction.

Right now, we face a multitude of priority issues; attacks on the rights of workers to stand together in unity, attacks on our healthcare system, attacks on our public school system, attacks on environmental protection; questions that threaten our sovereignty, and more.
No matter where you stand on these issues, I think everyone agrees resolving them would be a priority.
The last thing we need are distractions.
The last thing we need is to divert our time and energy whenever there is a new comment, tweet, or post about something not related to our priorities.

We need to stay focused and on track.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Owning our Democracy

There is a lot going on in the country and in the individual states that worry people. 
Evidence of that is seen at the "town halls" and rallies held by congressional legislators around the country this week.
I attended two such town halls this week in my congressional district.  In the first, Congressman Joe Courtney answered questions about the attacks on healthcare. (repeal of the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare) The second town hall was open to all topics and many of the expressed concerns were about protecting healthcare and public education.  There were numerous other town halls and rallies across Connecticut this week.
People wanted to know what they could do to push back, seeing how our Congressional Delegation is progressive on these issues and already "gets it."
Joe said a couple of times, we have to "own our democracy" on all levels, including town, state, and nationally.

In Connecticut, there are an unprecedented number of anti-worker, anti-middle class bills being proposed.  It's almost like those proposing them feel emboldened, like this is their moment to push this right wing agenda.  And it's happening in other states too. These movements have the financial backing of the Koch brothers and their allies.  The commonality in every one of their proposals is that they result in a shift of money from the middle class to the people at the top.

It is easy to think that the rich have all the money and power and "what can I do alone?"
This is true. One person alone can do little.
And yet, one person alone can do everything.
When one person alone decides to get involved, to "own their democracy" they encourage others to join them and together we can to anything.

This past week was a week of town halls and rallies and on Tuesday, 4,000 workers filled the legislative office building in Hartford and said to lawmakers, "I WILL own my democracy," in a pushback on multiple anti-workers bills.
We must continue.

Yesterday, nearly 200 AFT Connecticut members met at the capitol in our yearly legislative conference to discuss concerns with lawmakers and to learn from each other how to push back.



In the next 6 weeks, AFT Connecticut will hold legislative breakfasts in a different town each Saturday morning.  Information is available at http://aftct.org/
They are an opportunity to come out and speak to your area state senator and representative, an opportunity to own your democracy.