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.

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