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

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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."