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.

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