What is a Worthy Celebration Nathan Bedford Forrest, A Racist

The first time I heard of Nathan Bedford Forrest was in Tennessee history in Junior High School. I’m not sure how much of his background was emphasized, but I also don’t remember him being presented as an honorable man. Prior to the Civil War, he was a repulsive human being who amassed his wealth as a cotton farmer that depended on slave labor and selling human beings into slavery among other business endeavors.

As a Civil War Army General, he was considered to be a good military strategist though clearly not an honorable one. Under his command, he ordered the massacre of Union soldiers, mostly black and some white Tennesseans fighting with them. Even at that time killing people who had surrendered was not honorable.

After the Civil War ended and all of those who had been held as slaves were freed Nathan Bedford Forrest continued a life that dishonored the state of Tennessee and the United States. Since he could no longer hold slaves he became the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan which terrorized people of color. He denounced the violence in his later life, but even then apparently lied about his role. All he actually did was change his focus to a different form of slave labor.

After he left the KKK he secured the use of people who had been convicted of crimes to clear his land and work the same land. He used 117 prisoners to grow his wealth. Forced labor of prisoners is a stone throw from slavery at best. It should not go without notice that the majority of those people were black and in that era, the chances they had a fair trial was slim to none. They took black men and women out of the illegal chains and put them in the chains allowed by the law of the time which was incarceration.

It is true that state law in Tennessee mandates an annual proclamation, but it states:

Each year it is the duty of the governor of this state to proclaim the following as days of special observance: January 19, “Robert E. Lee Day”; February 12, “Abraham Lincoln Day”; March 15, “Andrew Jackson Day”; June 3, “Memorial Day” or “Confederate Decoration Day”; July 13, “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”; and November 11, “Veterans’ Day.” The governor shall invite the people of this state to observe the days in schools, churches, and other suitable places with appropriate ceremonies expressive of the public sentiment befitting the anniversary of such dates.

Tennessee Code 15-2-101

The governor has the ability within the law to interpret appropriate ceremonies expressive of the public sentiment and befitting the anniversary of such dates. It is clearly within his authority to add language to the proclamation that states that it is appropriate to use this as a reminder of the evil of racism, our history of slavery, and the disgrace of being the home of the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. He could use the proclamation to call for a day of service to promote racial justice or as a day he gives clemency to deserving prisoners. There are many ways the law could be fulfilled that don’t continue to celebrate the man that had no honor and does not deserve our respect.

Until the day the Tennessee representatives change what is clearly a law that celebrates our racist past we should all ask and expect the governor to act with honor by preparing an appropriate proclamation. And if he refuses to act in an honorable manner there is nothing that stops us from planning now to make this a day that addresses racial justice in our communities.

When the elected officials refuse to lead with honor it is should never be the case that the citizens remain silent and do not act. We have a year to prepare. Let’s get started.


Help at the Border

We can each find a way to help children at the border.  I remind myself often to give of my time, talent, and treasure. When I was young I had time and as a nurse a skill that many shelters needed. As my career progressed I had little time, but more money. We each have something we can do to help children at the border. What can you do?

Here is a list of some of the places that you can donate money or your skills.

Humanitarian Respite Care needs donations. They accept donations of time, money, or supplies through Amazon Wish List. If donating money it goes to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and notes on the check that your donation is designated for humanitarian response.

USA Today published an article on how to assist, How to Assist Families and Children at the Border.  

Rising Together has a list of needs from lawyers wishing to volunteer.

Humane Borders has regular meetings in Tucson. They provide water drops and other activities and accept groups to join them. There was recent media coverage of a person being arrested for water drops and as provoked by the devil as I believe that arrest to be it is something that requires a person to consider the risk they are willing to take for their belief in humanity and justice.

The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights provides a list of border advocacy groups. You will find a list of organizations actively working for just and humane border practices in the United States and Mexico. Many of them have volunteer programs while others provide advocacy tools and ways to get involved.

There are makeshift clinics providing care and volunteer physicians and nurses. The best way to find the clinics is to speak with local advocates.

The Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project has opportunities to donate, get updates, and apply for jobs and internships. Follow them on Twitter @asylumadvocacy.

The Women’s Refugee Commission improves the lives and protects the rights of women, children, and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. They research their needs, identify solutions and advocate for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice. They have a useful list of resources.

The National Association of Social Workers has a list of ways to volunteer to help children separated from parents. It is one of the better lists I’ve seen.

 


Is Anyone Called to Work in A Concentration Camp

When I was young I wanted to work with what I thought of as the poor and underserved. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in four types of facilities: mental health facilities, homeless shelters, prisons, and detention facilities. They all share similarities.  I was excited when my first job out of college was at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC working on a unit for those who had a mental illness and “no fixed address” which was the systems euphemism for homeless.

The unit and the hospital was largely still as Ervin Goffman described it in Asylums. While the harshest of treatments had long ago ended they were still given donated clothing or hospital purchased clothing to patients and generally not returning their clothing. The food was dismal and best. There were times when the food was so limited that patients checked out against medical advise. The conditions for staff were also not what most would expect. Nursing was chronically understaffed and depended heavily on per diem nurses. There were long periods when nurses were forced to work overtime that could be an additional shift or even an additional day or more. Anyone who thinks forcing people to work multiple shifts of overtime a week improves quality of care or compassion is delusional. I don’t know if any of us complained about or filed protest through official channels or even thought to do so. I do know that many of us donated our used clothing and brought food that we cooked and shared with patients.

I volunteered in shelters and tried to understand what could be done to change a society that allowed so many people experiencing homelessness to go without the medical, mental health, and social services care they needed. There was only one answer, we are still a puritanical society that sees the plight of those experiencing homelessness as just punishment for sloth. I suspect many believe mental illness is a myth and so when the mentally were deinstitutionalized under President Regan with the promise of outpatient care that never materialized people complained and shouted at the wind, but we still don’t have adequate outpatient care?

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of but stigma and bias shame us all. – Bill Clinton

After three years I ask for and received a transfer to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Tucson, AZ leaving the care of one group of people held against their will to care for another. FCI Tucson was in many ways a model facility. It was clean, efficiently run, had fully staffed medical and dental clinics, lab, psychology, and pharmacy. The food was good and most of the staff ate the same food as the “inmates”. Those that worked in UNICOR were paid and a commissary was available to purchase things that were not provided. In fact, many of those who were there for illegal reentry into the U.S. would send some of their money home. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I thought of working with the poor and underserved, but there were many similarities to large psychiatric facilities through the prisons seemed better funded and better staffed. We seemed to treat those in prison with more respect and compassion that either those with a mental illness or those experiencing homelessness.

I was in prison and you came to visit me … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
(Matthew 25:36, 40)

It was at FCI Tucson that I began to realize that to make big changes one had to be able to change national policy. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is not luxurious, but most of their federally run facilities comply with the American Correctional Association and National Commission on Correctional Healthcare guidelines. In fact, while I was at FCI Tucson we sought and were accredited by the Joint Commission. If one wanted to be an administrator there was a training program that had to be completed and thus there were standards. Every person working there had to complete annual training and sign off confirming they knew the rules. There will always be bad actors, but they were the exception. In my time there if I ask for anyone to be sent out to the local hospital it was not debated. It happened and generally happened quickly.

In 1997, I became the Health Services Administration at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center. Medical care was run by the Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS). Many of the people were pending deportation after serving time in prison. When I arrived the medical clinic was still under construction. I hired a physician, two nurse practitioners, an RN, an LPN, two medical records techs, a pharmacist, and a pharmacy tech. We had a dentist and a psychologist that came in on a regular basis. Additionally, we invested in telemedicine equipment which at the time was new and gave us access to other providers. Within fifteen months of opening, we were accredited by the ACA, NCCHC, and Joint Commission. In my time there we had no deaths and provided high-quality care. My biggest complaint was the inability to get patients brought to us in a timely fashion and too often being told someone had been removed from the facility when in fact they were still there.

I became the Chief of Field Operations responsible for administrative oversight of the eleven health clinics in Immigration detention facilities (not contract facilities). I visited most of them and did a thorough review of any deaths. Most of the healthcare staff were U.S. Public Health Service officers and so most were passionate about their work and caring for those in detention. There were exceptions and some people over time became judgmental about the plight of those detained, but in my worst nightmare, the worst case I reviewed, the worst thing ever reported to me doesn’t equal what is happening today with the detained children. More importantly, if any of what is happening now was reported Immigration and DIHS would have immediately sent teams to investigate.

I left DIHS in 2001 after 9/11 when to run the command center for Secretary Thompson’s at the Department of Health and Human Services. I never returned to DIHS and was grateful as I had become increasingly concerned about what I saw as a push to limit the care provided and a move to more contract facilities and more contract staff. Physicians were feeling overworked and nurses were being asked to take on more and more of the care. While I didn’t think nurses were being asked to do anything out of their scope of practice it was a constant battle to not cross that line.  I also knew I was pushing the envelope. I was told at one point, “You will do the right thing no matter the consequences.” It was not meant to be a compliment. The person was angry and my life was becoming more difficult.

In 2007, I went to work for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) as the director of the Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness. I worked closely with the Office of Refugee Resettlement( ORR). The reason for the visits was twofold, assess their emergency preparedness and see how they did case management. ORR was considered to have an excellent case management program that moved people from being a new refugee that didn’t speak English to being fully self-sufficient in six months. It was a huge effort that was supported by faith-based organizations. I visited a few of the facilities for unaccompanied children and I did find them depressing, but they were clean, each child had a bed with linens and blankets, age-appropriate clothing, plenty of food, medical care (which I didn’t think was at the level I would have liked), and education though it certainly was not equivalent to elementary or secondary schools in the community. There were around 40 facilities and 1600 beds. They were chronically underfunded even then. What they could do was limited by the funding. Congress and the White House knew it. In fact, the faith-based organizations that ran many of the facilities also knew about the underfunding.

This is my long way of saying I could not believe what I was hearing when the detention facilities were referred to as concentration camps and there was inadequate food, no basic sanitary supplies, inadequate medical care, and children taking care of children. The places I worked and visited were not great, but I called the people working there colleagues and friends. Would we have ever allowed this to happen? I even argued with people the term “concentration camp” was inflammatory and not helpful. When I saw the court recording, the pictures, and heard statements of lawyers I was shocked.

How could healthcare people not speak out? I hope that some of this information is getting out because they are leaking it. Yet, I don’t want to be too quick to forget what it is like to be the nurse in the facility. Each day you go in and see as many people as you can thinking if you aren’t there who will be there to provide the care. You go home and you pray for your patients. Yet the most obvious thing to do is sometimes the hardest. How do stand up to those in charge and say, not on my watch?

I’m outraged, but my outrage doesn’t change the current situation. CDR Jonathan White testified before the Energy and Commerce Committee on February 7, 2019. In his verbal responses, he was clear that people were warned about separating children and parents. He did not address all of the unaccompanied children that cross the border, but I’m sure he was equally concerned about them. Then in April 2019 before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, there was further testimony from CDR White and others.  He appears to care about the welfare of the children and is trying to reunify children that came with parents or family member. In fact, for over a year ago HHS officials have warned about the situation. CDR White clearly states that the problem isn’t of data exchange, but that children were separated. The ORR program was designed for the truly unaccompanied children and not for children separated by the U.S. when apprehended. You can see the disgust on CDR White’s face when he says the issue is that it happened at all. Since July 2018 HHS has been warning the administration and Congress yet there is no positive action.

The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities–to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

My question to all of those screaming about the atrocities is what have you actually done to change it? Have you actually written a letter to your representative? Have you donated money to one of the not-for-profits that provide the care at most of the facilities for unaccompanied minors? And to Congress, other than the horrific legislation offered by Senator Graham that ignores the dangers faced by the asylum seekers, Senator Cruz’s Protect Children and Families Through the Rule of Law Act which is more about removal quickly back to the danger they fled, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) who proposed the HUMANE Act has anyone drafted legislation that would actually address the problems in the “concentration camps”?  Is there anyone in the House or Senate that is working together to fix laws that allow this to continue?

If you really think this is inhuman, a concentration camp, and must be stopped then why not work day and night to pass legislation that will stop it? Isn’t that more productive that tweeting? I want to see a Tweet with a link to the legislative fix. I want to see posts about people volunteering with their local churches and community organizations to help support the needs of refugee families. In our parish, it took the hard work of five families to get one family to self-sufficiency. More volunteers are needed in almost every city in the country.

As for the rest of us, here is an interesting fact, anyone in the U.S., any citizen can draft legislation and a member of Congress can introduce it. I will write it if AOC will promise to introduce the legislation. I bet she even has some aides that could help. Likewise, what about all those running for President, where is your draft legislation to fix this?

We don’t need more hypocrisy. We need action that recognizes that our Puritan history must be weeded from our hearts, laws, and policies.

For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in. (Matthew 25:35)

 


Curse of a Nurse: Social Justice Nursing in the World

The curse of a nurse is an educated mind often formed by religious and social backgrounds combined with work experiences which enable us to see things from a little different perspective. Principles of religion, education, and nursing practice illuminate what is wrong in our society.

We are both blessed and cursed with what we see and experience. The day of an average nurse is full. It is full of cultural perspectives, love and hate, grief and joy, violence and compassion, and fear and bravery. Nurses see people when they are vulnerable and willing to share truths, but they also see them when in the delirium of medication or pain they reveal what they would normally never give a voice. The nurse in the clinic or at the bedside sees the end result of failed policy, bigotry, and poverty. The nurse also sees those with privilege, success, and wealth and realizes the results of disparities.

Nurses experience all we see and what we see fills our lives with wonder and a search for the truth. There are days that we are bone tired with aching feet. The best we can do is ramble on about what we have seen to supportive family and friends. There are times when the mind is too tired to resist and in those times the truth is most apparent. There are also angry and frustrating times when we can identify with the worst instincts of humanity. It is a unique perspective and empathy that drives us to work for social justice. Out of our wonder, we find joy.

Many nurses are called to address social justice in the world and see it as part of what it means to be a nurse. It is tied to our spirituality. I write from my perspective as one who embraces the curse of a nurse and strives to pursue social justice in my small piece of the world. Love my perspectives or hate them, but know I have a thick skin and think we all grow through open and honest conversation even when it is difficult.

And so the [hu]manwho philosophizes and wonders is ultimately superior to one who submits to the despairing narrowness of indifference. For the former hopes?  – Joseph Pieper


Immigration Health: My Biggest Regret

Life has sometimes taken me on unexpected journeys. When I joined the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) it was to work with the poor and the underserved. I had a vision of working with those that were homeless or with Indian Health Service. Fate had a different plan. The care of immigrants and children in cages reminds me that rather than making progress in the care of immigrants we have actually gotten worse.

In 1997 I accepted a job as a Health Services Administrator for an Immigration detention facility. It was a joint facility of the U.S. Marshalls service and Immigration.  From the interview on it was an adventure and a moral challenge. During the interview, one person kept asking me questions that were nonsensical to me. After what seemed like an hour, probably 30 minutes, I couldn’t take it and replied, “what the hell does that even mean?” I was sure I was done at that point, but the Immigration Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Facility stood up, pointed at me, and said, “she’s the one.” Seventeen days later I was selling our house and traveling to New York.

When I arrived I was wearing a Service Dress Blue and the OIC took one look at me, handed me a hard hat, and sent me to get jeans and boots. It was the first clue that this was going to be a challenge. The clinic wasn’t finished and it smelled of skunk. Before the building was finished a skunk got in the clinic and the workmen killed it in the bathroom. Every time it rained it smelled which foreshadowed the entire three years I worked for Immigration. It was the omen of the skunk.

It wasn’t just Immigration that was difficult. Unlike the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration was disorganized and the immigrant advocacy organizations were any better. As the health services administrator, I tried to reach out to them to coordinate care for those that were released to the community, and especially those taking medications for a positive tuberculosis skin test. I’m pretty sure they thought I was the devil. It didn’t matter that I was trying to do the best I could for the person being released, they didn’t want anything to with me. I suppose they thought it would be better if there was no healthcare personnel in the facility. I never gave up trying, but I never succeeded either. When I left we were a Joint Commission accredited clinic, had a fully implemented telemedicine system in 1998, and had a fully staffed clinic with a physician, nurse practitioners, medical records, assistants, dental care, and a pharmacy. The clinic was well equipped and well staffed. Our only problem was getting patients we requested in a timely fashion.

After the successful accreditations, I was excited to accept a job in DC where I quickly became the Chief of Field Operations with oversight of all the clinics nationwide. There were only 12 Immigration detention facilities at the time, but it was an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those seeking the promise of the USA.

Within a short time of arriving in DC we deployed to Guatemala for a mass migration of Chinese. They had boarded a death trap masquerading as a ship bound for the U.S., but when they ran into trouble the ship was pulled to port in Guatemala by the Coast Guard. With a small team of physicians, nurse practitioners, and RNs we carried all of our supplies with us including a portable x-ray machine. Excluding the x-ray maching, we were only allowed to bring 75 pounds each into the country so most of our luggage was medications and equipment.

When we arrived we were all shocked by the condition of the ship and that it held approximately 500 people. It was nasty and piled deep in garbage from the journey. I could not imagine what would drive a person to take such a risky journey on that ship? Their circumstances must have been unbearable.

We were on the ground within days of being asked to respond. I was going because I knew how to take and develop x-rays and had been working on mass migration plans with Immigration. My boss was going for the first few days and then would leave me to manage the team on the ground. What I didn’t know is that the equipment I needed to develop the x-rays wasn’t available. Instead, we traded our hats and boots to get a local man to mix the developer in a sink and develop the x-rays which we then hung on a lemon tree with clothespins to dry. They definitely did not teach me that in nursing school. We did x-rays for all 500 people on the ship.

We also did physical examins for all 500 people in what was less than ideal surroundings. To say what we had for a clinic was inadequate was an understatement. We had one room inside, but most of the care was provided outside and it was hot and humid. It didn’t take long before I was questioning Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 9.46.59 PMthe morality of what we were doing. We could do cursory exams, but that was about it. We were able to bring one nurse that spoke the language, but the rest of us depended on interpreters. If the person was judged to be tortured or abused they could request asylum otherwise they would be put on a plane back to China where we didn’t know what would happen to them. Near the end of our time in Guatemala one young man became ill. When we took his shirt off he had what appeared to be cigarette burns all over. I do not remember the exact details which I’m sure I’m blocking, but when we pointed it out to the immigration officials they said there was nothing they could do. I do remember asking how it was missed in the physical, but I knew. Like too many providers, and with limited to no privacy they didn’t actually undress the patient.

By the time we recognized what had happened, it was too late as all the asylum claims were complete and the lawyers were gone. I reported it, but I took no for an answer when I was told there was nothing they could do. We failed the patient; a teenager. None of the medical staff knew what to else to do.

A few days later we were getting ready to board a bus to the airport with all of the immigrants. Young women were throwing themselves around our legs and begging us to help and we could do nothing. On the bus, from the coast to Guatemala City, a women saw the poverty of Guatemala and said, “These people should try to escape to China.” They had fled their country, but as bad as it was they thought it was far better than Guatemala. Is there any wonder that so many people come from that region seeking asylum?

Immigration has always detained people and they have never really shown the ability to handle the volume of people detained. However, there was a time when they were making efforts to improve the quality of healthcare, but at that time the healthcare personnel did not report to Immigration but were part of another organization. They seem to have struggled as they moved to for-profit facilities and began to contract out the healthcare.

I suspect the healthcare personnel in facilities with the children are doing their best to provide care. They are probably no better equipped than I was to address issues and are probably taking no for an answer when everything inside them is screaming to do something. They may even be questioning why they are there. Then they see the children and know someone needs to be there.

I have always believed God opens doors and so long as I walk through I will be where I’m supposed to be and all I need to do is trust and work hard. Maybe with immigration, I lost the trust and I certainly had lost my desire to pray. I had been told when I took the job that I needed to come in fully aware, but no warning was sufficient. There are patients I remember fondly and ones that made me wish I could have done more. There is only one I regret. A Chinese teenager with cigarette burns.


People Like Me and Racism

I went to the Ash Wednesday service at John XXIII which is the Catholic Center on campus. It was relatively full and it was interesting to look around and see people that I recognized, but whom I didn’t know shared my faith. Likewise, I heard a student say with some surprise, “Isn’t she the Associate Dean?” There is something that feels good about knowing there are people around you that share a cultural identity. It is suddenly a more familiar and safe environment. It is that familiarity and safety that I would hope we could make more available.

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life living in diverse cities and in diverse neighborhoods. Thirteen years in the DC metro area where I was happy to live on a street that boasted at least four languages, three years in Tucson, one year in San Antonio, and four years in St. Louis though while diverse was the 6th most segregated city in the country and once I got to my neighborhood you wouldn’t have known the city wasn’t 100% white and mostly Catholic.

When I came back to Tennessee my husband ask if I was sure. I’m Catholic and I have belonged to a Zen Center for years. Tennessee is the least Catholic state in the country and the nearest Zen Center is either in Nashville or Ashville. When I went looking for “community” I did it with greater intent than I did in St. Louis. I wanted a diverse community and a diverse church. I thought the university parish would be the most diverse and the most socially active, but I was wrong. I found that Holy Ghost was the most diverse parish in the city and relatively socially active so I ended up splitting my time between the two because I want to be part of the university community but also wanted diversity. I have found that I’m no longer that comfortable when everyone is like me and I never again want to live in a segregated community.

The racism, sexism, and homophobia was part of why I wanted to leave Tennessee in the early 1990s. The racist comments on the rock, the lack of acceptance of persons who are LGBTQ, and the recent blackface incident were shocking, but what I remembered. The difference between then and now is the response from the administration. In short order after each incident, the administration had responded with disapproval. That disapproval is being followed up with action. I am pleased that they are leading by example. They have held campus discussions and now are going to require cultural competency, inclusion, and bias training for all faculty, staff, and administrators beginning with the executive administration and it is to be developed and implemented immediately. While the administration and faculty didn’t paint the rock or record themselves wearing blackface they are saying change begins with me.

How has Tennessee changed since I left in 1991? People like me have looked at ourselves and said, where did these young people learn this behavior? And the answer may not be what I did, but what I didn’t do. I have had a fair amount of cultural competency and bias training and even included it in grants and program development, but I still notice my own bias. In St. Louis our program recognized a lack of diversity and in two years we went from 7% underrepresented minorities to 29% in our doctorate program. We didn’t change a single admission criterion, but we did recognize our own bias in the selection and ranking process. It was a painful two years for some of the faculty. They felt called out, but in reality, the change wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t recognize and own the bias and then act to implement change.

There will always be those that ask why they have to go to training when they aren’t racist, didn’t paint the rock, and have never taken part in offensive behavior. My answer is because our job isn’t just to teach or do research. It is to set the example of what it means to be a professional, a good citizen, and a person that can acknowledge their own bias and work to fix it. It is because they are young and they will identify with us. Whether we know it or not they see us.

Cultural competency training is needed and it needs to be ongoing at all universities. Many, if not most, nursing programs now have cultural competency and bias training is woven throughout the curriculum because we know the impact on health outcomes. The inclusion of cultural competency training for students beginning at orientation and global citizenship as part of our new curriculum will be beneficial for the community, the individual student, and for the patients for whom our students will provide care.

I don’t know what it feels like to always be in the minority or to have been the victim of racism. I’m all too familiar with sexism, but it frequently lacks the same level of hatred and hostility associated with racism, homophobia, and Islamaphobia though is likely equally harmful. The more people like me own our part in a culture that has allowed racism to exist the sooner all will feel welcome, safe, and respected.

I’m dedicated to a more diverse and welcoming campus. I’m also old enough to know that when we are silent about the evil that is racism, sexism, homophobia, or Islamaphobia we are complicit with that evil.


Labor Day

Labor Day honors the American labor movement which focused on a just society including social equality and good citizenship. We celebrate the contributions workers have made to the well-being of our country. Is there any better way to do that than to support the labor unions that helped create our prosperity? Among other things, we can thank unions for weekends, the end of child labor, and fairer and more equal wages.

I have never belonged to a union nor do I generally think they are necessary for professionals. However, there are times when we require assistance to use our skill for the benefit of others. For example, staffing minimums have a significant impact on the quality of care provided to patients. If nurses could negotiate evidence-based staffing ratios, they would. Progress has required the work of labor unions and professional organizations to push legislation making it a reality in sixteen states.

I am grateful for all labor unions have done in my life. My mother was a teamster, and my father was a member of the Atomic Trades Labor Council. I remember strikes and picket lines, but I also remember being firmly middle class, having good health insurance, and parents that worked 40 hour weeks. I support all those that belong to unions and look forward to a just society where they are no longer necessary for equality and a living wage.

If you hire a union worker, there is no doubt the works are paid a living wage. If you don’t then it is a good practice to ask what the workers are paid. If it isn’t a living wage keep looking.