Yesterday, thousands and thousands of nurses marched on Daley Center during the first day of the NATO conferences. They walked from the Sheraton on Upper Wacker to Dearborn and Randolph. It was all very peaceful.
Their throwing in with the Occupy movement was pretty seamless and made for a powerful conversation. The police were very present as were other security types dressed as Streets and San guys with ear-pieces. They weren’t fooling anyone –nor do I think they meant to.
The nurses are not marching for more money for themselves. They are asking Wall Street to pay an equitable share toward the ailing health-care system. In short, they’re doing it for us. What they ask is that about a penny per trade be set aside for healthcare. What they are asking for is nominal…very small. Over the course of a year, these guys will spend more money on Tic-Tacs.
The impressive thing about this march was the sheer numbers involved. I talked to nurses from Detroit, Massachusetts, Los Angeles Georgia and Mississippi and many, many others. They all came here, on their own dime, to ask us to better help ourselves. Their first target was the G8 summit, but what the hell, NATO promised every world leader you could imagine. What better audience?
What surprised me was the myriad of other causes that showed up to make their presence felt–everyone from letter carriers to firefighters, all talking to people about their disappearing pensions and the pressure being brought to bear upon their union leadership. A great many working people feel like their jobs are descending into the status of “serfdom,” particularly here in Chicago. The few cops who would talk to me off the record, see the embattled unions around them–and they’re not stupid–they know eventually the little man with the shiny shoes is coming for them.
My guess, the teacher’s union breaks. Between the sucker bet of vouchers and being a very EASY union to denigrate…They’re toast.
It will come, of course, after a long destructive strike which will benefit nobody except Emanuel. He will have succeeded in bamboozling the public into thinking the problems with education, and the city’s ills in general, are those “greedy” teachers. Then it will be the “greedy” firemen, the “greedy” cops. Get the picture?
One of the cornerstones of democracy is for people to be able to bargain collectively to better their lot in the workplace. The conversation in Daley Plaza yesterday is one well worth having. We must ask ourselves, “Who do we want to be in the world?”
What is equitable compensation for what we do? And how do we protect it?”
Why now, is “pension reform” on the table for working people, though not for politicians?”
King Richard made sure a sweetheart deal was cut 20 years ago that guarantees our alderman an embarrassing amount of money–in perpetuity–for spending their career fucking up the city of Chicago.
Let’s see if I have this right: teachers have no right to job security or a living wage, but retiring aldermen do?
As I walked around yesterday, I saw the people I’ve known my whole life…people who wake up in the morning grab a cup of coffee and go to work. People like both of my parents. I also have two sisters I am endlessly proud of who are nurses. In my own life I’ve been close enough to death a couple of times that only the vigilance of medical professionals saved my ass.
I watched hospice nurses, men and women, ease my father’s suffering and provide the humane and kind palliative everyone should have at the finish line.
Whatever they pay nurses…? It isn’t enough.
I also saw some of the Occupy kids with the bandanas over their faces, goading cops who were too smart to take the bait. It was a useless bit of agitprop theater that hurts the otherwise necessary Occupy Movement. Really. Take the scarves off your faces–you look like assholes and you’re hurting a viable movement.
When I think about all of the stuff we waste money on in this country and this city; all of the horseshit P.R. and empty boosterism–and we don’t want to pay educators or help medical professionals, (in many cases first responders) do their jobs?
The conversation around Daley Plaza was one that would have interested Old Man Daley. He was elected six times by unions. I imagine he’d have had something to say about the current administration throwing labor under the bus. It certainly got me thinking about who really matters in a city.
Teachers and Nurses? Absolutely. Try having a civilization without healers and educators.
And the next time Mr. Mayor starts running his head, telling you how expensive Education is?
Tell him if he thinks education is costly, try ignorance.