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Grace and compassion

Today’s union members may wonder what happened in a world that has turned against them.

No, you say? Well this Union is engaged in fights in places like Grand Rapids, MI, where the billionaire-run “Duchy” is trying to pry a meager retirement allowance out of the hands of its members. So, as a new mayor is sworn in this New Year, our members will be fighting to simply to hold on to the $1,200 a month pension they were promised after 30 years of service.

All across North America we are a Union in struggle. In New York, our school bus workers are still not whole after two years of a new mayor who promises to work to rebuild workers’ salaries.


We face heartless well off people everywhere. Those of us who fight for decent wages today are just not popular.

My ancestors were not popular either. They escaped a famine in Ireland, a country suffering under the oppressive yoke of British rule. Under British Law (the Sharia Law of the day), they could not vote, could not serve on a jury, could not speak their own language in their homes, could not attend college or marry a Protestant. All because they were Catholics.

Stubborn to the core, Irish Catholics clung to their faith at least in part as an expression of the human will to not be ruled by others and to rebel against mistreatment and oppression. And, yes, some of them resorted to what today would be called terrorism.

No fair analysis, however, would conclude that they were the aggressors. This was all done in Ireland where the British were, as in so many other countries, foreign invaders.

They shot back

They never shot first. They shot back though, always trying to drive the invaders out of their land. They were not all terrorists, but they were all suspects.

When they came here, like the Italians, the Jews, the Germans and many others they faced slurs, attacks, and rejection. At job sites they were told that “No Irish Need Apply.” Their churches were burned, here in the land of the free.

Well, here in America today we are not the only ones who are unpopular. Listening to at least one presidential candidate, it might look like the clear path to popularity lies in degrading and attacking the next wave of poor, hopeless people to arrive here.

Oh, look they have their own religion - that makes it easy, and, yes, they come from a land like Ireland where people shot back and have engaged in very inhumane acts of terror. So, it’s not “politically correct” to throw our arms open to them, not even to the helpless hungry children among them.

Trudeau – a global symbol of Canada’s compassion

But through the noise and smoke comes Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau embracing the refugees, even as many around the world turn against them, calling upon his nation to rise and welcome these victims. He became a global symbol of Canada’s compassion.

I want (and I know this will not be popular) to salute the Canadians who set aside politics and more importantly, fear to connect with their humanity.

All across Canada people are making homes for these victims. Canadian ATU Locals are partnering to provide free transit while the refugees assimilate. This is exactly what the world needs – love and compassion – not more hatred and killing.

Many of us will hear that in our churches, mosques and temples this month. But will we have the grace and compassion to turn toward those people who so many around the world have turned against?

If we are true to our values we will.