Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

To our efforts in educating our communities, I speak to you from my house and from my heart as this day of hard earned respite, this day dedicated to generosity and giving has provided the necessary leisure that permits contemplation. I reach out to you in the spirit of acknowledgement of the hard work you put in everyday. I speak to you in the spirit of fraternity and kinship with all teachers, builders, and makers because together we have created every single thing that makes up our society. Finally, I speak to you in the spirit of admiration for your passion and caring for teaching and learning and the progress of our communities.

I hope the day finds you in a fine mood surrounded by people who care about you and what you do. Many of them admire you for your knowledge, awareness and refined understanding, but some also truly appreciate your dedication to our profession and our common humanity. As they should! But I’m willing to bet that at least some of them don’t know that you work without health insurance, without sick days, without the basic promise of employment from semester to semester and with wages so inadequate that is difficult to function as full participants in our society.

It is difficult to be in a celebratory spirit when, in addition to our own uncertainty, we recall the ongoing unresolved predicaments of our nation and community; unending orchestrated attempts to make us fear and hate each other. Our children returning home because they have trouble supporting themselves. Our children’s (and our own) student loans coming due, and taxes and fees that just keep increasing, and the realization that working until you die may be the only viable retirement plan left to us.

Today, my thoughts are also on our students who have been systematically disenfranchised from their humanity. Humans crave learning; it is essential to who we are, and yet in our City of Chicago, like many other urban and rural areas of our nation, our students and our communities have been traumatized and cauterized: relegated to the labor reserve, their bodies and spirits commoditized and alienated from that essential drive to learn and create. They have no real access to learning institutions and face a foreclosed future of second rate citizenship. What are we to do with a city leadership that prides itself in closing schools, and with the governor who has reneged on his most basic responsibilities and believes that we are, at best, hired hands, organized only by the whims of capital?

Yet my spirits are invigorated when I recall how many times I have witnessed you, my Brothers and Sisters, throw caution to the wind, place personal advancement on the second burner and do the right thing for each other and our students. We are then at our best, and at that moment we recapture the essential ingredient of our teaching profession – dignity through a simple truth that we are all human and that competing in the great ‘rat race’ demeans us to vermin.

On days like this, I like to think that what keeps us linked is not the extravagance of technology, but the union of our collective hearts and our collective struggles. Thank you for your bountiful giving.

Happy Holidays to you and yours,

George Roumbanis
AFSCME 3506 President