Kudos to BIU for out-of-the-box spirit
A few weeks ago, the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association penned a letter to the wider community — which to date has been supported by more than 150 of its members — urging all residents to get vaccinated, save for those persons who would be “medically ineligible”.
Recently a second stakeholder organisation, the Bermuda Industrial Union, has urged its few thousand members to seriously consider getting vaccinated. The message from the Bermuda Industrial Union executive board went on to encourage its membership to please stop listening to “social-media quacks”, but rather rely on advice from their family doctors.
The significance of this rallying cry is multifold; not the least being that a fair portion of the BIU membership is serving in roles among those sectors — those heroes — of our community that are most exposed to Covid in their normal employment.
In addition, there is the matter of the BIU legacy — this autumn marks the 75th anniversary of its formation — a history of promoting rights, even beyond employment matters.
And what is more fundamental than the right to life?
The BIU grew directly out of the Bermuda Workers Association, which had been formed during the summer of 1944. It is worth noting that two medical doctors played seminal roles in that beginning — a process that provided a renaissance for postwar Bermuda.
One of this pair — Eustace Cann — relatively unknown to present generations, served in the birthing process of the union. A Member of Parliament, representing Sandys, Dr Cann’s large practice was popular for the families of many workers at both the Dockyard and the U S Naval Base in Southampton.
Dr Cann championed social justice in an unjust society. He advised those pioneering activists who formed the Dockyard Workman’s Association in the late 1930s, and when workers took action at the US base, he provided the detailed advice that led to the formation of the BWA in June 1944. Dr Cann, also a champion of the Sandys Secondary School, turned down the invitation to serve as the president of the BWA — given his commitments — and subsequently E.F. Gordon agreed to take that key role.
It was Dr Gordon who served the labour movement for that first decade. The BIU’s formation in 1947 was a strategic response to the machinations of the local power elite. That period provided the vital foundation for decades of evolution — through much struggle — of the democratic society that we enjoy today.
Those two physicians were progressive socially and professionally. They solidly supported the science, having excelled at their reputable medical schools — Edinburgh University (Gordon) and Howard University (Cann).
In fact, Dr Cann’s son, John, took on the medical baton from his father, specialising in public health. John Cann eventually served for some 30 years as the Chief Medical Officer of Bermuda. A champion of the efficacy of vaccinations in protecting societies, the legacy of Dr Cann Jr includes the solid infrastructure that has served Bermuda well during this pandemic.
Both Eustace Cann and E.F. Gordon shared a spirit that provided our society with out-of-the box leadership. Dr Cann broke ranks with his fellow Black parliamentarians who were continuing to employ an all-or-nothing approach in campaigning for the right to vote when in April 1944, he moved out of that box and supported women’s suffrage in Parliament. That long-sought-after breakthrough came only weeks before workers at the US base approached Dr Cann for advice, resulting in the formation of the BWA.
Dr Gordon’s out-of-the-box leadership approach is easily accessible.
It is this spirit of leadership that is evident in the urgent message that the BIU executive has sent to its membership. It has recognised that extraordinary circumstances require responses that look at the big picture:
• We should all be working to keep Bermuda as safe as we can
That spirit reflects an awareness of the reality of the interconnectedness of society, including:
• The statement encouraged members to share the out-of-the box spirit. We need to keep each other safe by protecting not only our immediate family members but also our family in the workplace
This captures the out-of-the box spirit in the campaign promoting the global access to vaccines:
• “None of us are safe, unless all of us our safe”
In offering these kudos to the BIU, we share the hope that other stakeholders may be encouraged and be moved by that spirit.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda
Reference:History of the Bermuda Industrial Union (Ira Philip)