Saturday, November 21, 2015

Organizing and Statigic Plans

I returned late last night from 4 days in Las Vegas at the AFT/NHP Organizing Conference.  It was both tiring and rewarding.
It's good to be home.
There were approximately 50 organizers from around the country and it was an opportunity to learn techniques others have tried and to improve our skills, to catch up with friends and meet new ones.
Some of the participants are incredibly skilled and gifted, some are organizing directors of their state federations, some were relative newcomers, and a handful elected leaders, or as I call us, "amateur organizers."
We heard stories of organizing campaigns and learned and practiced skills, such as writing a campaign plan.
Members deserve to have skilled people working for them, developing strategic plans, and making smart investments of time and resources.
That was what this conference was about.

Organizing is not just an activity we undertake to bring members into our union.  It is what we do to increase internal unity, to prepare for contract negotiations, to pass new legislation, to find, recruit, train, and elect union members to public office and union leadership.

More than an "activity," it is a philosophy that needs to guide our every action, because our strength is in our numbers and the more members and community involved, the  stronger we all become.

To be successful, we must adopt this organizational philosophy, we must have a well thought out strategic plan, and we must execute that plan. Our members deserve that and it is incumbent on elected leaders to guide this.
These are the things we practiced at the conference.
These are the things we at AFT Connecticut are committed to practice.

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and while that may be true of the "team building" that occurred on our downtime, it will not be true of what we learned and practiced in the conference.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Guardian Angels

I will be in Las Vegas this week at the AFT/NHP Organizing Conference.
Ole and I have been asked to tell the Backus organizing story as a small part of this conference.
This has caused me to look back and reminisce.
What we did was pretty remarkable.
370 nurses with little or no union experience came together and stood up to an administration willing to break the law and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to stop us.
We did it because we had lost the thing that is most important to a nurse or any healthcare worker, the ability to advocate for our patients without fear of reprisal.
As I read through old emails and posts, I recalled the courage of individual nurses and how we helped each other became stronger and stronger.

But we would have been nowhere without the professional organizers who we worked with.
They showed us how to gain a voice.

More than just tell the story of Backus to the organizers in Las Vegas, I would like to find a way to convey to them what an organizer means to a worker.
To be successful, a worker and their organizer must trust each other and when that happens, a bond is created.

The book of Daniel says, "And those bringing many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever."
Organizers bring many to righteousness.
If Healthcare workers are "angels" as some people claim, then organizers are our "guardian angels."


Friday, November 13, 2015

Open letter to my sisters and brothers of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals

My sisters and brothers of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals,

In June I posted a letter to you on an upcoming vote to unionize.
In it I spoke of how for perhaps the first time in your working life you would get to have a say in your conditions of employment.
I told you that I had lived though a similar situation at Backus Hospital in Norwich 4 years ago, when nurses stood together and advocated for ourselves, our families and our patients and formed Local 5149.
In June I spent time with you visiting and talking about my experience.

It is your right to decide for yourself whether to form a union or not.  The hospital has a legal obligation NOT TO INTERFERE or influence your decision.

Because the hospital violated the law last spring by hiring known convicted criminals to walk through patient care areas and tell you lies about the evils of unions and how the hospital would change its ways and start to "take care of you" if you voted against unionizing, the federal government ruled after a trail that the hospital had violated this law and has ordered a new election.

That vote will be December 11.

My hope is that the hospital will allow you to decide for yourself.
They may call you together and explain why they think it is a bad idea.  These are called "captive audience" meetings.  These meetings violate the spirit of the law.
More than that, they violate your dignity.
The hospital has made it abundantly clear they do not favor you gaining the same rights that your nurses have had for 35 years.  Further meeting are not "informative," they are meant to intimidate.

I do urge you to become informed.  Talk to one of the activists in your area, come to a meeting at the union office, take a call from an organizer or coworker. 
Ask questions, get answers.

On December 11 YOU get to decide. Be informed.
Only one person will know how you vote on December
That is the way a democracy works.

You have a right to a voice, I urge you to take it.

In solidarity,

John Brady RN
Executive Vice President
AFT Connecticut 
Organizing Committee Member, Backus Federation of Nurses

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Enough is enough, we demand respect

I have been spending a lot of time recently in the Danbury and New Milford Connecticut area.
The reason I make the 4 hour round trip is because I have been there before.
I don't mean physically, although that is also true, I mean I have been where these workers have been.
I have struggled to stand up with my coworkers. It is not easy.

1100 dedicated caregivers are standing up for themselves, their families, their community and their patients. These are techs, therapists, and other healthcare workers, the Respirtory Theripists, Occupational Theripists, Physical Theripists, CNAs, and so many more. Almost all of the caregivers other than the RNs who have been unionized for over 30 years.

The reaction?

The community is standing with them.

Nearly 150 community members stood with them last weekend at a candle light vigil for healthcare, including neighbors, clergy, legislators, and union sisters and brothers.
State representatives Arconti and Godfrey and U S Senator Blumenthal stood with them. Senator Murthy could not be there but called and pledged his support.
Members of CHCA, the union of workers at the other WCHN network hospital, Newington, joined us.  
They understand.
They are facing some of the same difficulties with the same employer.
They came to show solidarity.

The hospital is showing disrespect.

They have broken the law several times.  
The federal government has ordered a new election for the Healthcare Workers. The hospital is dragging their feet with legal maneuvers because they know that they cannot win without breaking the law.
The federal government has also charged the hospital with breaking the law yet AGAIN!
The trial for that will be in January.

The hospital is also showing disrespect towards the LPN/Tech/ Theripists at the nenotiation table. They will not agree to the most basic contract language. Not even non economic language that has been in the RN contract for 30 years and has never been a burden to the hospital.

The reason is clear- the hospital wants to break the LPN/Tech/ Theripists group. 
One year after voting to stand together, the hospital will not show them enough respect to at least recognize their wishes.

All these 1100 workers are strong.
They have been patient. They have been respectful. All they want is to work in an atmosphere where they are respected for the wonderful caregiving they are famous for.
The hospital have shown disrespect. 

These workers will not waiver.
The rest of the 30,000 members of AFT Connectict, the 1.6 million members of AFT, the 28 million members of the AFL-CIO, the community and the legislators will stand with them.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What has happened to our community hospitals?

It takes a lot for a group of hospital employees to stand together in unity and form a union. 
It is not in their nature.
They are people who give of themselves to others every day and they so very much want to believe that others feel the same.
Especially, the hospital they work for.

However, when they believe that the hospital no longer shares their viewpoint, when they believe that the hospital cares more about lining the pockets of the few at the top than caring for the patients in the beds, then there is no group with more conviction, more courage, and more solidarity than these same workers.

This is the situation today in the Western Connecticut Health Network, the corporation that owns Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and hospitals.

In the past year, 3 groups of workers have decided to stand together and form unions because they could no longer stand by and watch their community hospitals forgetting to put Patients Before Profits.
One year ago, LPNs, Techs and Therapists at Danbury and New Milford voted to affiliate with AFT.
This past June Health Care Workers at Danbury and New Milford voted.
This past week, Health Care Workers at Norwalk Hospital filed for a vote with CHCA, a sister healthcare union affiliated with ASCME.

The result?
The Network is dragging their feet in negotiations with the LPNs, Techs, and Therapists, not even agreeing with language that has served well for 35 years in the contract between the hospitals and the Registered Nurses.  It is clearly an attempt to discourage the workers and break their union.
It will not work.
The Danbury/New Milford Healthcare Workers lost their vote in June by a very narrow margin in an election with so many labor law violations that the U S Government took the Network to trial, overturned the vote, and ordered a new election. That vote will be soon, the workers await a date, expected to be in early December.

This week, the NLRB, the branch of the U S Government charged with enforcing labor laws enacted by the U S Congress and signed into law by presidents, both Democrat and Republican, after a thorough investigation, has found evidence that Danbury CEO Dan DeBarba and the union busting consultants he hired, violated the law again!
Specifically, they are charged with "interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights."

The trial with be January 26, 2016 at 10:00 am in Hartford.

I want you to understand something.
This is not the workers, or AFT, or "the union' suing the Hospital Network or Dan DeBarba.
It is the United States Government putting them on trial for violating the law.

What has happened to our community hospitals?

Danbury Rising, a coalition of faith and community groups, workers, and legislators,  will stand together tonight in Danbury at 5:00 pm at Broadview Middle School for a short Candlelight Vigil to remind the Health Network  that they exist for the patients, not the other way around.

Please join us.