Saturday, May 21, 2016

My report to the AFT Connecticut convention

After 21 years in an emergency room, transitioning to being a full time officer has been interesting, challenging, and rewarding. Our union and the labor movement in general face incredible challenges and attacks from so many directions.  I see my primary role as helping to position AFT Connecticut and our members to be best prepared to handle these challenges.  This has guided my work this past year.
To be a successful union means to have the ability to advocate for the people we serve, our families, our communities, and ourselves.  It means being the voice that says students, patients, and the public we serve must come before profits for the few at the top.  
If we do not take up this cry, who will?
To be positioned to be this voice will require us to be a professionally run organization, with long range strategic goals and plans, to be transparent and answerable to our members and good stewards of their dues, to be engaged and connected with AFT, other Labor unions, and our communities. Most importantly, we must have an engaged membership.
My role is to assist the President and other officers, the Executive Committee, Delegate Assembly, Divisional Councils, staff, and membership to be able to reach these goals.  My primary focus this year has been on healthcare, including the many hospital takeovers; but it has also been on organizing externally, internally, and community in all divisions; legislative actions and testimony; fostering co-operative relationships with AFT national, other Labor unions, and community groups; strategic planning; organizational restructuring, human resources, and budgets. However, we do not work in siloes. All the officers have worked on these issues as I have also worked on Teacher, PSRP, State Employees, Higher Education and Retiree issues.
Some of the decisions we have made this year have been painful and difficult. But the role of a leader is to listen to all parties and consider their position, work with Local leadership and the Executive Committee, and not be afraid to act.  I believe we have done that, and as painful as some of the decisions have been, I believe making them has been one of our accomplishments this year.  I believe we have been successful in organizing the Danbury Tech unit and preventing UPSUE raids because we have been strategic and made hard decisions. We have held strategic planning sessions with the full time officers, the staff, the Executive Committee, and with many of our Divisional Councils.  I believe we are in the process of making AFT Connecticut a more professional organization that operates in a transparent, strategic manor within the organizational model of Unionism because we have made hard decisions. 
We have balanced the needs and concerns of all our divisions and all of our partners in several difference coalitions, such as SEBAC, Hartford Rising, New Haven Rising, Thames River Rising, Due Justice, and others. We have strengthened our relationship with AFT and our Locals with an eye towards AFT/AFT Connecticut/Local partnerships built both on respect for local autonomy and national and state unity. 
We have begun to better engage our members.
We have door knocked and phone banked for workers in Danbury, held press conferences and forum in Windham and New London, picketed the Department of Labor, lobbied in Hartford and Washington, held rallies and parades, attended many award dinners, fundraisers, Local anniversaries, conventions, and meetings. We have strategic planned with some of the brightest national, regional, and local minds. I have had the pleasure of being part of our fall week-long public employee mobilization, attending an AFT national orientation with A&R, the PSRP PIC and the Healthcare PIC and presenting at the AFT Healthcare Organizing Conference and Healthcare PIC. I have come to know and appreciate in a deeper way all our members, be they educators, healthcare or public service and confirm what I have always believed, our similarities are greater than our differences.
The year ahead will present many challenges. The makeup of the Supreme Court will depend on national elections and our state employee contracts and funding will depend on state elections.  Conservative forces will continue their attack on workers, unionized and not.
The year ahead also presents opportunities to externally organize new members, to internally organize and more fully engage current members, and to continue and expand our coalitions with Labor and community.
Our strategic goals will not change, and although we will adjust swiftly to changes, we will not react to them.  If we stay true to our goals, our voice, our responsibilities, and our role, we will direct our destiny, not react to changes in the wind. 
We must be clear in our goals, to be the voice for our students, patients, and the public we serve.  We must be clear in our voice of advocacy for our communities, our families and ourselves. We must be clear in our responsibilities to our members for a transparent member led union based on membership engagement that remains fiscally responsible to them. We must be clear in our role of leadership in the greater labor movement, realizing that the Locals of AFT Connecticut, collectively, have a leadership role on the local, state, and national Labor stage.
It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve as your Executive Vice President and I look forward to the upcoming year, sobered by the challenges but excited by the possibilities.
Respectively submitted in solidarity,
John Brady
Executive Vice President



Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ubuntu

The world needs a little more "Ubuntu" said the keynote speaker, Pastor Marilyn Kendrix, at the 2016 Classic Awards Gala for the African-American Affairs Commission last night in Hartford.

Ubuntu is a word of southern Africa origin which, if I understand it, means roughly that "a person is a person only through other people," or "I am because We are."

It is the belief that our person-hood does not exist in a vacuum, it depends on other peoples' person-hood to be.
The opposite is individualism, the idea that we exist independent of others.

It is both ironic and sad that as she spoke in the Legislative Office Building, next door in the Capital, the legislature was voting in favor of a state budget that is anti-Ubuntu.

The Connecticut state budget will eliminate services for the most vulnerable in the state and will lay off up to 5,000 state employees, effecting them and they communities they live in as they decrease their spending at local businesses. It will cut aide to towns which will cause an increase in local taxes and/or a decrease in local services.

The middle class and the poor will suffer.

Meanwhile, bills that would penalize large multi-billion dollar companies for underpaying and under insuring their workers, and thereby costing the state through state subsidies (to provide food and insurance) failed to pass.  Bills that would have capped executive salaries (at half a million dollars/year) at not for profit hospitals, which are funded through taxpayer dollars, failed to pass.

This "new economic reality" is not new at all. It is a continuation of the anti-Ubuntu economic philosophy of "trickle down economics."

I'm not saying that if a person works hard, invests their own sweat and equity, and becomes successful while practicing ethical business practices, that they should not benefit from their success. I am saying that no one should reap the benefits that are obtained on the backs of others.

It is a matter of ethics; personal, business, and societal, and in this, we are failing.

Umbuntu





Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Backus Federation of Nurses 5th Anniversary

In nursing school we are taught that our most important role is to advocate for our patients.
Without that ability, one cannot truly be a nurse.
At Backus Hospital, we felt we were losing that ability, and as such, were losing our identity as nurses.

Five years ago today, we took that back.

On May 11, 2011, the Registered Nurses voted to form the Backus Federation of Nurses, AFT Local 5149.
It was not easy, nor was the fight to secure a fair contract that followed, but we were successful.
It would not have happened without the dedication to patients and each other of so many different people; nurses, organizers, community leaders, and others, both in and out of the Labor Movement.

I will resist the urge to thank them individually, as I know I would inevitably miss some people, but thank you to all.  You are and always will be, a part of Local 5149.

In Solidarity

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Thank you Teachers and Nurses

This week was National Teachers Appreciation Week.  It was also the start of National Nurses Week on Thursday.  I have always found it fitting that these two weeks overlap because I find the two roles so similar.

Teachers and other educators, Nurses and other healthcare workers, perform roles many of us could not, it takes a special kind of person.

Nobody gets into education or healthcare because they wish to become rich.  If they did, they would strive to be hedge fund managers.
They enter education or healthcare because their heart tells them to.  Maybe a teacher inspired them and they want to do the same, maybe a nurse comforted them or saved the life of someone they loved, and they want to do the same.  Whatever the reason, it comes from the heart, not the pocketbook.

They also face some of the same problems.  An underfunded education and healthcare system, monies that should go to their students and patients going to operators of charter schools and administrators of healthcare systems, and a lack of public respect.

Too often teachers are unjustly vilified.  They have dedicated themselves to making the lives of the next generation the best it can be, they should  be praised for this, not forced to administer tests that do nothing to truly evaluate their performance but rather diverts money that could be spent on classroom supplies to the pockets of the test maker companies.
Nurses continue to poll high on the favor-ability scale year after year, yet they face an incredible backlash when they try to gain workers rights so they can speak freely and advocate for their patients, and they face daily workplace violence issues that scars many of them emotionally or physically.

This week, across the country, including in New Britain, West Haven, and Danbury Connecticut, educators, students, and parents held "walk-ins, where they gathered outside of schools and all walked in together in a show of solidarity and a demand that public schools be fully funded.  It was yet another examples of our teachers dedication to their students and their vocation.

Last night I was honored to attend the New Britain Federation of Teachers 70th anniversary and this Wednesday I will attend the 5th anniversary celebration of the Backus Federation of Nurses.
Both events celebrate the dedication of the teachers and nurses of these two AFT Connecticut Locals, but they also celebrate the dedication of all educators and healthcare workers.

Thank you for all you do.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Work shouldn't hurt, Workers' Memorial Day

The bagpipes always get me,
and the bugle.
and the tolling of the bell.

April 28 is Workers' Memorial Day, the day we honor those who have died or been injured on the job or as a result of their work.
Workers hit by cars while repairing roads, police and military killed protecting us, firefighters while they rushed into buildings that the rest of us run from, workers like my brother in law Wayne who die from mesothelioma or asbestos from workplace exposure, teachers in first grade classes at Sandy Hook Elementary, nurses and other healthcare workers who face daily attacks while caring for others, and so many, many more.

As I stood in Bushnell Park in Hartford, waiting for the ceremony to begin, I knew the bagpipes and the bugle would get to me, they always do, They remind me of the sound of human crying.
As they rang the bell, over and over, once after each name was read, I asked myself the same question everyone else did....
Why?

When we spend resources, we make workplaces safer.
When we pass laws and regulations to make employers do the right thing, the safe thing, we make workplaces safer.
When we truly believe that every worker deserves to go home to their families at the end of their shift, we make workplaces safer.

But when we cave to the rhetoric that "times our tough' and that there is a "new economic reality" workers continue to be injured and die.

This is the richest country in the world.
Unemployment is at historical low rates.
Times are not "bad," times are good.

Our priorities are "bad."

We put profits before people.
We put "capitalism" and "free market" before people.
Corporations and the top !%  have, for the most part, no belief that they have an ethical responsibility towards mankind.

May 1 is International Workers' Day.
It is fitting it follows Workers' Memorial Day so quickly.
It is a day to realign our priorities, a day to examine our ethical responsibility and realize we are all in this together.
A day for workers to rededicate ourselves to the belief not in "a new economic reality" but in the belief that we are all sisters and brothers, in this together, with an ethical responsibility towards each other.