Saturday, October 3, 2015

We hold the board ultimately responsible

Imagine you're a Respiratory Therapist and you just finished a 12 hour shift.
You have to drive home take care of a few things then you hit your bed.
Now, imagine you repeat that the next day
and the next day
and the next day.
Now imagine that on one of those days you are "in charge" of your department because "charge" is rotated among your small department, and that day, someone on the incoming shift is sick or delayed and you have to stay late.
Your 12 hour shift becomes 16.

52 hours in 4 days.
Imagine making life and death decisions for your patients with that fatigue.
Imagine driving home on day 4.

Well, at least the paycheck would be good with all that OT you might reason.
What if the four days where Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday; meaning they fell into 2 different weeks, keeping you under 40 hours/week and making it all straight time.

Unfortunately, this happens at Danbury Hospital.
Unfortunately, management refuses to discuss it in nearly 10 months of negotiations with their LPN/Techs and Therapists.
This is just one example of the unreasonable stand management of WCHN, the network owning the hospital is taking.
They will not negotiate in good faith, even on non economic issues, even on issues they have negotiated with their RNs long ago and reached agreements that have worked well for years and years.

In addition, while all this is going on (or not going on) in the LPN/Tech and Therapist negations, management was found to have violated the law by not allowing their Healthcare workers (CNA, housekeepers, kitchen, etc.) to have a free and open election on whether they wanted to form their own union.
The illegal activity was deemed to be so egregious that the federal government has ordered a new election.

In situations like this, workers are forced to take their concerns above the CEO, to the board of directors.

But how does one do that?
It's not like the Healthcare workers are playing golf with the board.
It's not like the therapists are invited sailing.

The workers have to go to where the board members are and plead their case.

That happened this morning.
Our national president Randi Weingarten, our divisional VP for Paraprofessionals Shellye Davis, and several other members who are at the AFT Racial Equity Conference in New Orleans, visited a WCHN board member, Spencer Houldin, who was at an Insurance Association Conference and presented the concerns of the Danbury workers.
You can read more here:
They told him that he and his fellow board members are ultimately responsible for the actions of the CEO and upper management.  We will not let them shirk that responsibility.
You can help.
Follow this link and sign the petition to the board of directors. Hold them accountable.
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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Francis whispers in America

I had wanted to blog about the Pope while he was here in America.
I admire him much for his teachings, Love, Peace, Respect, Forgiveness, Sharing.
I struggled with how to put all that into words.

Then I read his message given from the City of Brotherly Love, from the steps of Independence Hall where the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed, standing at the very podium that Abraham Lincoln used while he delivered his Gettysburg Address.

I realized he had not only written my blog, he had spoken to me.
Please listen to the words.

"We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every form of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new American. This shows that when a country is determined to remain true to founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed."

We remember these struggles and we know that they are not over.
Racism, hated and greed remain with us, so much so that we can become frustrated as to whether we can make a difference.
But we can.
We must.

We need not be a leader of the movement to make a difference. Behind each person on the front line are tens and hundreds who are whispering "courage."
Maybe you whisper "courage" by attending a rally or a march, maybe you sign a petition, maybe you stand up in the workplace against mistreatment, maybe you walk away when someone makes a prejudicial comment or joke, instead of laughing.

Whatever you can do,
do it.
It makes a difference because many whispers together become a loud chorus.

Friday, September 25, 2015

FACTS, not fiction

In today's issue of "Hospitell," the Backus/Windham Hospital newsletter, CEO David Whitehead writes an article titled "Facts or fiction."
David states there has been a lot of misinformation about the closing of services at Windham Hospital and that we should look at the facts.
I couldn't agree more.

He notes that Windham Hospital has lost money over the last 5 years.
While this is true, he fails to mention that 6 years ago, the year before Windham was taken over by Hartford Hospital, it posted a small profit, as it had done for years before that and that Hartford Healthcare, the parent company, continues to post a profit.

He refutes what State Senator Mae Flexer said, "We cannot stand by and allow Hartford Healthcare to turn our hospital into a glorified emergency room," by listing the services that will continue to be provided.
What he fails to mention is that the Critical Care Unit will be closed.

He refutes what State Senator Cathy Osten said, "This is as close to closure of a hospital as you can get and still keep the doors open," by saying a hospital that loses millions needs to transform.
While I agree that transformation is needed, the ability to care for Critical patients is essential to the functioning of a hospital.  It is hard to predict when a Critical patient will roll though the doors or a stable patient will turn Critical.

He states that OCHA determined that Certificate of Need public hearings are not needed and while this is true, it is based on an affidavit that the hospital filed saying that services would not change.

Much has been made in the last few days of excessive hospital CEO compensation and recent Medicaid cuts and while these are issues worth deep discussion, the bottom line is and always should be this:
Will patients care and the community be adversely effected by a change of services at the hospital?

That is what matters and that is what the Office of Healthcare Access must decide.
Based on FACTS, not fiction.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I have followed the deaths of mostly young black men.
I know people of color and people of poverty are disproportionality represented in our prisons, and disproportionality effected by a poor economy and budget cuts.
I try to understand and work on solutions.
But I wonder if I can really help.

I am not unique.
I am a 60 year old white man who grew up with little exposure to people of color.
I was raised during the civil rights movement and taught that all men and women are my brother and sister, regardless of race or religion.
I live by that principle.
I now have several friends of color, I have friends of different religions, I have gay friends, and like all my friends, I am closer to some than others, but our differences do not define that closeness.
As Dr. King had dreamed, we judge each our by the content of our character.

One of my closest friends shared something with me not too long ago.  She shared that if she met me in a particular town near us after dark, that she would be pulled over by the police because of the darkness of her skin.
I was horrified.
Although I believed her sincerity, I could not comprehend what that was like and I was upset that my close friend would be treated that way.
I could not comprehend because I cannot walk in her shoes.

This week I attended a symposium that promoted Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
One of the topics discussed was the difficulty of recruiting and retaining young black teachers, especially males, into Connecticut.
It was pointed out that their are few role models for students of color standing at the front of the classroom.
We have examples for young people of color in sports and entertainment, but how many grow up seeing that in teaching or nursing?
How can we expect them to consider these professions if they are not seen as possibilities?
And so the cycle continues.
It's bad enough that teachers and nurses of any color are disrespected on a regular basis.
It's also a problem that within education and healthcare, teachers and registered nurses do not always show the respect they should to the paraprofessionals, the LPNs, the Techs, and the other healthcare workers.

I had never seen these issues as prejudice, but they are.

So what can we do?

Cesar Chavez said "If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him... the people who give you their food give you their heart."

I think that's were we start.
Those of us who are not of color and those of us who are of color cannot fully understand what it is to walk in each other shoes.  We may love our bothers and sisters without reservation, but that is not enough.
We must strive to understand them as best we can.
We must take the opportunities to come to know each other.
Maybe then, the issues that may be a result more of an unconscious prejudice than a conscious one, will begin to be solved.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A new day in Danbury/New Milford

The following article was written by Matt O'Connor, Communications Coordinator of AFT Connecticut.  It deals with a ruling from the Federal Government that Danbury/New Milford Hospital violated workers rights and broke the law.  This has not deterred the workers as they have banded together and forced a new vote. They are courageous and strong and the 30,000 AFT Connecticut members who serve in healthcare, education and public service, and our 1.6 million members nation wide, stand in solidarity with them.
Injury to one is injury to all!
Danbury - Healthcare professionals at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals are reacting to the recommendation yesterday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to invalidate the results of their June 19 union election. In her report, Hearing Officer Jo Anne Howlett cites evidence to sustain charges of unlawful interference with employees' free choice by management of the non-profit network that operates both facilities. The report is based on testimony provided in July by impacted workers who recounted illegal, anti-union conduct by managers and outside consultants retained by the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN).
IB Image"This is vindication for all who spoke out in the weeks leading up to the vote," said Elizabeth Duarte-White, a certified nursing assistant (CNA). "This recommendation means that our employer can't get away with harassment and discrimination. More importantly, it's an opportunity for us as caregivers to take charge of our future," said Duarte, who has 17 years of experience at Danbury Hospital.
Duarte-White's comments refer to attempts by WCHN to subvert the lawful activity of an organizing committee representing approximately 800 nursing assistants, service, maintenance, and environmental workers at both hospitals. Network management in June acknowledged the criminal records of outside consultants retained to conduct a "union-busting" campaign in comments to The News-Times of Danbury. A majority for the union was not established in the election held two days later, the results of which the federal government is now recommending be set aside.
"The issues that brought us together in the first place remain," said Jessica Ellul, a patient care tech unit coordinator Danbury hospital. "We're looking forward to voting union 'YES' in a new election. That's how we make the improvements that are long overdue -- and hold the network accountable to putting patients before profits," said Ellul, who has 10 years of experience at the acute care facility.
Ellul's comments refer to the NLRB hearing officer's recommendation that a new union election be held for the healthcare workers whose legal rights were suppressed by management's conduct. An organizing committee of employees in late-May at a 'town hall'-style meeting at Danbury Hospital announced their intent to form a union within AFT Connecticut. The labor federation represents the registered nurses (RNs), medical technicians, clinicians and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) at both acute care facilities.
"This recommendation is an indictment not just of this employer, but any employer who engages in this kind of conduct," said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. "It proves that there are serious consequences -- not just paying a fine or posting a notice in the break room -- for interfering with employees' free choice in deciding their future," said Hochadel.
The June election was the first in Connecticut under new regulations governing union elections adopted late last year by the federal labor board and upheld in March by President Barack Obama. When the NLRB responded to AFT Connecticut's May 28 petition to schedule a vote without delay, WCHN management quickly mounted an aggressive and unlawful campaign to taint the results.
AFT Connecticut, the largest union of acute care health professionals in the state, represents approximately 725 RNs and 260 technicians, clinicians and LPNs at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals. For more information, visit or follow the labor federation on Twitter at @AFTCT and on Facebook at