Saturday, October 17, 2020

Backus Nurses Tentative Agreement

 Congratulations Backus Nurses, to you all. The bargaining team, strike captains, staff, members for your engagement, political friends for your support, other unions and community groups who participated, our state federation AFT Connecticut and national federation AFT - American Federation of Teachers AFT Nurses & Health Professionals and anyone I might be forgetting on your 4 year tentative agreement. 

This is a historic contract after a historic campaign that was well planned and executed and had at its core the fact the Backus Nurses is an engaged, democratic union. Connecticut AFL-CIO #BackUsBackOurNurses

Monday, October 12, 2020

Striking for respect

 You will hear a lot of reasons why the Backus Nurses will be on strike Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Let me tell you the truth. 

After battling on the front line of this pandemic for over 8 months, after fighting for proper PPE, after working short staffed and mandated double shifts, after pausing negotiations for several months to fight this virus, these nurse heroes hoped Hartford HealthCare would finally show them the respect they deserve. 

That is why they agreed to meet yesterday. I attended as an observer. 

At 10:00 in the morning the nurses offered a full counter proposal on ALL outstanding issues. They had made significant movement on key issues in this offer. They indicated to the hospital that if it were ready to make movement a solution was possible. None of these issues were new. They had been on the table since June. 

After 5 hours of caucusing amongst themselves, management had answers on some non economic issues. They indicated they were working on the economic issues. 

After 4 hours of more caucusing, they returned to say they could delay increasing insurance premiums for one year but had no movement on wages, NONE. 

They indicated that they could not move at all on a counter offer they had been reviewing for 9 hours. 

The nurses offered to continue talking or pick up on Monday IF management could say they could offer a counter proposal. 

Management only repeated that they were standing on their offer of 11 days ago. 

So when nurses say they are striking for respect- they are. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Don’t call us heroes and treat us like zeros

 I attended negotiations at Backus Hospital on Thursday night. I watched as AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel spoke. She expressed her gratitude to all nurses and remembered what they had meant to her as they walked the journey of breast cancer treatment and recovery with her. 

She spoke to the hospital, demanding they respect the nurses and bargain in good faith, and that they come to a tentative agreement that night or face a 2 day strike that had the full backing of AFT and the greater Labor movement.

Then I watched as managements lawyer, Rick, spend a half hour blaming and disrespecting the nurses.

I have never seen such disrespect.

It really didn’t mater what offer came after that. 

Rick “blew up” negotiations.

I was furious, but now after a couple of days, I can see that as bad as this “presentation” was, it is what the nurses experience day in and day out from Backus Hospital.

They are told through the news that there is plenty of PPE and that staff have it 100% of the time, yet it is rationed to them and they must reuse it.

They contract Covid and then Hartford Hospital fights against them getting coverage under Worker’s Compensation, and when a outbreak occurs, they are blamed for “a breach in protocol.” 

They find out through coworkers, not the hospital, that a patient they took care of tested positive for Covid.

When they stand up for their patient’s safety, they are intimidated.

Nurses leave when another job is available, leaving those who stay to work short staffed and mandated double shifts.

The nurses seek a fair contract.

They seek pay equity with other area hospitals so that retention will be less of an problem. They seek insurance that is not continually eroding benefits, not a plan that management can change on a whim, without renegotiation (as the hospital has proposed). They seek a commitment to adequate PPE. They seek safe staffing, asking only that the hospital notify union leadership when they cannot maintain the staffing matrix (which the hospital decides and reports to the state DPH), so that together it can be discussed and solutions can be found.

They seek the respect that all Healthcare Professional seek and deserve.

The situation at Backus may be the extreme, but it is not isolated to Backus, to Hartford Healthcare, or to Connecticut hospitals. It is happening across the country and across the industry, in hospitals, skilled nursing homes, home care, and elsewhere.

The strike is not inevitable, but if it is to happen, Healthcare Professionals across the country will stand with the Backus Nurses. The Labor Movement and the Community will stand with them.

Don’t call us heroes and treat us like zeros.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Corona Virus Update 9/26 and Hartford Healthcare News

Yesterday, we passed 4500 Connecticut Covid deaths. 76 are hospitalized and 1.1% of tests were positive this week. 


Backus Hospital RNs have authorized a two day UHP strike. A final decision has not been made. They are at the table next Thursday night and we hope management will get serious. The nurses have done a good job preparing and they have the full support of AFT Connecticut and AFT national. 

Some of the outstanding issues are:

The hospital will not commit to maintaining an adaquate supply of PPE

The hospital wants to eliminate tier 3 on healthcare and they want the ability to change plans without further negotiations. 

Although they have given in on their insistence to eliminate steps in favor of a merit system (with no union input), The wage proposal on the table continues to leave salaries significantly behind market. 

In addition, management continues to insist in the press that nurses have had adequate PPE at all times. 

The nurses take these untrue statements as a form of disrespect. 

We still hope to avoid a strike but management has yet to show the good faith that is needed. 

Stay tuned.

In case you missed it, OSHA issued citations with financial penalties against Hartford Healthcare/Natchaug Hospital for Covid safety violations.

While in Windham, our community coalition to stop the closure of Labor & Delivery services continues to grow.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Corona Virus update 9/21 (How it spreads)

Healthcare Professionals, led by members of AFT and other unions, have been advocating for full PPE precautions, including the use of N95 or better respirators, when treating Covid 19 positive or suspected patients and for all people to wear masks in public.
We received push back on this, at one time told to remove masks in the hospital "because they would scare patients."
However, even facing discipline, these Healthcare Professionals did not back down.
We owe them a great thanks.

On Friday, the CDC updated their web site on how Covid 19 spreads, to include "droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes"
And, "COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes"

This is what we’ve been saying since the beginning. Not based on studies (which take time) but on experience at the bedside and on observation of the quick spread of the virus.

 It’s likely one of the reasons, along with asymptotic transmission, on why the virus spreads so quickly. It’s also likely why masks slow the spread and why outdoor ventilation helps decrease spread. 

When we wear a mask, it decreases droplets and aerosols we might discharge by talking, etc. It's why N95s are critical for healthcare professionals working with positive or suspected patients. They filter particles which have become airborne.  

Thank you to all the Healthcare Professionals who continued to push for safe practices, even when others tried to discourage you. You truly are heroes.

From the CDC site

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person, including between people who are physically near each other (within about 6 feet). People who are infected but do not show symptoms can spread the virus to others. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.

COVID-19 most commonly spreads

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes.
    • These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
    • Droplets can also land on surfaces and objects and be transferred by touch. A person may get COVID-19 by touching the surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
  • It is possible that COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.

COVID-19 spreads very easily from person to person

How easily a virus spreads from person to person can vary. Airborne viruses, including COVID-19, are among the most contagious and easily spread. Some viruses are highly contagious, like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. The virus that causes COVID-19 appears to spread more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious. In general, the more closely a person with COVID-19 interacts with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.