Friday, November 29, 2019

Thank you

Thank you members of AFT Connecticut for allowing me to do what I do.
Thank you teachers, PSRPs, and those in higher education for the dedication you have to future generations. 
Thank you public employees for the safety and services you provide us all, often without any recognition.
Please know that you are appreciated.

Also, please allow me a moment of personal privilege to address our sisters and brothers that are nurses and healthcare professions, especially those still laboring at the bedside.

While I was enjoying turkey and stuffing, many of you were at work.
True, I put in my years of doing it, but that only makes my gratitude to you deeper.

Recently, nurses and healthcare professionals were recognized for heroic work at a Gala at one of our hospitals.
This week came not one, but two articles, from two of our other hospitals, of heroic work by our Healthcare members to deliver a baby in the parking lot and to care for people with compassion in the ED.

But also came the story of yet another one of our nurses being viscously assaulted.

Nurses and healthcare professionals will go out of their way to stop and help a patient (even after they have clocked out) and consider it just a part of the job.
They will be threatened and assaulted daily and just consider it part of the job.
They will be late getting home to family on a regular basis because all hell is breaking out at work and they just can’t in good conscious leave, and consider it part of the job.

Unfortunately, almost daily our nurses and heath professionals are also berated and disciplined by managers for the smallest of things, like punching a time clock 1 minute late, like briefly speaking to each other at the nurses station about an upcoming union meeting, like standing up for themselves, their colleagues, and their patients.

This cannot be part of the job.

Your dedication and commitment to our profession and our patients comes from deep within. If they take that from us, they have taken everything.
We deserve, and we must demand, the respect we are owed. 
Mostly, we must demand it of ourselves.
As nurses, we often cite the Nightingale Pledge. Others in healthcare cite similar pledges or creeds.
In them, we pledge to do everything in our power to elevate our professions and to be dedicated to our work and the welfare of those in our care.

At the core of this, at the core of safe staffing levels, of safety in the workplace, of the freedom to care, is a moral code that demands that we demand respect.

It will not be given to us freely, experience teaches us this.
We must and we will take it. 
In solidarity and love I thank you for your dedication my sisters and brothers.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

HR 1309 Workplace Violence Protection for Healthcare and Social Service Workers passed US House!

Back when I was a kid, Saturday morning was a time to longe in our PJs and watch cartoons. Between cartoons was a thing called “Schoolhouse Rock,” which put educational lessons to video. One of them was a short video called “I’m just a bill.” Where a bill describes the process to become a law.
This week, in the United Staes House of.Representatives, HR 1309 Workplace Violence Protection for Healthcare Workers and Social Workers Act took a big step on that journey.
What started as an idea among healthcare and social service workers, based on the violence we face on the job daily, based on our co-workers and ourselves being victims of such violence, based on a lack of adequate response from employers and a lack of jurisdictional authority by OSHA, HR 1309 passed the House on a 250-159 vote!
What started as an idea from many sources, but particularly from AFT nurses and healthcare workers, was picked up and championed by my Congressman, Joe Courtney, of eastern Connecticut’s 2nd district. Our members were joined by AFT members from across the country, and by members of other unions and advocacy groups, who spoke to their congressmen and senators, who wrote, who testified, who visited them in DC and in their home districts, who helped them understand the importance of this legislation. Now, just like in School House Rock, our bill moves to the Senate, where Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin it’s championing S 851, it’s companion bill which awaits action. That bill has 29 cosponsors, including both of Connecticut’s Senators.
What can you do?
Check the list on the link of cosponsors. Check the list of who voted in favor in the House.
If your Senator is a cosponsor, thank them.
If not, ask them why not.
If your Representaitve voted in favor, thank them.
If not, ask them why not.
At a time when so much is partisan in DC, this bill received bipartisan support with 33 republican votes.
It took 7 years to get our bill this far (and its still just a Bill) but the work of Congressman Courtney and the advocacy of AFT members and others works!
This bill will establish mandatory training in deescalation and self protection techniques, worksite rules, physical barriers, etc that will make a difference in the lives of caregivers and patients.
The day of the House vote I contacted Joe Courtney’s office to thank them. I also sent them some information on a similar and growing  problem of violence in classrooms that we need to work on.
I told them, “I know, the work never ends.”
But Government works when we engage.
It worked this week.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Voice

As usual, it was an interesting week at AFT Connecticut.
Jan was in Chicago most of the week for the AFT State Presidents Conference, where she made not one, but three presentations to the group.

CT State Comptroller, Kevin Lembo was in the office for the AFT CT Retiree Division Council meeting. 
He is an incredibly intelligent man and yet, he can explain complex financial concepts in a way any layperson can understand. He also sees and can relay the “big picture,” how one decision in government affects all others.  Mostly, above all else, he cares about the state residents he serves, not some special interests. Because of his background as the State Healthcare Advocate, his knowledge of insurance and healthcare are both wide ranging and invaluable. 
The Retiree members peppered him with questions (they are a very engaged group of members and a valuable asset to us all) and he answered them all with clarity.
It’s always good to see Kevin, and an honor to have him in the building.

I sat in for Jan at a roundtable discussion for the Partnership Program. That’s the program where the Dailio Foundation has given $100,000,000 to the state, the state has matched this money, and they are seeking attritional donations to add up to a total of $300 million, which will be used in Connecticut Public Schools, specifically to help students who are at risk of not finishing their education.
The board of this newly formed foundation is having roundtable discussions to hear from community members and community groups, in order to develop a strategy to best address its mission.
Jan is a member of the Partnership board and we are lucky to have her voice at the table. Since she was out of state, she asked me to attend in her absence.
The discussion was far reaching and if I had to say what I thought was most important to me, it was to hear the experiences of those who live in communities where the worry to a student might be will they have a warm place to sleep and where their next meal is coming from. Under such conditions, it’s no wonder completing school and thereby finding a job that pays a living wage is difficult.
These are things that I cannot completely understand, because I have never had these worries. Sure, I’ve struggled to pay bills, but that’s a long way from being hungry and homeless.
That’s why its important to have roundtables like this one. We have to hear the voices to understand, and we have to understand if we want to make a difference.
It’s why its so important that Jan is on the Partnership board.
She brings the voice of our teachers, our PSRPs, and their students and student’s families to the table. 
Hearing all the voices and dealing with this in a holistic way that incorporates the issues of poverty, of race, of a need for teacher diversity, of all the issues, can guide the Partnership board and give it the best chance to make a positive difference.

I was also back at my home local this week, attending the Delegate meeting of the Backus Nurses. I’m proud of the work they are doing, let by Sheri and Jess, their president and VP. While I remain a full dues paying member, and a constitutional delegate, they, and Michelle who followed me as president, have taken the local to places I couldn’t have dreamed of when we started.  Yes, there are struggles every day, but the Backus Nurses are a voice, and we were not before we organized 8 years ago. 
It’s exciting to watch as a group becomes a voice of change and advocacy. 

That’s what the members of AFT are doing every day, being a voice for each other, for our patients, our students, and the public we serve.
That’s our mission in fact.

And that brings me to my last bit of news this week.
We received word from Congressman Joe Courtney’s office that H R 1309 is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives this coming week.
Yes, in spite of what you hear that the impeachment inquiry is preventing any “work” from getting done, progress is being made on many important issues.
H R 1309 is the Workplace Violence bill that would call for OSHA to develop a Standard on Workplace Violence in healthcare and social services.  Currently, there are voluntary guidelines which OSHA cannot enforce.
A Standard is enforceable. 
Such a Standard exists for other hazards in the workplace, such as chemicals and safety precautions.
In fact, today, if a nurse or other healthcare worker, or a social work, slips on a wet floor and falls, it must be reported and steps must be taken to prevent another accident, but if they are attacked and severely injured, no report, no training, no steps to prevent, no enforcement is possible.
H R 1309 would change this.
Representaitve Courtney has championed this in the House. 
AFT leadership has made it a priority.
AFT members are campaigning for it.
That is a voice for advocacy.
That is what a union is.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Montgomery and DC

It’s good to be back home, be with Michelle, and sleep in my own bed after 8 days on the road.

We went to Montgomery, Alabama last weekend for the AFT Civil, Human, and Women’s Rights Conference. Hope Coles, Shellye Davis, and Stephanie Johnson, and I joined members from around the country. Stephanie moderated a panel on Healthcare inequities as part of a task force she serve on.
We rallied for Justice on the steps of the capitol, the same place the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights marches ended.
We made two emotional visits to The Legacy Museum which traces history from slavery to mass incarceration and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice which honors more than 4400 African American men, women, and children who were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950.

Both visits were profoundly moving.

After Montgomery, it was on to DC for the AFT Planning and Policy Committee and meetings with the American Nurses Association on safe staffing and with my Congressman, Joe Courtney.
Joe has worked hard for the people of Connecticut and the nation. He has also championed workplace safety measures for healthcare and social workers.

Planning meetings are work, but work that needs to be done.
Advocating for safety at work, for safe levels of staffing, for equality in healthcare, for social justice, for the right to teach and the right to care, and for union leadership development takes planning, and supporting the work of our members is important, because our patients, our students and the public and community we serve need us to advocate.

My recent trips to the border and to Montgomery have reinforced this to me.

Saturday, October 5, 2019


My friend Angie Parkinson, is running for town council in East Hartford. The Connecticut AFL-CIO door knocked for her this morning.

l met Angie when we were both delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
I was a Hilary delegate and she was for Bernie.
As a delegate from a state, you spend the week together and I made a special effort to reach out to Angie because we are both AFT Connecticut members, Angie being a social science teacher with the Colchester Teachers.
Angie was disappointed when Bernie withdrew and I encouraged her to stay involved.

Angie now co-chairs the AFT CT Legislative Action Committee, is a champion for flipping DTCs to the left, serves on town committees, and will soon be a town councilwoman.
She brings energy, passion, and honesty to everything she does. She understands that this is HER town, HER state, HER nation, HER union, HER social movement.
I am proud to call her friend.