Friday, October 24, 2014

A nurse's view on teacher tenure

I must preface this blog by reminding you of two things.
First, I am an nurse, not a teacher.
Second, I am a Nurse's Union president in AFT, which represents, healthcare, education and public employees.
I remind you of this because I am not an expert on teacher's issues, although I am rapidly becoming more familiar and I stand in solidarity with our teachers.

That being said, the Times magazine is about to publish a cover that misrepresents teachers and teacher tenure.  I'm told that the articles inside show a more balanced story that looks at the motives of millionaires' attack on tenure and the potential profits from private vs public schools for certain individuals.
Sound like the for-profit movement in healthcare?
My concern is this.  How many will see the cover, but not the articles?

The bottom line is that students and patients should come before profits, and in both cases, it is important to look at motives.  No for-profit company buys a hospital,or takes over a school system, to lose money.

So, what is teacher tenure?
Fair question.

Non union workers in this country can be fired for any reason or no reason. You remind the new boss of the guy who cheated with his wife......see ya!
It's not right, but it's the way it is.
Now, do you want a nurse in that position?
Say the boss orders the nurse to cut corners on your care.
The nurse refuses.
What happens?
The nurse can be fired and sometimes is.  It's legal. It's crazy.
But, if that nurse has a union contract, they have "just cause".  The can only be fired for a "just cause."
Which nurse do you want caring for you?

Now, lets look at education.
The principal or superintendent is pressured by the school board to make sure the star athlete passes classes so that they are eligible to compete for the state championship, even though the student sleeps though class (when they show up), never studies or hands in assignments, and is failing.  The teacher, feeling this harms the student in the long run, refuses to go along. 
Teachers do not have "just cause" contracts. Instead, they have "tenure", by law, which for practical purposes, serves the same purpose.
It means, in our scenario, that the teacher could stand up for the student and what was right.

What about "bad" teachers you ask?

Each state law differs slightly.
Connecticut is typical.
In Connecticut, a teacher must serve 4 years probation, before having tenure.
So, they go through a rigorous hiring process, then the principal, superintendent, and school board have 4 years to observe them, during which time, they can decide not to bring them back for the following year, without explanation or proof of wrong doing.
4 years.
That's a long time to evaluate someone. 

After 4 years, the teacher has tenure, so they can't be fired, right?
The can be fired for “inefficiency or incompetence” based on evaluations, insubordination, moral misconduct, proved disability, elimination of the position where no other position is available, “other due and sufficient cause” or, ineffectiveness."
However, there is a process where the tenured teacher can defend themselves against allegations.  
Have their "day in court" if you will.
Sounds like something our country was built on, innocent until proven guilty.

That star athlete, does he end up winning the state championship and bragging the rest of his life about his "greatest achievement" or does he buckle down, study, go to college, and maybe really benefit mankind?

Nurses are motivated to care for patients.
Teachers are motivated to develop young minds.
Millionaires are motivated to become billionaires.

If you want to help: 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ellis Tech Visit

Thursday was a real good day.
I had the opportunity to tour Ellis Tech High in Danielson, CT with the officers of SVFT (the local which represents teachers at all the Connecticut Vo-Tech high schools), Jan Hochadel, Brian Bisson, and Ed Leavy, and meet with the teachers and students.
In a word, I was impressed.
I grew up in the Danielson area but attended the other public high school in town, Killingly.  I had friends at Ellis.  When I received my community college management degree, most of my classes were at Ellis because they hadn't built the collage campus yet. So in some ways it was like going home.
The school has been rebuilt and it is beautiful.
The first thing we did was have lunch, prepared and served by the students of the culinary class. When we arrived, they were serving 20 or 30 senior citizens from a local senior housing complex, who had come for lunch. The food and service was fantastic, the place immaculately clean.  The instructor came to sit with us and from time to time, one of the students would come near the table, wait patiently until he turned to them, and they would have a question.  Sometimes he would answer and they would be off, a couple of times he excused himself, went with them to the kitchen or the cash register, and instructed them.  It was so cool to watch and each and every time, they would call him "chef."
That respect from the students to the teachers was repeated in every interaction I witnessed.
After lunch, Brian and I toured the shops while Jan and Ed toured the academic classrooms.
Brian would ask about safety and filtration (he handles safety as VP of the local), and how the "climate" was in the building between teachers and administration and teachers and each other.
By the way, let me say how refreshing it was to see an administration respecting the union leadership.
We struggle with that at the hospital.
At the end of the school day and we all met up and attended a meeting with the teachers. Each officer took a turn relaying information, answering questions and hearing concerns. When they gave me a chance to address the teachers I told them how impressed I was in the pride the teachers had in their shops, in their work, and in the work their students and former students were doing.
It was a great opportunity for the president of an AFT healthcare local, and I am fairly certain it will not be my last. There is no substitute for face to face interactions, especially when you can have them in the place people work.
The more time I spend with the education members of my union, they more I believe that although there are differences between education, healthcare, and public employees, there is more similar than dissimilar.
We all instruct, we all counsel, we all look out for the physical and emotional needs of those we serve.
I'd like to thank Jan, Brian, Ed and the teachers and students of Ellis for letting me be part of their day.
After the visit, we headed for New London for a big Labor rally, the Governor's debate, and the after party.
The perfect way to end the day.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I am no Ebola expert.
I am an emergency room nurse and I am president of a 350 member RN union, and I am concerned, and I feel a responsibility to keep my nurses and my patients safe, to the extent I can.
That means working with the Hospital, the Department of Public Health, and my state and national federations to stay updated on all the news and to be a voice in the narrative.
My heart goes out to the people and families who have succumbed to this disease and their families and to the nurses and other healthcare workers who have become sick, potentially exposed, and/or frightened. Healthcare workers worldwide feel a kinship, similar to the kinship felt among unionists. The effected nurses and healthcare workers are my sisters and brothers.
I believe it is prudent for us to be concerned and do all we can do to stay safe, I do not believe hysteria helps us one bit.
Healthcare unions are pushing education to our members and the public. We are advocating for appropriate PPD (personal protective equipment) and protocols to keep patients, public and members, safe.
Healthcare workers do not face the same dangers on the job as say, police or fire.  But we do face physical aggression and in cases like this, viruses.
We want to serve our patients the best we can, and then return home safe to our families.
All workers deserve this.
I ask you to remain calm, to stay informed, and to use your voice to help us contain and eradicate this virus

Monday, October 13, 2014

With Dan you get Nancy

With just 21 days to go the political races are heating up and the race for Connecticut's governor is no exception.
The polls show it a dead heat and there is little love lost between the two candidates.
Presidents Clinton and Oboma visit the state this week to support Dan Malloy, there are two debates this week in New London, Tuesday for Joe Courtney and Thursday for Dan Malloy, and they are both preceded by rallies.
If I spent any more time in New London, I could vote there.
The newspapers are posting their endorsements and I thought, maybe I should do the same.

It will come as no surprise that I support Governor Dan Malloy for re-election.
He has taken a state government deficit and balanced the budget, he has reduced unemployment, he is fixing our bridges and roads, he is encouraging businesses to move into and remain in the state, he is investing in emerging technologies, and more.
He has shown his leadership at Sandy Hook and Super Storm Sandy.
He may be the only governor to be both pro-business and pro-labor, pro gun ownership and pro gun safety.
He understands that they are not opposites, that you can have profits without trampling people, you can own guns and protect children.
He understands that a living wage helps working families and the businesses they visit.

At the very same time that Scott Walker was dismantling the rights of working people in Wisconsin, this governor stood, spoke, and marched with Healthcare workers in Norwich and New London, he sat and negotiated with state workers (yes, he negotiated hard, but, he negotiated), and after a rocky start, he came to understand teachers and work with them on common sense testing reforms, naming one of them, AFT's Erin Benham, to the State Board of Education.

He supports project labor agreements, which promote good paying jobs done right the first time. His investments in infrastructure not only make our state roads and buildings safer, they have led to near full employment in the trades. He raised the minimum wage, supports paid sick days, organizing rights, and collective bargaining.
All this at a time when other governors were doing just the opposite.
While his opponent pines for a "Wisconsin Moment" he says,

When I spoke in favor of his endorsement at this June's Connecticut AFL-CIO Convention I spoke about how he had stood with us while others like Scott Walker stood against us and asked what message did we send to politicians if we failed to stand with him now?

I believe that question is still valid and I believe we all know the answer.

For all these reason and one more, I support Dan Malloy for governor.
The last reason?
With Dan you get Nancy Wyman.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Good news from New London!

There have been two days of good news coming out of our sister Locals in New London.


On Tuesday the RN and Home Health Aides at the Visiting Nurses of Southeastern CT (a subsidiary of L+M Hospital) came to a tentative agreement.  The HHAs recently voted to unionize and join RN Local 5119.

This tentative agreement is covers both RNs and HHAs.  For the 26 HHAs it is finally a chance to be covered by a union contract.

HHAs will get an increase in PTO, regular general wage increases, step increases based on years of experience, just cause protection, expanded workman's comp protection (so they will not lose their job is they are injured doing it), short term disability insurance, car insurance while on the job, company cellphones, decrease in insurance costs, and retirement plan.

These are huge victories to people who make as little as $15/hr taking care of our loved ones.

On Wednesday, the NLRB (the agency of the U.S. Government that regulates private sector workers), ruled in favor of the Union on the LMMG case.


The hospital had moved work out of the hospital to a Medical Office Building less than a mile away, and refused to let the workers follow the work, they fired and replaced them.

This is what led to the legal 4 day protest strike by Locals 5049 and 5051, followed by the 19 day lockout by the hospital last winter, which was deemed illegal and resulted in back pay to the workers of $1.2 million.


Not wanting to leave or forget  the displaced LMMG employees, the union sought to assist them on obtaining a voice on the job. To do this we petitioned the NLRB to organize them by either adding them to the existing L&M unions or claiming them as a separate union/unit.

The NLRB decided to direct an election by recognizing their ability to organize as a separate unit/union.

The Hospital sought to expand the number of workers who could vote by pulling in all the workers from all their outpatient clinics. This is a tactic often used to dilute the pro-union vote (called expanding the unit), and makes organizing more difficult.

The NLRB must determine what the appropriate unit is.


Wednesday, the NLRB found in favor of the Union.

The workers at the MOB will now get to vote to determine for themselves if they should join the union.


This battle has gone on for over two years.

The L+M Locals have stood together as an excellent example of solitary, with each other, the political community, the Labor community, and the community of Southeast Connecticut.


These are amazing wins for the individual workers effected, but they are also wins for all of us.

When we stand in solidarity, we are strong.

When we stand in solidarity, we can put patients, students, and the public, before profits.

When we stand in solidarity, management sees that it just might be better to work with, rather than against, us.

This is what AFT president Randi Weigarten means by "solution driven management".....

and, being a little bit bad-ass.

To these brave women from the VNA we all say congratulations on a hard won and well deserved contract

And to these women at the Howard Street building who are on the organizing committee we say good luck and know that if you stick together you really can make your own workplace a better place to work and receive care.  We are with you, we are one.