Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Say no to a "Wisconsin Moment"

Last July, Tom Foley stated he wanted Connecticut to have a "Wisconsin Moment."

What does that mean?

Since that time, Foley has tried to explain that he meant Connecticut should have an end to one party rule.
Maybe Foley doesn't keep up with the news, that would certainly explain how he was unaware of who State Senator Cathy Osten was, when he visited Sprague to tell Fusion Paperboard workers they had failed, and that is why their jobs were gone.  It would also explain why he didn't realize that Wisconsin doesn't have two party rule, Republicans hold the governorship and the legislature.

In fact, Republicans have controlled Wisconsin since 2010, and in 2011, under Scott Walker, they changed state law, enacting Act 10,  and made public employee unions illegal.
Public Employee unions in Wisconsin cannot collectively bargain for pensions, health insurance, safety, vacation, sick leave, or hours of work.

Americans have the right to join together, to go to their employer, and to bargain collectively as a group.
Apparently, public sector workers in Wisconsin are not Americans, because as a result of the "Wisconsin Moment" these rights have been taken away.

When current contracts run out, Wisconsin public employees are prohibited from bargaining on a new contract.
At the same time, Walker's "Wisconsin Moment" cut funding to towns.
Faced with a decrease in funding, local school boards were forced to cut public employee pay and benefits, including teacher's, and they were allowed to do so under Act 10 without negotiations.
Now teachers, faced with mortgages and school loans themselves, have been forced to sell houses and move to other states for work.

The result has been a loss of 15,00 jobs,and over $1 million in additional pay cuts to workers who kept their jobs.  These are not people who were investing in Wall Street, they were people who were investing in Main St.
The effect on Wisconsin's economy has been devastating.  When a public sector employee loses their job or faces a significant pay cut, they lack the money to spend that boosts the local economy.  Services to the public drop as less workers are left to handle the work, unemployment increases, teachers leave for other states, small businesses are adversely effected by the decrease in spending, and on and on.
It is the death spiral.

Contrast that to what has happened in Connecticut.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would state that Dan Malloy has rolled over and given teachers and public employees everything they wanted.  In fact, he is in danger of losing their support because he did just the opposite.
He has been a tough negotiator with public employees, gaining concessions from them.
He has pushed for teacher evaluation reform, inciting teachers with some of his remarks.

I see their frustration, I understand their anger.

He negotiated with public sector workers, he did not push for a "Wisconsin Moment" and has publicly affirmed the rights of both private and public sector workers to collectively bargain.
After a rocky start on teacher evaluation reforms, he has stepped back, taken another look, publicly apologized for his comments, sat to work with teachers for a more common sense approach, and even appointed a teacher to the State Board of Ed.

Connecticut's economy is rebounding, because Molley rejects a "Wisconsin Moment."
Our teachers are working, our public sector employees are working, our trade workers are rebuilding bridges, repaving roads, erecting new buildings, our hospitals and doctor's offices are busy with patients who did not have insurance in the past.

The chose is clear, we can go with Tom Foley and Scott Walker, we can have a "Wisconsin Moment", or we can move forward with Governor Dan Malloy, who rejects a "Wisconsin Moment" and who affirms the right to collective bargaining and all the benefits to society that come with it.

The choice is ours.

Monday, September 15, 2014


"As a leader, You are powerful!'

This is the first line of a reading I am doing in preparation for H3W, which as far as I can tell, is a Hartford Hospital version of HRO or high reliability organizations. Let me say from the start that I agree with the principle so HRO, it is in the implementation that I think it often fails.  We went through HRO at Backus but it is applied in piecemeal, applied where it is convenient for management and ignored where it is not.

I also believe that leaders can be powerful.

It is in the message of the first statement that I have an issue. To me it implies a sense of being in control, of being superior, of being the "boss".  In fact, "the boss" is powerful. The boss hold your economic security in his hands. But the boss is often not a leader.

Jesus, Gandhi, Chavez: they were leaders.
Hitler was powerful, but not a leader.

A leader's strength comes from the collective strength of those who willingly follow him/her.
A leaders strength comes from their willingness to lead by example, to serve rather than be served, to listen, to show respect.

Jesus, Gandhi, Chavez; did this.  They lived with those they led, they walked the walk.

I have heard this referred to as "the upside down pyramid".
In most organizations, the president or CEO is at the top, with vice presidents below them, and so on and so on.
In an organization with leader instead of a boss, the people are at the top, with vice presidents below them, and the leader at the bottom.
A part of that implies that the leader serves the masses, and that is true, but it is more than that.
In a traditional hierarchy, the power is held at the top.
In an upside down hierarchy, the power still resides at the top, it's just that the people are now at the top.
The leader's strength comes from the collective strength of those who willingly follow him/her.
Not from fear, or bullying, or power.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Let us never forget

I was at home when the first plan hit.
I watched in horror as the second plan hit.
Nearly 3000 people died that day, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, aunts, uncles.
Most of them were at work at the time.
415 firefighters, ems, and police died that day in service to others.
When they left for work, their families had every reason to believe all these people would return home.
Except, they didn't.

The protocol in our Trauma 2 level ER had recently changed.
No longer in a mass casualty were we to rush to the hospital.
Studies had shown that when that was done, all the staff was exhausted in less than a day.
Our new instructions were to stay home, stay by the phone, and try to rest.
Rest would not come easy.
Through TV, we were experiencing something most of us had never lived through.
Not since Pearl Harbor, had our country come under attack.

Our hospital is 115 miles from New York City.
I was sure we would get some of the casualties, or at least some of the diversions that would be needed as the big hospitals in southwest and central Connecticut became overwhelmed.
But the call never came.
The casualties never came.

Because very few survived.

Please don't ever complain to me about the state of your workplace, your community, your state or your nation, without also being willing to work to improve things.
People have given their lives, sometimes unexpected as on 9/11, sometimes knowing they were facing danger as in all our wars.  They gave their lives so that we could have the right to improve our work sites, our communities, our states, our nations, and our world.
I know it can seem overwhelming, I know it can be frustratingly slow, I know it can seem hopeless.
I also know that I must try.
I implore you to do the same, if not for yourself, then for those who have given their lives.

Let us never forget.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Door Knocking with Jamie

It was hot and humid this morning as we walked around that Norwich neighborhood, but it didn't bother me. You see, I had met a new union brother.
It was a Labor to Labor walk, visiting union households to get out the vote in November.
I was teamed up with Jamie Lamitie, a fellow AFT member.  He's an electrical teacher from Norwich Tech, and a member of SVFT.
Between houses, we shared stories about teaching and nursing, about kids and life.  I told him how we organized Backus and how I have been lucky enough to travel the country on union committees and conventions and such.  He's a building rep at Norwich Tech and I said I had recently become friends with his president and she offered to take me on tours of the schools some day.  He said I must come to Norwich Tech, to see "his" school and because they serve the best lunch, courtesy of the culinary class.

AFT represents Healthcare, Education, and public employees, a fact that Internet radio talk host Niicole Sandler found fascinating when she interviewed me this summer in Los Angeles.

I told her that AFT is healthcare, it's education, it's public service.
But it's all the same, we're all taking care of people in one way or the other. and for all of us, it's not so much a job, me taking care of a patient, or a teacher taking care of a student, it's a vocation.
And our issues, though different, are at the same time, similar.
Staffing levels and HCAHPS scores, class size and common core.

Jamie and I must have knocked on 50 doors.  Some were not home, some didn't want to talk, two took voter registration cards, and a couple wanted to make us coffee, Did we influence any votes?  Maybe a couple.  Were people appreciative that we took the time to visit?  I think so.  Did I get to meet and know another union brother? Definitely!
And when that happens, it's a good day.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day Message

All work has dignity and meaning.
All workers deserve respect.

Labor Day is set aside to honor these two beliefs.

I salute all workers,  and in particular, I salute organized Labor.
The workplace protections we now enjoy are the result of many men and women standing together in unity and standing up for themselves.

Labor Day is also a time to look at were we have come from and where we hope to go.

This past year we won a major victory at L+M Hospital.  Locals 5049, 5051, and 5123 showed us what solidarity means. They also showed us how to work with other locals, other unions, and the community to build on that solidarity.
In the end, "right" won, "justice" won, and "greed" lost.
I am particularly proud that young Local 5149, the nurses of Backus Hospital, still in our first contract, played a supporting role.  Through it, we matured as unionists.

I see great hope for the Labor movement.  I see my members finding and using their voice in growing numbers. I see non union workers standing up for their rights in Walmarts and fast food.  I see Healthcare unions willing to do what ever it takes to put patients first. I see workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere, mobilizing to fight back against the Scott Walkers of the world who wish to strip them of a voice. I see unions in Florida, and other right to work for less states enrolling members because workers see the benefit of standing together. I see Locals such as the teachers in New Haven and Meriden and the public employees of Connecticut, with the self confidence to work with employers when possible for the common good.

I see these things and I am excited about the future, anxious to be a part of it, ready to redouble our efforts.

This is why I said yes to that first phone call four years ago when a fellow nurse asked would I be willing to talk to a guy from a union.
I was tired and I felt hopeless.

I may be tired now, but it is a good tired.
I have a voice and I use it.
I can advocate for my patients and increasingly, for students and the public my union serves.
I have friends who feel the same way.

My sisters and brothers, enjoy your holiday if you are off.
If, like me, you are working, know that the work you do has meaning and makes a difference.
Rest if you can.
Tuesday begins a new year in the workers calender and we have much to do.
We will do it, we will be successful, because we will do it in solidarity.