Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I am not a captive

I testified today in Hartford.
Seems like I’ve been doing a lot of that recently.
This time it was before the Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill on Captive Audience Meetings.

I told the committee of my experience in 2011 when, along with my fellow nurses at Backus Hospital, we grew tired of not having a voice and thereby not being able to advocate for our patients, and after trying to get management to listen to us and failing, we formed a union.
I told them of the multiple captive audience meetings I survived.
Meetings in which a manager would pull me into a small room, close the door and then stand in front of it, and tell me that my “union” activities were harming my patients and my coworkers and that I should back down from the effort.
I told them that these meetings were so traumatizing that I would debrief with my organizer (thank you Ole) after the meetings, much as I would after caring for a child in the ER who didn’t survive.
I told them how at one point, two managers cornered me in a 10 foot by 10 foot storage room and berated me for my efforts.

One committee member stated that this sounds much like the size of a prison cell (6 ft X 10 ft) and how it must have felt like I was in a cell at the moment.
Another member said she considers herself a strong person who can stand up to anyone and that my story sounded intimidating even to her.
The chair, whom I have known for some time, said he never thought of me as someone who would back down from intimidation.

While I appreciate that statement, the truth is I am quite sensitive.
I told him this, and that it takes a lot to make me overcome my sensitivity, but not having a voice to advocate for my patients and fearing that some of the younger nurses might be vulnerable to intimidation, allowed me to have the courage to stand up and gain a voice.

Workers should not need to overcome management coercion or intimidation to come together and form a union and gain a voice.
My experience has made me stronger, but it was not easy.
I pray that any work I do makes it easy for others.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Members in action (Legislative Breakfasts)

Today was billed as the Working People’s Day of Action, with rallies and actions across our country, in preparation of the oral arguments that will be heard by the U S Supreme Court in the Janus v Afscme case on Monday.
This case will effect all worker’s ability to speak with one voice and advocate in the workplace and the community.

AFT Connecticut recognized the day by holding the first two of several legislative breakfasts, where members had the opportunity to sit with legislators and candidates for office, and share with them personal stories of the dedicated work they do every day, in schools, in hospitals, and in state service.
Over 100 members spoke of specific issues that effect them and the people they serve, and what our members know is the legislator’s role in working for a solution that benefits all, not just the rich.

Over the next several weeks, AFT Connecticut members will continue to meet with legislators at these breakfasts and at an all day legislative conference.
They will also testify in Hartford at public hearings.
This fall they will visit other union households in a labor to labor door knocking program to encourage all union members to get out and vote.
And yes, our members will vote!

There is a saying that I think fits well.

 “This is what democracy looks like.”

Info on AFT Connecticut Legislative Breakfasts and Legislative Conference

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Enough is the cry coming out of Florida after another school shooting last week.
Another week, another school, another mass murder.
But somehow this feels different.
The reaction feels different.

Maybe it’s because it’s Florida, a state that for several years has eased gun control laws.
Maybe it’s because unlike Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Pulse Nightclub, Fort Hood, and so many more, the survivors are not kindergarten students, not parents, not adults, but 14-18 year olds, still children but articulate enough to express themselves in a moving way.
Maybe it’s different because unlike Columbine, this has continued, and continued, and continued for 18 years.
Maybe it’s the times we live in, with black lives matter, me too, and other movements, people are starting to speak out.
Or maybe this too shall pass.
Maybe nothing will be done.

At the same time we have an indictment charging Russians in exploiting the divisions in our country as a weapon against us.  They want to disrupt elections, but they also want to cultivate what is and always has been, great divisions between Americans.

I find myself torn as to how to react.
At the very time I want to lash out on social media against anyone opposed to common sense gun controls, I feel like I would be playing into the very plan of those who wish to further divide us.

It’s frustrating, and I’m not sure what to do.

I must speak out.
I should speak out.
But I will no longer entertain the social media rants of those who wish to sow division.
I will speak my mind and others are free to disagree, but I will not engage in social media war.
I do not claim to be sure of this decision, and I respect others who may feel I am off base, who may feel they should meet argument with argument.
I do not even claim that I will feel the same way in yet another week, but for now, I say enough.
Enough to the killings.
Enough to the mass shootings.
Enough to the social media divisions.

I will express my options and others are free to agree or disagree.
I would be more than happy to meet “off line” to discuss and debate in a civil manner.
But I will not feed the monster that seeks to use social media to divide.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Parkland shooting

The school shootings in Florida were very disturbing to me.
I’m sure they were to everyone.
Besides the obvious reasons to be disturbed, Majory Stoneman Douglas High is an AFT school like Sandy Hook.
Unlike in 2012, I now personally know many more teachers, paraprofessionals, and other school personnel, including those at Sandy Hook.
I understand them better and understand that like healthcare workers, educators face daily safety threats to themselves and their students.
And these high school students are articulating what they are going through in a way that kindergarten students cannot.

It’s disturbing.
And it should be.

So many mass shootings since Sandy Hook, in schools and elsewhere.
When will we do something?

The influence of big money in elections is such a problem, and the gun lobby has big money and will spend it.
We’re told its not a “gun problem” it’s a “mental health problem,” yet the same people who claim this also vote to cut funds to treat mental health services.

The investigation will determine “the true problem,” but we already know what that is.
We elect people who fail time and again to address this.
They lack the courage.

There are common sense answers to decrease the chance that the wrong people will have guns and use them like this.
Legislators know this.

We need to force them to act or we need to replace them.
Please make sure you are registered, educated on the issues, and voting.
Make sure those around you do the same.

Enough school children have died.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Charting a course, somewhere over Ohio

The last 2 days have been Oakland at the AFT Healthcare Program and Policy Committee.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals from around the country, all AFT members, meeting to provide guidance to the Executive Committee on issues related to healthcare.

I’m at 37,000 feet over Cleveland, we’ve been in the air 4 hours, and with a change of planes in Baltimore and driving home, I hope to be there in another 4 hours.
It a long trip, but then again, it’s been a long trip since I became a Nurse in 1999.
And an interesting trip.

I fell into nursing by accident, due to downturns in the work I was doing building airplanes.
Nursing is a great career.
To be sure, all healthcare is incredibly challenging, dangerous, and stressful.
It’s not for everyone.
But it is for me.
I settled into the ER and loved the challenge, the variety, the teamwork, and the ability to leave at the end of the day knowing I made a difference.
I enjoyed that I had a voice in the care of my patients.
Staff were an asset that was valued.

Somewhere along the line that changed.
Hospitals became corporations.
Staff became an expense.
Patients became customers.

Bumps in a long journey.
Bumps that needed to be smoothed out.
We did that at Backus by forming a union.
We regained our voice.

As I became more involved, I came to see there were so many more lanes to the labor highway than healthcare.
In AFT we have education and public service, and in other unions the trades, the service industry, law enforcement, first responders, manufacturing, and others, even the people working on this plane.
Lots of lanes to this highway, all trying to get to that place that provides a voice for themselves and the people they serve.

And lots of bumps in the road.
There are people in power who prefer we not find that voice, they like things the way they are, they like their power.
Sometimes the bumps in the form of distractions.
Dark state, fake news, crooked Hillary, Birthers, tweets……..
It’s easy to get distracted,
It’s easy to only respond to these distraction bumps in the road.
The danger is that we can forget where we are trying to go.
One of the things that I like about the Mueller investigation into Russian involvement in our elections is that in spite of all the distractions, all the chaos, all the bumps, the investigation moves forward, seemingly never losing site of its goal, the truth.

That’s a lesson for us.

We started out to gain a voice.
We must not forget that.

That’s why we met in Oakland.
To make sure we were still on course and to chart it for the future.
That’s why we in AFT Connecticut set a statewide strategic plan and why our affiliated unions are doing the same.
It’s our road map.
So when the bumps come (often in the form of a crisis or distraction) we deal with them but do not lose focus of our goal, a voice for all workers.