Saturday, May 2, 2015

Our Vision for Change 4

The fourth principle and goal of our team is Organization. 
The words in italics are from AFT- CT: Our Vision for Change
"Are we there yet?"
Every parent knows this phrase coming from the back of the car.

But shouldn't the real questions be where are we going and how will we get there?
For us to move forward, we need to work together to form a vision of where we are going, and develop short and long-term plans on how we will get there.
We need to analyze how we spend our money and how we can be more effective. We need to budget for needed facility and technology upgrades with a strategic plan.
We will work with the staff, AFT-National, and the Executive Committee to develop three and five-year financial and organizing plans.
An organizing drive takes an incredible amount of planning involving many people and organizations.  Yes, the plan needs to be adjusted as the situation changes, but first, we have to have a plan to adjust.
The same holds true for a financial plan or a plan to organize several sites.
We can't just "wing it."
We believe in leadership that works as hard as its members.  Effective leadership requires a presence.  Our members must feel that we are standing beside them in their struggle for respect and dignity in the workplace.
That statement summarizes why we organized at Backus. Management did not stand with us and offered no respect or dignity.
Speaking for myself, Unionism is a 24/7 endeavor because it is not a "job" to me, it is a vocation.

So, I have covered the four principles and goals of our team.
Membership First
Communication and Collaboration
Taken together, they are a vision that our team shares.  A vision that is based on the premise that we must build a union we can all be proud of.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living

Several hundred people gathered in the coolness of the morning. It was 6;00 and we were at Washington Park in Groton, CT.
Speeches were made, taps was played, the National Anthem and Amazing Grace were sung.
But we weren't gathered to hear speeches or listen to music. we were gathered to honor the dead.
April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor those killed , injured or made ill as a result of the workplace.
It is also a day we rededicate ourselves to fighting for safety on the job.
That is why we have partnered with our entire Connecticut congressional delegation to push for tougher OSHA standards on the safety of healthcare workers. We are also advocating in Hartford for safe staffing legislation because adequate staffing has been proven to both improve patient outcomes and increase worker safety.
Labor advocate Mother Jones said it best, "Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Our Vision for Change 3

The third of four principles and goals of our team is Transparency.
The words in italics are from AFT- CT: Our Vision for Change

Our members work hard. They have a right to expect that the money (dues) be spent prudently.
Our union does a lot of great work, and that work takes people and resources. It's not cheap.  I think we all understand this.
But our members have a right to know that their dues are spent wisely.  Our leadership has a duty to make sure members not only trust dues are being spent well but also can see, through tangible examples, where we spend our dues. 
AFT-CT's leadership must be beholden to the Executive Committee, the membership, and the truth. That only happens when there is transparency in policies and practices. 
The officers have a responsibility to inform, discuss and seek the guidance and input of the Executive Committee. 
It is the elected ruling body of the union.  
That is the reason we have a budget committee and a personnel committee. 
The Executive Committee needs full transparencies on the reasons and the needs of expenses, organizing plans, and the need for new employee positions. 
These decisions should not be made by the officers alone, nor should they be presented to the Executive Committee in a last minute, hurry up and vote, fashion. 
If we want a member run union, if we want our organization to be democratic we need our highest elected council to be one which is truly informed and involved in decision making not tacked on like a bureaucratic rubber stamp.
The officers are not alone in their responsibility to transparency. 
The Executive Committee has a responsibility to the membership to ensure transparency and the membership has a responsibility to demand it. 
Failure at any level in this area harms our members, but also harms the Labor Movement. 
Members communicate with their steward, stewards bring the issue to the local executive council, local leadership raises it at jurisdictional meetings with executive council members who bring it to the state federation and state federation officers are involved at the national level in meetings and by participating fully at our national convention.  
I work in a hospital; I know failure at any stage of the work flow can compromise the whole system.  We must be vigilant and demand a union which lives up to its promise at every level.
This lack of transparency is in contrast to what we stand for as a union.
There is nothing the anti union, right to work for less people want more, than a union that has even a hint of a lack of transparency to it. They will spread enough lies without our help. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

60 years in orbit

This week I celebrate the completion of my 60th trip around the sun.
Like everyone, I have good days and bad, but I am surrounded by an amazing group of family and friends, and my life has rich meaning and purpose.
I am reminded of Luke's story of the disciples, on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24)
The two walked along, discussing all that had happened when they were joined by a stranger, who had not heard what had transpired in Jerusalem. As they walked they told the story and in the evening they asked him to dine with them.  It was only when he broke the bread that they realized they were in the presence of their teacher.
As a look back, I see that, although I may have not realize it at the time, God has walked with me through the people who have shared my journey.
At age 60, I believe it is not my job to know the plan God has for me.
It is my job to trust the journey, and to realize that God will walk with me through people, whether I recognize His presence at the time or not.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Our Vision for Change 2

The second of four principles and goals of our team is Communication and Collaboration.  Let's take a look at this.
                                                        Communication and Collaboration
The words in italics are from AFT- CT: Our Vision for Change

If we believe in the movement, in the ideas that unions are working to better the lives of it's members and their communities, then that union must represent the voice of the membership. 
That is why it is a priority for our leadership team to commit itself to the goal of visiting with each and every Local of AFT Connecticut, no matter how big or small, throughout the year. Only by reaching out and encouraging conversations will we grow in strength.  
I know from my days organizing our union at Backus, the best conversation is a face to face conversation. 
When that is not possible, a telephone, email or text may have to suffice, but the use of email for voting on important issues must be kept to a minimum.  
The "E" in E-vote, should stand for "emergency," not "electronic."

At the same time we must encourage a free exchange of ideas. No one person has all the answers. 
A climate that is accepting to discussion and debate is essential. 
One of the things that I love about Jan is that she encourages us to disagree with her. That attitude will be extended to Local leaders and members.  

One reason to encourage the free expression of ideas is because we have some incredibly intelligent and creative people on our staff and as our members.  
We need to tap into the talent. The goal is to create a team driven to improve the lives of members.
That team includes leaders, members and staff working together.
My philosophy has always been this.
I can't be an expert on everything, but I can surround myself with talented people, encourage their input, and support them in their efforts and together we can do amazing things.
It's not rocket science. 
It's common sense and respect.
It's the second principle and goal of our team.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead