Thursday, September 29, 2011

Finding purpose In life

We are here for a reason, a purpose. Our experiences shape and prepare us. Though the years God has placed people into my life, some to guide and teach, some to give support and understanding, some to assist me, some to inspire, some to give me the opportunity to guide, teach, support, give understanding, assist, inspire. He has led me to every point in my life, prepared me by my experiences.
For instance, I became a nurse at age 44. Prior to that I would not have been ready, but the experiences of my life prepared me to be ready at that time. Often, I had no idea why I needed to experience certain things. Many of them are now clear in retrospect.
I worked many jobs prior to nursing, it gave me a better understanding of the backgrounds of many of my patients.
I went through many layoffs. I experienced both the loss of pay and health insurance many times while trying to raise a young family. It shaped my view of the need for social programs like unemployment insurance. It made me believe that a person should not lose their health insurance because they lose a job through no fault of their own. It made me believe that health care should not depend on ability to pay.
It was during one such layoff that I took part in a federal retraining program and became a CNA. It put me back to work, paying taxes again. I understand how hard CNAs and PCTs work and how they are the backbone of the health system and too often under appreciated for it.
I have suffered through the loss of loved ones but that has helped me understand what a patient's family goes through.
I am blessed with 2 loving sons, but they are on their own life paths, with twists and turns. I have been able to help other parents who are watching their own children struggle.
My experiences have prepared me for certain roles at certain stages of my life. They have given me understanding and strength. They have shaped my beliefs.
Though my life experiences and what I was taught in childhood I have come to believe that we should stand together and support each other, that we should share our talents, our gifts, for the good of all. That if a man has two coats he should give one to the man who has none. I do not know what the future will bring, but I know that if I am open to the experiences that God sends my way, if I go through them with His help and the help of those He places in my life, then I will be ready for what comes next, ready to do his will.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Get involved, make us strong!

Recently I have attended several meetings with management and human resources to act as union representative for member nurses. This is to protect their rights under a 1975 Supreme Court ruling in the case of J. Weingarten, Inc.
These rights have become known as Weingarten Rights and very briefly they state that a union member has the right to representation during an investigatory interview.
There is a much better explanation at weingarten.htm
I urge you to study it.
More recently a couple of these meetings have been scheduled during times I was working, leading one of the involved members to ask if management had my schedule and were trying to make it difficult for me to attend.
While I can't answer the second part of that question, I can guarantee that they have all of our schedules. We are working on these time conflicts and are not without recourse.
It brings up a very important point.
I, nor any other person is the union, WE are the union, almost 450 strong. If one of us in unavailable, another will step in. We are in the beginning phases of training more people to be comfortable as union representatives. Ideally, everyone willing to do so, will be trained, comfortable, and capable. We hope that other members will step up to fill roles that suit them, such as public outreach.
The underlying point is this - our union is strong only to the extent that our members are involved.
We are an organization who's power lies in the members. We will all vote on our contract, bylaws, constitution, and officers.
Our officers will handle the day to day activities, they will lead, but we, the members, will direct.
I know you've heard this before.
Every management says it.
All I can say is, come and see for yourself.
At the latest negotiations we had a discussion with some salary nurses about how we would address their salaries in our wages proposal.
This is how. We will get together as many salary nurses as we can and they will craft a proposal.
Because they are in the best position to do so. Why should someone who doesn't completely understand their issues make decisions for them?
If it makes sense we can have a standing salary RN committee to deal with their specific concerns and we can have other such groups as the needs arise.
Our strength lies in our numbers and level of involvement.
Management derives it's power from the fact that they sign our paychecks.
We derive our power by the strength of our collective membership. If we do not exercise that collective power then we forfeit it.
Get involved, make us strong!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

we got the A team

At negotiations tonight Ole gave our wages power point presentation and he truly, truly rocked!
If there was any doubt that our union, AFT, wasn't a class act, professional organization, is should be now gone.
When I got home I was compelled to send the following letter to Mary MacDonald of AFT in Washington, Sharron Palmer AFT CT president, and Melodie Peters, AFT CT first vice president.
I share it with you.

Mary, Sharron, Melodie,
I have been meaning to write you for awhile and say thank you for the faith you have shown in us and commitment of resources you have sent us.
We realize we got the A team.
Ole Hermanson gave a wages presentation tonight at negotiations that blew management's mind. If they had any doubt that AFT wasn't in a league of our own, it's gone now.
As for Greg Kotecki, I'm glad he's on our side of the table. He goes toe to toe with the best of Jackson Lewis. At the same time he teaches us the nuances of negotiating, be it at the table or hearing room. I myself have successfully represented two members through his teaching.
At the recent AFL-CIO labor council meeting Sharron graciously said we were going to be a great local. We are, and it's because of AFT CT and AFT national.
You gave us great organizers in Ole, Jennifer Benevento, Nickimmy Hayes, Efrain Torres, and Elizabeth Glenn Scott from national, who turned me into a pretty good organizer through her example and instruction.
You sent us Eric Bailey who writes my best quotes and Dan Durant who is helping us reach out to the community and in so doing not only help people but also put a good face on all unions.
Jessica Smith and Ole took care of me in Washington and allowed me to represent our union by telling our story before the labor board. It was truly an honor to do so.
My hope is that the Backus Federation of Nurses lives up to Sharron's prediction and that we become the model of what a local should be. If we do that, we will have started to pay you back for the faith you have shown us.
Again thank you. Ole truly rocked, he truly did.
John Brady
Negotiations Team Member
Backus Federation of Nurses

Ole's presentation will soon be available online at
Being online will be good, but I wish you could have seen it. He really rocked the house!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Learning to Fly!

In a book published in 1970 by Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a bird who comes to believe that there is more to life than squabbling for food. He seeks to fly! He seeks to raise flying to a perfect art form and in doing so, to set himself and his fellow gulls free, free of the artificial limitations they have allowed themselves to become subject too. He meets resistance, from the flock and the elders.
" day, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, you shall learn that irresponsibility does not pay. Life is the unknown and the unknowable, except that we are put into this world to eat, to stay alive as long we possibly can."
But he persists, he learns How to fly, how to soar! He's set free from his old limitations.
 "How much more there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there's reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!"
He goes about to teach others in the flock, but they resist.
"Why is it," Jonathan puzzled, "that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he'd just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?"
In the end he does reach them and they are set free.
"He spoke of very simple things –that it is right for a gull to fly,that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form. "Set aside," came a voice from the multitude, "even if it be the Law of the Flock?" "The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other."
It is a story of a bird learning to fly but it is much more, it is our story.
For so long we tried to survive. Get through the day. Get through the shift. To dream of more would only lead to disappointment. We established a culture of tolerance and acceptance of the way things were.
But the way things are is not the only way! Look what we have done at Backus Hospital in the past year. A small group believed that things could and must get better! They led us, they showed us, they made us believe! We are at that point, we must decide, do we squabble for food or do we fly!
We are the Backus Federation of Nurses! We fly!
How do we do that?
"The trick Fletcher is that we are trying to overcome our limitations in order, patiently, We don't tackle flying through rock until a little later in the program."
We each start where we are.
Not all of us are ready to be out front, not to worry, we have leaders. We start where we are.
We attend negotiations, we attend meetings, we get involved in our communities, we start to stand up for ourselves. When asked to support those who lead us we are there. In time, each in our own time, we will find our voice, we will learn to fly, we will be free.
This is OUR union.
This is our hospital.
This is our community.
This is our state, our country.
It is time for a new culture, a new way of thinking and acting, a time for involvement, a time for freedom, a time to fly!
This Wednesday is our next negotiations.  Join us!  Together we are strong!
We will present our proposals on wages this Wednesday.
October 15 we will partner with the Lisbon Volunteer Fire Department in the Lisbon Public Safety Day at Lisbon Landing from 10-2.  It is an opportunity to help our community.  There will be many fire trucks, Lifestar, a live burn demonstration, and more.  Step foreword, help for a few hours, get involved!
I have included a link to the book in case you want to learn to fly.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Love never ends

This has been a very reflective period for me. I was at a family funeral today, the second in a month. That, combined with something that happened at work to a coworker, has made me think about the people who matter to me, my family, friends, and coworkers.
One of the readings today included the following,
Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on it's own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
This reading is often used to express romantic love at weddings but it also applies to another form of love, the love between family, friends and coworkers. The kind of love that says I'm am always here for you, I've got your back, and I'm not going away.
We are as one, in solidarity. You are my brothers and sisters, remember that. We're here for each other.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9/11/01

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on certain days of my life.
I remember 11/22/79, Thanksgiving Day, the day my second son was born. I remember going to my parents later in the day with my older son and falling asleep on the living room carpet.
I remember 11/22/63. I was in Miss Barrett's third grade class when they made the announcement that our president had been shot. I remember getting out of school early, walking home and my Aunt Rita, who was watching us because my parents were in California, wondering why we were coming home because she had not heard the news.
I remember 7/20/69. Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon, the grainy black and white image, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
I remember 9/11/01.
I remember I had the day off, I was home and completely unable to pull myself away from the TV. I remember calling work to see if I should go in to get ready in case we received victims, not realizing that most wouldn't survive. I remember walking in the evening those next few days, looking up and not seeing any planes in the sky. I remember the heroic first responders, ignoring personal safety, running in while others rushed out.
I remember a few weeks later driving down interstate 95 and seeing American flags on each overpass.
We were united!

What happened?
Today we seem so divided, unable to find middle ground. Washington DC is gridlocked.
I understand the passion of standing up for something you believe in. I spent the last year doing just that. But I also believe with a country as diverse as ours, I, nor anyone else, can have everything exactly the way we want. If we wish to move forward we must maintain and fight for our core beliefs but leave room for compromise.
There is a saying, "lead, follow, or get out of the way." A person unwilling to compromise is in the way.
Our nation's greatness is based on our ability to come together, despite our different beliefs, and work for the good of all.
Perhaps the greatest testimonial we can give the victims and heroes of 9/11 is to remember what makes us great. The terrorist sought to destroy us, they failed. Let's not be so unwilling to work together that we hand them victory.
JFK told us to ask what we could do for our country. Our forefathers did that, the victims and heroes of 9/11 did that, our military today does that.
Let us do that. Let us remember 9/11/01 as the day that brought us together in unity and cooperation for the betterment of all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weingarten rights

Picture this -you get pulled over on the highway, "license and registration please. Do you know why I pulled you over?"
It was recently pointed out to me what that question means. The trooper knows why he stopped you, he just wants you to admit to it or if he gets real lucky, maybe even admit to something else.
Just to be clear, "because of the body in my trunk?" is a bad answer.
Sometimes at work we get into a similar situation. The boss calls us in, maybe someone from Human Resources is there, they say something like "someone saw you take something that was company property."
What do you say?
The answer they are looking for is “yes” maybe they hear “but it was broken and in the trash” maybe they skip over that part.
What should your answer be?
If you belong to a union it should be:

If the discussion in this meeting could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated or impact my personal working conditions, I request that my steward, local officer or union representative be present. Without union representation, I choose not to answer any further questions at this time.

These are your rights under a Supreme Court decision called Weingarten.
Recently a nurse got called in to a meeting with her manager and Human Resources. She asked to have a witness present and I volunteered to join her. Before we went in we sat and talked through what might happen and that above all we should stay calm and professional. The meeting went well and when we talked it through with management in a calm and professional way everything turned out to be a misunderstanding.
Could it have gone differently?
You bet!
Had the nurse gone in alone, said the wrong thing, lost her cool, the outcome would be different.
Remember, all the nurses at backus are in a union now.
You have the right to representation.
Stay in contact with your representative (liaison) and if you need someone by your side there are many of us who will be right there.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Message

This labor day is different. This labor day is special. For me its not just a long weekend, no longer just the end of summer, no longer just the beginning of a new school year.
For the nurses of Backus hospital labor day this year has a new meaning.
We started a year ago with an idea, if we stood together we could improve our hospital and our community.
We faced an administration that opposed us and one of the best union busting law firms in the country, and we prevailed.
Now we sit at the negotiation table as equals.
We are the Backus Federation of Nurses.
We are united and strong.
We have a message,
We are here to help.
We will improve our hospital and our community because they are OURS.
We will negotiate a contract that will make Backus the type of hospital where nurses want to work.
We are ready to reach out to our community as we recently did with our food drive.
AFT president Randi Weingarten said in her Labor Day message:
"We will continue our work to forge new bonds—and strengthen long-standing ones—between labor and community. Because only together will we be able to chart a course where America believes and acts as if its best days are ahead of us, not behind us."
My brothers and sisters of the Backus Federation of Nurses, of the other locals of AFT CT, of AFT nation wide, of the AFL-CIO, of the entire labor movement; our best days are ahead of us.
We are limited only by our ability to believe!
Happy Labor Day.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricane Irene

It is early Tuesday morning as I write this by candlelight. Hurricane Irene hit late Saturday. We lost power that night. They estimate we could be in the dark for a week or more. They'll have a better estimate later today. Yesterday they made progress clearing the roads of trees and downed wires. Most roads are now passable. My town is 99% without power.
We are OK.
Unlike many of my neighbors, no trees down in my yard, only branches. No damage, although we have 8-9 inches of water in the basement.
Work on Monday was very busy! Monday's usually are, this was more so. Many doctor's offices are closed because they have no power. Also, many came in because they lost power for medical equipment like breathing treatments or electric wheel chairs or fear of being isolated.
In nursing we recognize that people regress when ill. For example, a sick 10 year old will act as he did at 6. I see the same regression with the stress of the storm and lack of power. Many of our patients have complex medical-psychological -social problems. Some have limited coping skills. Right now those skills are being taxed. There are shelters with power, food, water and oxygen. But a person with limited coping skills has trouble accessing them. The lack of family or community connections for some is disheartening.
I imagine the this next week will continue to be challenging, both at work and at home. It is important to remember that we are safe, we are well, and most important, we are not alone.
The hurricane also illustrates the importance of our local's community outreach program. The Backus Federation of Nurses is an organization of 450 RNs who already do great work individually with community organizations, sports teams, churches, schools, boy and girl scouts and more. We are working to establish relationships between our federation and community organizations so that when a need arises we can use our unique skills to help.
The middle of a crisis is not the time to build these relationships, now is the time. Our recent food drive with the United Way was a good beginning.