Saturday, December 29, 2012

Local 5149 update

In an effort to save money the hospital sometimes calls nurses prior to their shift and tells them not to come in, because the patient census is low. While I understand the need to be prudent with health care dollars, I believe that practice of routinely canceling shifts is contrary to retention of experienced nurses.
Sometimes, the hospital calls nurses and cancels for the first 4 hours of the shift, only to call them again in a few hours to cancel the rest of the day. Not only does this decrease the take home pay of the nurse, but it limits their ability to work a second job on that day, an option many have, or make other plans, because they are unsure if they are working a partial day or not.
Canceling shifts is the hospital's right under our contract.  Article 17 provides a process to be followed. 
The following order is to be followed: Nurses who would receive OT, then volunteers, followed by Traveler/Temporary and Per Diem nurses, then nurses above their budgeted hours, and finally nurses on a rotational basis per department, beginning with the least senior in the department.
We filed a grievance based on the fact that when they cancel for 4 hours and then cancel for an additional 4 hours, they have in effect, canceled the same person twice in a row, violating the terms of the contract. (rotational basis)
As a result of this grievance we have come to an understanding and agreement and,
effective 1/6/13, only full shifts will be canceled.
While this is not ideal, I hope it will decrease the number of canceled shifts, increase the use of "on call" with compensation, and allow those who are canceled to work another job for the day or make other plans, knowing they do not have to wait 4 hours to see if they need to report to work.  In short, I hope it leads to increased retention of good, experience nurses, which is good for us, management, and most importantly, our patients.

Another grievance, on single day vacations, will be going to arbitration in February.
Our argument is that although contract language says we must submit 4 weeks in advance for vacation, the intent was clear from negotiation notes that this was meant to be 4 weeks minimum
Management agreed on full week vacations, and agreed to a 6 month time frame, but they would not budge on single days, so we filed a grievance.
It was denied at steps 1, 2 and 3, so we sent it to arbitration, where an independent arbitrator will make the final decision.

Recently a nurse was placed on administrative leave for a week pending an investigation of an incident. I am happy to report that we represented her and she is back to work with full back pay.

I met with new State Senator Cathy Osten, AFT CT lobbyist Jen Berigan, Greg, and Harry Rodriguez, the president of L+M health care workers, at our office last Friday. It was a good opportunity to meet and discuss issues of importance to both Cathy and our members. She understands that the rights of workers and the success of small businesses are tied together.
Carol Adams, our political liaison, couldn't be there, but she has been active at the state level and will be our point person on all things political.

Donna Callicutt has been working hard with AFT in Washington to set everything up for our charter and our membership cards should be coming soon. This will allow members to take advantage on discounts that can be found on the state and national web sites.

 If you ever have any questions please do not hesitate to call me or Melissa, our numbers are on the website.
 Also if you are called "to the office", please ask for a delegate to come with you.  It is your right if questions are asked that could lead to discipline.

On a personal note I want to express my sympathy to the families and friends of the Webster NY firefighters who were killed responding to a fire.  Firefighters and all EMS workers put their lives on the line daily to protect us.  To have to face this kind of violence while on such a mission is unacceptable.  Violence like this is always unacceptable. 
Violence against EMS, school workers, health care workers, and others who dedicate themselves to the service of others must end.

2012 was a year that found us struggling for a first contract and achieving it.  It found us dealing with growing pains as a Local.
As we enter 2013, we will continue to look for common ground with management, looking for solutions that benefit all involved, management, workers, and patients. There are many changes coming to health care and we must stay up on them, and we must stay united in our belief that what benefits health care workers, benefits our patients.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

He was born in poverty to a homeless family in a stable.
He was never the head of a large company, never in politics, never wealthy.
He worked with his hands as a carpenter until he was 30 years old.

For 3 years he walked the countryside preaching that we should serve others and not have others be in service to us, that we should make ourselves last and God would make us first, that we should not judge others, and what his cousin John had preached, that if a man has two coats he should share one with the man who has none. 

The people in power killed him for what he taught and yet the world today looks to him for for inspiration.
It is said he died to save us from our sins, but he also lived to show us how to live.

This poor, humble worker, to some the Son of God, to some a prophet, to all an example of how to live a good life.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Guardian Angels of Sandy Hook

As a small child I had a picture over my bed.  It was a young boy, maybe 6 or 8 years old, walking down a dirt path with a stick over his shoulder. Hanging from the stick was a string and a hook and he was obviously on his way to go fishing. This young boy was looking up into the eyes of a young man who was walking beside him with his arm around the shoulder of the boy.  The young man looked to be in his 20s or 30s and had gentle eyes looking down at the boy.  They both wore smiles and the picture was bright, like the sun was shinning.  The young man wore a white robe, that went to his ankles and had a rope tied about his waist.  I think the young man had wings but they were translucent, not as obvious as everything else in the picture. They both walked barefoot.
I was told by my parents that this was my Guardian Angel.
My Guardian Angel was aways with me, and would always protect me, and we all had Guardian Angels.
The twenty children of Sandy Hook Elementary School have been lovingly called Angels, and they are.
There are many stories of heroism coming out of this tragedy, of adults who put themselves in harms way to protect "their children".  No doubt many children were saved because of such courageous acts by these Guardian Angels.
I'm sure the children felt the same kind of comfort being with them as I did as a young child, knowing my Guardian Angel was always looking over me.
Six of these Guardian Angels made the trip home to Heaven with their children.
Rachel, Dawn, Anne Marie, Lauren, Mary, and Victoria have complete their mission on earth and are now protecting their children in Heaven.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook

Sometimes there truly are no words.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School is unfathomable.

We struggle to understand the irrational, we seek answers to the unanswerable, we seek to deal and move on.

But How?

I have no answers.
I send my prayers out to those effected, to the families of those who died, to the community of Newtown, to the emergency responders and to the hospital staff who cared for victims.
Educators, students, medical personal, and all of us, across this nation and the world are effected by this.
Maybe that, as painful as it is, it the shinning light in a dark time.
We are all effected because we are all connected, all God's children, all brothers and sisters.

There will be time once the investigation is completed to take steps to decrease the chances of this repeating.
As for now, let us all pray and be there for one another.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Right to Work (for less)

This week Michigan became the 26th state to pass so called "Right to work" legislation.

There were many issues with how it was passed, including being rushed through without public hearings, and no doubt all that will lead to legal challenges and recall elections, but what is this so called "right to work" legislation anyway?

On the surface it sounds like a good idea.  Who would be against somebody having the right to work and isn't this country founded on individual freedoms?
But as you know, slogans and names can be deceiving.

When a professional decides to take a position, they sit with the employer and work out a deal acceptable to both sides.  If we are talking about a position with a high rate of pay then there are usually lawyers involved to protect everyone's interest.
When a worker accepts a position they do not have the individual resources to hire a lawyer to negotiate for them, but if they join with fellow workers, they can have such resources.
To do so, they form a group, called a union, sit down with the employer and work out a deal, much as an individual would do.

When a group of employees decide to join together and bargain as a group for wages, benefits, and working conditions, they are exercising their right to do so under the laws of this country. I don't think anyone would deny that this is just.

Some employers would rather that these workers not have such resources because then the employer has the advantage.

When a group of workers decide to proceed with he formation of such a union, a vote is taken and if the majority elects to unionize, then that union has an obligation under law to negotiate for ALL the workers and to protect ALL the worker's rights under the negotiated contract.  In fact, failure to protect ANY worker's rights by the union leadership is against the law.  The workers set union dues to pay for the cost of the collective bargaining process and all share the cost.

Under so called "right to work" legislation, any specific worker has the right to refuse to pay their share of the costs, leaving their fellow workers to pick up the tab, even though all receive the benefits of the contract and must have their rights under the contract protected.
It's like telling the people in your town that they do not have to pay their taxes, even though they drive on the roads maintained and plowed by the town, send their kids to the school, etc.  If that happened, the few people paying their taxes would have to cover the entire costs and their taxes would skyrocket!

"Right to work" legislation sounds good until you see it for what it truly is, an attempt by greedy people to prevent workers from successfully bargaining for fair wages, benefits and working conditions.
It is an attempt to circumvent what our country stands for, justice for all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The other day I received an email from AFT in Washington.  Part of the email was a request for some information, but what got me excited was the fact that they had issued the Backus Federation of Nurses a Local charter, officailly makeing us AFT Local 5149!
I realize that most of the world will not notice this moment in history, I know that most of our members will say "OK John" and not feel the excitement I do.  In fact, I'm not sure exactly why this meant so much to me, it just did.
Just over two years ago a small group of us started meeting, first in coffee houses, then in the Norwich office of the UAW, and finally in our own office.  We met in secret because our employer was not in favor of us organizing.  We met because as nurses we felt we had to, we had been taught to advocate and we were advocating for ourselves, our families, our patients, our hospital and our community.  The hospital didn't agree, not all the nurses agreed, but we were compelled by an inner drive.
We grew in numbers and started meeting with nurses at their homes, being invited into their living rooms and kitchens, hearing their stories, and their hopes and dreams.
We held an election and after winning we met for a year negotiating for our first contract.
It was a difficult journey, but one that brought me closer to so, so many nurses and made me even more committed to the idea that standing together we could make a diffence.
I have said all along that I hope for a hospital where young, bright nurses come to work and want to stay.  I hope we have started down that road.
Together, the nurses of Backus Hospital, along with so many in organized labor, politics, and the community, brought us to the point where I received that email. 
Maybe that's why I was so moved.  To me, "5149" represents what happens when people believe in something bigger than themselves and when they take personnal risks because they believe it's the right thing to do.

Friday, December 7, 2012


My wife and I saw the new movie "Lincoln" last night.   It's a great movie, as most Spielberg movies are, and I highly recommend it.
It deals with Lincoln near the end of the Civil War and the struggle to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  It shows the political back game in trying to accomplish something like this.  Many of the players had to compromise their positions to make the amendment a reality.  It was too much change for some, and not enough change for others, but in the end, Lincoln is able to convince enough of them that it is the right thing to do.
Lincoln deals with his own internal struggles. He uses the argument that passage of the amendment will hasten the end of the war.  At the same time, the South is showing signs of wanting to talk peace.  Peace would mean an end to fighting but would not preserve the Union nor end slavery.
Lincoln suffers from the loss of life.  He visits the hospitals and the battlefields, sees the maimed and the dead. He wants nothing more than an end to this fighting but he is driven by one over riding belief, that this country cannot endure without freedom for all people.  In the end, he hides the peace overtures from congress, gets passage of the amendment, and the war does come to a swift end. 
Passage of the amendment frees the slaves forever and brings not just peace talks but surrender, and with it, a reunification process of the North and the South that saves the Union.

The Emancipation Proclamation was enacted by Lincoln under his role as commander in chief and freed the slaves in the Southern states.  It did not free the Border state slaves and it's legality after the war would have been questionable. 
The Thirteenth Amendment is clean and simple:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

A good days work?

He stood at the back of the room, just on our side of the privacy curtain, his eyes followed all the activity in the room but they always returned to his wife, laying on the stretcher, fighting for life.

She had a long history of breathing issues and recently had been hospitalized with pneumonia.  They took this opportunity to visit the casino.  While walking she had become sort of breath and collapsed.  Medics arrived quickly.  They inserted a breathing tube and an "IO", (an IV line directly into the leg bone because it is the quickest to achieve), they administered oxygen and medications and began CPR.
She arrived in the emergency room in asystole, no pulse, flat line.
We continued CPR and administered our many meds, epinephrine, atropine, sodium bicarb, iv fluid.
Twice we got a pulse back, only to lose it again. We were about to call it when we got a pulse again, weak and with a very low blood pressure.  We struggled to keep her pulse and improve her blood pressure.  We started not one but two vasopressors, medication to improve blood pressure.  She stabilized, still no breathing, but a pulse and a decent blood pressure.

When she first arrived the medics told us the husband would be there soon.  We asked that he be taken to the family room so that we could speak with him. 
Somehow he found his way into his wife's room on his own, and there he stood near the privacy curtain.  One of the nurses briefly went to his side to explain that his wife's chances were not good but that we were doing everything we could.  At a time like this someone should have stayed with the husband, but the patient needed all of us.
When time allowed, our doctor went to him and asked about her wishes and whether she had an advanced directive, she did not.

When she stabilized it was just about change of shift.  I had spent the last 2 hours helping her fight for life.  I reported off to the oncoming nurse and went to the husband. 
I had spoken to him briefly a few times in the past 2 hours.  I now explained the situation the best I could and told him that a very qualified nurse was assuming care.  I asked if he had any questions or if there was anything I could do for him.

He thanked me.

Walking to the break room on my way out, I ran into our doctor.  I told him "good job".  He said he couldn't feel good about it because he felt she had been without a pulse too long and felt the husband would face very tough decisions in the next few days. 
On the ride home I ran the events of the afternoon though my head.  Had we done the right thing?  Had we set the husband up for more heartache?  Would we have tried for so long had the husband not been in the room?  Maybe we had given him the opportunity to see that everything possible had been done.
We had run a good code, we had done our job, but had we given him his wife back?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

112 people

The fire broke out on Saturday, killing 112 people.

112 people dead!

It was a garment factory.  There are thousands in Bangladesh, and fires are common, due to faulty wiring.  They exist because they produce garments very cheaply, which get sold in the US and other "developed" nations.  This particular factory made clothing for Wal-Mart, although Wal-Mart would not say how recently.  Wal-Mart and other large retailers have contracts with suppliers who contract with these factories, the goal, cheap labor, low prices, high profits.
Let's be honest, we look for that too, when we decide where to shop.
What we need to realize, what the large retailers need to realize, is that our decisions effect real people and their families.
Our dollars speak.
Third World sweat shops that fail to follow appropriate safety and environmental rules and pay their employees too little to make a living are little better than the cotton plantations of the Old South.  As consumers we need to be aware of this.  When investors ship jobs overseas in the name of lower prices for consumers, they hurt not only the Americans whose jobs are lost, but the people who are forced by economic reality to take the jobs in unsafe sweatshops that pollute the environment.
What can we do?
We can speak out.
We can buy "fair trade" when possible.
We already have the beginning of fair trade with coffee.
We can demand that investors, suppliers, and retailers be accountable for the conditions that lead to their profits.
We have been down this road in this country.  In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City led to reforms and regulations.
I know "regulations" have a bad name, but when profits are placed before people, ethically minded people need to act.
Right now the families of 112 people are grieving.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Early morning thoughts

Early mornings have always been special to me. The day hasn't yet become busy and hectic, my thoughts are on the bigger things of life.
I'm usually up before Michelle and the time alone with my thoughts is special to me.  Latter in the day, my thoughts are not as clear, not as pure, and caught up with the "tasks" of life.
Whether at home, or away on vacation, I'm usually the first one up. Some of my favorite memories are sitting and sipping coffee or tea and watching the sun come up.
Several years ago on a cruise vacation, I developed the habit to get up early and go to the ships breakfast area.  It was on the stern of the ship and when I arrived the same small group of people would usually be there, the "morning people."  Some would have cameras in hand, waiting to catch the spectacular sunrise over the water, others would just sit and sip their coffee and enjoy the quiet.  The crew was busy getting things started, but they were moving at a more relaxed pace and even though they were up only because we were, they seemed to appreciate us "morning people." 
One day, sitting there and sipping coffee, I had my note pad out and the thoughts were just flowing.  I was writing frantically, trying to capture my thoughts, and a crew member who recognized me from other mornings came over and said in a warm way, "no work on vacation." 
It wasn't work, it was writing, it was meditation, it was prayer, it was spending time coming to know myself and my place in the world.
I've heard of other people doing the same.  I've also heard of people taking a late night walk after all the "work" of the day is over, or sitting or walking in a special place at lunch time to do the same.  These "early mornings" come at different times and are spent in different ways.
Some meditate, some pray, some write, some listen to music, some drink coffee. 
There is a saying I like, "the time you enjoy waisting is not wasted time." 
There is much work that needs to be done in each day, there is much good that needs to be accomplished, and there is much that can be gained from "early mornings."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Let the shopping begin!

Now that Thanksgiving is over we begin the preparation for the REAL holiday, Christmas, in a season we call "Advent", or to the commercialized world, "Advertisement."
Yes, just when you thought it was safe to start watching TV again and checking your mailbox, because the political ads are done, comes the dreaded Christmas advertising season.
For the next 4+ weeks we will be deluged with print, TV, and radio ads, songs on the radio, and TV specials designed with one purpose, to separate us from our money.
Don't get me wrong, gift giving serves an important purpose.  The tradition of giving gifts dates back to the three wise men for Christmas and ancient Israel for Hanukkah.  Santa Clause is the patron saint of gift giving, ensuring that all people of all religions or no religion, can participate.  Giving to each other is truly a wonderful human trait and should be encouraged.  In addition, the spending of our money gives a boost to the economy. 
But I believe that as important a part of the holiday season as gift giving is, it should remain just that, a PART of the holiday season.
How often as we stressed out over our ability to have the time, the money, or the knowledge, of getting that "perfect gift?"  How often have we heard the statement, "I'll just be glad when it's over?"
Like most things in life, there is a place of balance and our job is to find that place.
May we all find the time and take the time this busy holiday season, to remember that it is at it's core, a spiritual season of rededication, celebration of life, and a giving of ourselves, and may we not get trapped up in the commercialization to the point that we are looking for it to just be over.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks

If there is a good thing about the commercialization of Christmas, it's that the retailers more or less leave Thanksgiving alone.  Thanksgiving remains, for the most part, a time to be with family, over eat, watch football or old movies, and nap.  If we resist the urge to run out to all the Thanksgiving pre Black Friday sales, it can be a good day. 
Before I go on, let me say a word about Black Friday.  I understand the sales are enticing, and we're all trying to stretch our dollars, but there is a movement starting across the country to try to get people to NOT hit the stores on Thanksgiving afternoon and evening.  The thinking is that employees of the stores that are open on Thanksgiving have no option of working or being home with their families, they are ordered to be at work.  Please give this consideration when deciding when to hit the stores.
Now, back to Thanksgiving.
Besides being a day of family, food, TV, and naps, Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on all our blessings.  It is easy to dwell on the negatives, it's good we have a holiday dedicated to the idea of us thinking of the positives.
I was going to go into detail about everything I have to be thankful for, and there is much, but instead, I'd like you to take some time this week and reflect on your own life.  Find a little time in your busy schedule to look inside.  Try to look beyond the daily struggles and see what, in spite of these, you have to give thanks for.
Then, in your own way, say thanks to whatever Higher Power you believe in.
Enjoy the food, football, and family.
Happy Thanksgiving!   

Friday, November 16, 2012

2 hospitals, 5 Locals, 1 common goal

Last night we held our Fall General Membership Meeting. It was an opportunity to present our financial statement to date and our budget for next year.  It was also an opportunity to discuss issues around the hospital and to spend some time with and thank many who have helped us along the way.
Our invited guests included the leadership of our three L+M AFT sister locals, 5051, 5049, and 5123, our sister local at Backus, SPFPA (security guards and support staff), and AFT Connecticut.
All have been instrumental in our success. 
SPFPA broke new ground and showed us how to have the courage to stand up for our rights. 
The L+M locals have supported us and mentored us every step of the way. 
AFT Connecticut made it all possible. 
We owe them all a huge dept of gratitude.
We invited them last night so that our members could say thanks and could see that they belong to something much larger than the 400 nurses at Backus.  Together we represent 29,000 members in health care, education, and public service.  We hold a common commitment to help our fellow man and to protect the rights of workers and their families.
As important as it was for us to say thank you, it was also an opportunity to strengthen our relationship and recommit ourselves to working together.  The leadership of each Local and our State Federation have agreed to continue to meet on a regular schedule to share ideas and struggles.
There is much for us to do, but we need never do it alone.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day (service to others/strength in numbers)

My wife’s shoulder surgery last week has added to my workload. It’s amazing how much we are normally able to do on our own, from dressing, to showering, to even closing car doors.
Our recent election was an example to me of how a large amount of work is made easier when many hands are doing it. Our recent devastation from super storm Sandy has also shown that the recovery is not possible without everyone pitching in to help.
Whether it’s helping my wife, the election process, or the recovery effort, many hands make the work easier.
This election was a record maker in terms of money spent. Perhaps the biggest example of this was right here in the Connecticut US Senate race. One candidate spent $40 million of her own money, in addition to all the PAC and party money. In the last 2 US Senate races she has spent $77 million of her own!
She was defeated both times.
She was defeated because although she could outspend, she could not outwork. The number of people making phone calls and going door to door for her opponent overwhelmed her money. In the end, people beat money.
Prior to the storm FEMA prepared to respond.  New Jersey Governor Chrisie praised the response of the federal government. We cannot rebuild storm hit communities alone but together we can and will. FEMA, the Red Cross, all the church groups, labor organizations, and other groups that have responded are making a difference, again showing that together we are stronger than alone.
We all need help every day, no man is an island.
On Veterans Day we honor those who have served and now serve in the military, the men and women who put themselves in harms way because helping our fellow man is the right thing to do. The men and women who, like my father and uncles, dropped everything and came to the aid of their fellow citizens at Pearl Harbor, after 9/11, and throughout history. These brave people understood better than most, that sometimes we all need help, sometimes we cannot do it alone, and always there is strength in numbers.
Our forefathers founded our nation on the premise that we are a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. United we are strong.
Let us honor our veterans by continuing the traditions that they embody, service to others and strength in unity.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The role of "Government"

One of the big debates in our country right now is over the role of government. It is not a new debate and it is a legitimate debate. I think most of us want a governments that can take care of the basic needs of society but not be intrusive. I think most of us agree that some things are decided better by individuals, some by local governments, some by states and some as a nation.
But in my mind I think the real problem is that we have made government a "third party", it it is not, or at least should not be. The founders of our great country envisioned a nation "of the people, for the people, and by the people". I think they would disappointed to see that we now speak of the government that they forged as something we are not a part of.
Not everyone can hold political office, but we can all be involved, and by "involved" I do not mean merely complaining.
Complaining about the weather is great, it gives us something to do about a situation that we can not control, but our government and our society is something that we can influence, so complaining without action is just....well, I'm not sure what it is.
Asking everyone to become involved in "government" might be too large a step, but most of us are already involved in "society" are various levels. Most are somehow involved in youth sports, PTO, fire departments, church groups, etc.
My good friend Rick says I've become a politician, and when he first said that, I said, no, no! But he's right, I was elected to represent the 400 nurses I work with. To represent them effectively, I need to attend certain meetings and functions with management, elected officials, and other Union leaders. That's how the concerns of our nurses and our patients are heard. I am happy to do this because I believe in those concerns. I have seen how decisions made at various levels of government effect those concerns, and I want to influence that, if even in a small way.
I guess what I'm saying is that my involvement has removed that "third party" aspect for me. We all are a part of our society, our government.
Most of us will never hold public office, that 's fine, but it should not prevent us from being involved, being part of the solution. I think that's what our founding fathers hoped for.

Please vote today.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Politics is Beautiful

In a few days the election will be all over.  We will be pleased with some of the results and displeased by others.  One thing we can reach consensus on is that we will be happy the TV ads and the phone calls are over.
It has been said that politics is ugly, and it is, but it is also, at the same time, beautiful.
Yes, we have to put up with a barrage of campaign rhetoric, much of it negative, and it gets to be sickening.  Campaign reform is needed.  The money spent could go to greater uses. The Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United has had unfortunate consequences.
But this is our democracy in action.
The alternative is a society where descent and freedom of speech is prohibited. Where we do not have a system of checks and balances between the three branches on government.  As much as we complain that only the elite run the world, it could be worse, it has been worse throughout history, and is some places, it is worse.
Since the battle of Bunker Hill men and women have sacrificed life, limb, and fortune to give us the freedoms we have.  They have fought on the battlefields, home and abroad, they have marched in protest on our streets, they have gained freedom and equality and the right to vote and hold office, or the right to not vote, not participate, not hold office. 
The choice is ours.
It is not that way everywhere in the world, and certainly not for all people.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"minor" surgery

My wife's in surgery.

It's minor surgery, put then again, I have always defined "minor surgery" as surgery being done to someone I do not personally know.

Start cutting into me or someone I care about and it quickly becomes "major surgery", I don't care if I am only getting my teeth cleaned.

Anyway, my wife injured her shoulder and it hasn't responded to physical therapy, so they're going to go in and fix things up.  I'm sure her followup instructions will include no cooking or cleaning and much TV watching and being waited upon by her husband.

Surgery isn't being done at my hospital, so I'm an "undercover RN" today.  Eventually, my wife will spill the beans and tell them what I do for a living, she always does. Then they'll expect me to know what they're talking about. 
I'm not an orthopedic nurse and I'm not a surgical services nurse. 
I don't expect the anesthesiologist to be able to perform the surgery, they shouldn't expect me to know how to convalesce a shoulder surgery.

Wish me well.  With your help I'm confident I'll get through this. 

One more thing...
She'd kill me if she knew I was blogging about her so mums the word.
Lucky for me she never reads my blog.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shared Rewards?

Recently, Backus Hospital announced it's 2012 "Shared Rewards Program" and delegates have been getting questions.  Let me try to answer those questions.
The program consists of three parts; a discretionary matching contribution to the 402(b) plan, a pay for performance wage increase, and an end of the year bonus.

It is true that during negotiations we were offered the opportunity to continue participating in this program.  However, it is also true that this was an all or nothing offer, we could not, for instance, accept the year end bonus and negotiate for wage increases, insurance rates or other benefits.  It was a take what we are willing to give you or take nothing offer.

So, what's the bottom line, what can you expect.

You will not get a year end bonus. 
You will get 3% of earnings into your 403 (b).
You will get a 2.25% wage increase on June 1. 

Now, a little more explanation.

In addition to the 3% contribution to the 403(b), if you had been in the old pension fund and had at least 10 years service on 12/31/09 and your age and years service equals 55 or more, you will get an additional 3%  (a total of 6%).
Without this, 55+ people would be negatively impacted.

Your wage increase in June could be slightly higher if you are at the bottom of the pay range scale on page 33 of our contract because the range narrows each year. There are also a few individuals who will get no increase. They were credited with service as LPNs and Surgical Techs and were hired at a higher rate of pay because of this, and fall outside the range. These individuals know who they are and we owe them a promise to address this inequity in our next contract.

It is also important to remember that your wage increase is no longer tied to your evaluation.

Same history might be helpful.

At one time wages were tied to evaluations.  It became clear that some people and some departments were making much more than other people or departments.  I think this was a result of human nature and the fact that any evaluation of a nurse is subjective by nature.
So, the hospital changed to a set % wage increase each year that depended on how the hospital did financially and what the economy demanded to retain staff.

Then Wellspring consulting was hired.
Longevity and certification bonuses became history, replaced with a year end bonus set by the a handful of men who make up the board of trustees.  That year end bonus has been about 10% of the previous bonuses.
Shift and weekend differentials decreased.
Wages were returned to a subjective evaluation form, the total amount set by the board and divided among the employees.
Insurance rates, co pays, and deductibles climbed, income plunged, and experienced nurses left the hospital.  At the same time profits soared and those earning the most earned even more.

During negotiations, when we were offered the all or nothing opportunity to continue to participate in shared rewards, we asked if they could tie the "shared" part into something concrete.  In other words, each year the board decides how much it can "share" with the employees.  We asked, could that be tied to profit margin? or some other hard number?  The answer was no.

As nurses, we have economic responsibilities to our families and we have ethical responsibilities to our community to try to retain experienced colleagues..

If at the end of our contract, our members decide they would like to return to "shared rewards", we could negotiate for that.  I'm pretty sure the administration would be interested.

Depending on the board's generosity is one way to go, standing together is the other.

I'm reminded of a scene from Oliver Twist.  Oliver is hungry and asking for more food. 
"Please sir, I want some more."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Understanding our contract, Articles 53-61

Article 53, Health assessment and Disease Prevention
The hospital has the right to require employees to complete workplace related health assessments, and participate in workplace related preventative and disease control regimens.
(This is how they can require flu shots or masks.)

Article 55, Hospital Rules and Policies
The hospital can enforce existing and new rules and policies as long as they do not conflict with the contract.  The Union can demand that the hospital bargain the effects of any such change.  (this is how we can bargain the effects of flu shots)

Article 54, Technological Changes
The hospital may introduce new technology.  If the new technology requires a non-supervisory RN to perform, such position will be filled by a bargaining unit nurse and training will be provided.  Any bargaining unit job displaced by such change will be covered by article 23 (reduction of force) of the contract.

Article 56, Electronic Monitoring
The hospital may continue current and will notify the union of any new monitoring and will not monitor union activity.

Article 57, Contracting
The hospital has the right to contract outside the bargaining unit and will notify the union of any intent to permanent contracting of such work 60 days in advance.  the union may demand effects bargaining.  Any layoffs as a result will be governed by article 23 of the contract.

Article 58, Hospital Operation
The location, means and methods relating to the operation of the hospital and any closure, relocation, restructuring, or reconfiguration of the hospital is within the rights of the hospital and the union can demand effects bargaining.
(Many of these changes would also fall under the scrutiny of the state and would require a Certificate of Need, which we would monitor, and in which we would call on our political friends.  The recent opening of the Plainfield ED and affiliation with Hartford are examples we are currently monitoring.  Should such changes be a benefit to the community and our members we would endorse them.)

Article 60, Safety
The hospital and union recognize the obligation to provide a safe work environment.

Article 61, Duration
This contract is in force until May 16, 2015, when we will negotiate a new contract.

That ends our walk though of our contract, it was 118 years in the making, it's not perfect, but for a first contract, it's pretty good.  Future contracts will build on this one. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Understanding our contract, Articles 47-52

Article 47, Wages
After much negotiating, the final agreement for wages is a wage range, based on date of graduation with a degree in nursing.  The maximum and minimum in each range shrinks each year, starting at $1.50 and ending at $1.00.  The scale is in our contract on page 33.  Basically, it provided for an immediate increase for most nurses of 3%, an increase next June of 2.25%, and the following June of 1%.  Resource Center members will continue to receive $48/hour for the next 3 years.

Article 48, Health and Welfare
The hospital will offer Aetna POS  II or an equivalent plan for the life of the contract.  They will also offer the current Delta Dental plan.
The contract does call for increases in weekly payroll deductions, and they are spelled out on page 34 of the contract.  Increases will occur at the beginning of each year and are based on budgeted hours.
The % you see are the % of the total cost of the plan.  The increases are significantly less than we faced at the beginning of the negotiations.
The hospital will also offer the current vision plan without change in premiums.

Article 49, Short Term Disability and Article 50, Long Term Disability
The hospital will provide short and long term disability for non-work related injuries sat no cost to the members budgeted for 24 hours or more

Article 51, Life Insurance and Accidental Death and Dismemberment Coverage
The above coverages will be provided to members who are budgeted at 24 hours or more at no cost.

Article 52, Retirement Benefit
The hospital will continue the 403(b) plan and continue the 3% contribution each year and an additional 3% contribution to employes who participated in the old Pension Plan and had at least 10 years service on 12/1/09 and who's age plus years of service equals 55 or more. (this is the current practice)
The old Pension Plan remains frozen as of 12/31/09.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thank you, Michelle Hayes

My last post was about the power of We.  Soon after I wrote that we have an example of it in real life.

Our Vice President/Chief Delegate has tendered her resignation.  Family obligations have recently increased and they need her full attention at this time.  She felt that she could not continue to give the excellent service to the members as has become her trade mark.

I was not happy with this news and my first reaction was to try to figure some way to convince her that she could continue to "do it all."  I needed to step  back and realize that this was just me being selfish.  Michelle has been a critical part of our leadership since we started planning for negotiations. She has become my good friend and advisor.  I am confident that she will continue as one of our lead delegates and I'm sure I will continue to call on her for advice and support.

Melissa Hunter, our Secretary will step into the role of VP/Chief Delegate.  She is, without question, qualified for the position.  She has my full support and I'm sure the full support of the members.

Thinking back on all the people who have stepped forward in the past 2+ years to be of service to their fellow nurses, in the organizing drive, the negotiations, and post negotiations, underscores the fact that this is not my union, not Michelle's union, it is OUR union.  The load is carried by all. Yes, some people dedicate more time and energy but all contribute, and at times all must step back and let others lead.  That is the power of WE.

Those of us who lead do not do it alone either.  We are blessed with a strong relationship with our sister locals at L+M, other AFT CT locals, our state Federation and the southeastern CT labor community.

We are now looking for someone to step forward to serve as our Secretary.  Contact me know if you want more information about this chance to serve to your fellow nurses.  It is open to all members.

In closing I want to say thank you to Michelle.  Your service to your union has been an example for the rest of us. To those who served on the organizing committee, the negotiations committee, who knocked on doors, who came to negotiations, who serve now as delegates and communication liaisons, the membership thanks you.  That is the power of WE, that is solidarity. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of We

Today is the sixth annual Blog Action Day, when thousands of bloggers from around the world will write "about one important global topic on the same day."
This year's topic is "The Power of We."
The Power of We is a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world, either for their own communities or for people they will never meet half way around he world.

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.
I grew up in an American Irish Catholic family.  I learned of Catholic social doctrine, which teaches that we are one human family, with a responsibility to care for the earth and the poor, and to respect the dignity of work and the rights of workers. I learned of the struggles of my ancestors in Ireland and in this country.  I learned what happened when they banded together to protect themselves and their families by becoming politically active.  My own grandfather took up this call in the Rhode Island state senate.

Now I practice as a Registered Nurse in a small community hospital in Connecticut.  Several years ago a cost cutting consultant was brought in.  In the years since then, the hospital has cut nurses wages and benefits, increased profit margin, and laided off our Licenced Practical Nurses during a nursing shortage.
This has led to an incredible turnover of nurses at our hospital, prompting Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy to refer to it as a "starter hospital", because nurses start their careers here and move on.
So two years ago we decided to band together, to use the Power of WE.
Facing strong administration opposition but with the support of our governor, representatives, senators, other labor unions, and the community, we voted and became the Backus Federation of Nurses, a local of the American Federation of Teachers
We are in our infancy as a local, but we have already seen what solidarity can do.

No longer are we "at will" employees.  Now there must be just cause to discipline or discharge.
No longer does administration have the last word.  We have a grievance procedure and arbitration by an independent arbitrator.
No longer can they just "walk us out" as they did to the LPNs.
No longer must nurses be afraid to openly advocate for themseves, their colleagues, or their patients.
My hope is that we have started a process that will lead to a hospital where young, talented nurses wish to come to work and even more, they wish to stay.

In the process of the formation of this union, I started this blog as a way to tell our story.  I was invited to join the National Writers Union, Local 1981, UAW. 
I am proud to stand in solidarity with my brother and sisters of AFT and the UAW, because together we have the Power of We, and together we can make a real difference in our communities, our nation and the world.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mandatory flu shots

I'd like to address the issue of the new Backus Hospital policy on mandatory flu shots.  I realize that whenever you make something "mandatory" it makes people uneasy.  There's something very "big brother" about it.
I also understand that some people have a real belief that the flu shot either causes them to become sick or at least doesn't prevent illness, and some may have an true allergic reaction to it or medical condition that precludes them getting it.
Others have religious reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated.
I understand the these reasons and support those who have them.
I will also tell you that I believe in getting the shot and have already done so myself.

The hospital has instituted a new policy this year.  In short, you must get the injection or wear a mask whenever you are in a patient care area.  In addition, if you do not wish to receive the shot, you must have a medical or religious exemption. (the forms are available on line and must be submitted by October 31 to Employee Health).  The forms will be reviewed by the Hospital's Review committee.  If the Hospital Review committee disagrees with the exemption, the employee will be required to be vaccinated.
The Hospital has always had the right to introduce new policies such as this.  Under our contract, they retain this right.
Under our contract, we have the right to "effects bargaining" on new policies.  We can bargain the impact on us.
So, bargaining unit nurses will have the right to an appeal, should the committee deny their exemption. 
If an exemption is denied, we will file a grievance.  We will meet and try to resolve the grievance and if unable, we will bring the case to an independent arbitrator (agreeable to both sides) for a final ruling.  While waiting for the decision, the nurse will continue to work and will wear a mask.
Should the hospital committee or the arbitrator uphold the exemption, then that nurse will not be required to be vaccinated but will need to wear a mask.
The CDC has some good information on preventing the flu.
I wish you good health.

Monday, October 8, 2012

"All politics is local"

Tip O'Neil said that "All politics is local."
What he meant is that a politician's success is tied to his/her ability to understand the issues of their constituents.  The personal issues are often what the voters care about the most.
Last week I attended a political reception in Preston for Tim Boyles, who is running for State Rep from the 44th district.  In attendance were Governor Malloy, Rep Tom Reynolds, Kevin Ryan, Steve Mikutel, Senator Andrew Maynard, and many others. 
The reason I was there was twofold. 
Tim Boyles is a worthy candidate.  He is the selectman of Preston and a supporter of small business, farmers, the environment, education, and the workers of this area. I urge you to give him your support.
I was also there to promote the issues of the employees of Backus Hospital.  In fact, this first thing the Governor asked was "How are things at the hospital?" 
That question is echoed by all the politicians I speak to.  They care about what matters to us because what Tip O'Neil said is true.
Often, especially in this political season, the negative campaigning leaves us thinking that no politicians truly care about us.  Negative campaigning is an unfortunate part of the game.  The truth is, many politicians do care. 
They live in small towns, eat in local restaurants, send their children to local schools.  Most of them started out in town politics.  Many of them spend a considerable amount of time and energy trying to understand the issues of their constituents so that they can represent them well.
Maybe you know one of your local politicians.  Maybe you've worked, socialized, worshiped, or gone to school with them. Maybe you see them in a local store.  If so, although you may disagree on the issues, you probably feel they are a good person, doing what they can to serve others.
It's impossible for us to get to know every official who represents us at the state and national level and it's impossible for them to get to know us all personally, but somewhere, in some small town, there are people who do know them, just like you may know your local official.
One of the dangers in our democracy is that we can feel that what we care about doesn't matter, and because of this stop participating, stop voting.
Tip O'Neil was right.  That's why, when I see the Governor, the first thing he asks me is "How are things at the hospital?"

Friday, October 5, 2012

Understanding our Contract, Articles 43-46

Article 43, Holidays
There are 6 paid holidays.
If you are off you are paid straight time for the holiday. (prorated, based on budgeted hours)
If you work the holiday, time will be credited to your vacation bank, and:
You receive time and a half if you work Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day,
You receive double time if you work New Years Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.
Holidays falling on Saturday will be observed on the preceding Friday and holidays falling on Sunday will be observed on the following Monday. If the holiday is observed in this way (a Friday or Monday), and you work on the observed day, then you will be paid your regular salary plus $5/hour.
As an example: This year Christmas falls on a Sunday. If you work Dec 25, you receive double time. If you work December 26, you receive regular pay plus $5/hour. If you work the observed holiday, Dec 26, then you are credited to your vacation bank, if you are off, then you are paid straight time.
Every attempt will be made to rotate holidays and to give off Christmas Eve or New Years Eve to nurses working those holidays.

Article 44, Sick time
Sick time is accrued at the rate of 1 hour for each 40 hours worked and may be used once a nurse has worked 680 hours from date of hire.
Sick time may be used for illness, injury, health condition, medical diagnosis or treatment, and preventative care for an employee, their spouse or their minor child.
It may also be used when the employee is a victim of family violence or sexual assault to obtain medical or psychological care, services from victim services, to relocate, or to participate in civil or criminal proceedings related to such as assault.
Click HERE for info on Connecticut's new sick leave law.

Article 45, Vacation time
Accrual rate of vacation time depends on budgeted hours and years of service at the hospital. It is spelled out in the contract.
Vacation requests for the period of Memorial Day through Labor Day may be submitted in January and for Thanksgiving through New Years Day may be submitted in July.
All other full week vacations may be submitted starting 6 months before the schedule for that month. Less than full week vacations may be submitted approximately 5 weeks prior to the month in question. The Human Resources Department has a chart near the time clocks spelling this out.
There is currently a grievance on the time frame for submitting partial week vacations, so that could change. In a nutshell, the union believes that the hospital is misinterpreting the intent of the language and that we should not be held to the 5 week submitted time frame.

Article 46, Resignation
3 weeks notice is expected in a resignation and payout of unused vacation time is dependant upon such notice being given.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

United Way

She adverted her eyes as she approached on that cold winter day.  We handed her our leaflet anyway.  "We're the nurses of Backus Hospital and we're collecting food for the local food pantries".  She stopped, looked at us, and replied quietly, "I'm out of work and one step away from needing the food pantry myself."
We handed her information on United Way services and we wished her well as she went into the store.
Thirty minutes later she emerged with a small bag of groceries.  She reached in and took out a single can of tomato soup and placed it in our basket.  "I realized that as bad as things are, there are others who have it worse."
One of the nurses hugged her.

Luke writes, "As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

This was my introduction to the United Way.  Since then I have witnessed amazing things.  People giving out of their need.  Trucks being filled with food.  Many people being helped.  Unions and management working together for a good cause.

The annual United Way drive is going on right now at Backus Hospital.  I urge all who work there to give $1/week in payroll deductions.  It's simple, taking only a few minutes,'s $1. 
It might seem like $1/week won't make a difference, but added together with everyone else, it will! 
I have seen how one can of tomato soup from that lovely lady, added with others, filled a truck!

Together we can make a difference.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

State of the Union 9/30/12

I'd like to start out by saying that our website will be our primary source of information.  It contains much information, including meeting dates and times and contact lists.  Think of it as our online bulletin board.  It is undergoing a revamp now and the new version will be live somewhere around October 11th, but the current version was updated this week.

We now have 16 union delegates on board.  We are looking for more, especially from areas not represented, including A2, E4, and BOCC.  Please speak to one of the delegates if you are interested. 
Another option for anyone not ready to serve as a delegate is to be willing to serve as a communication liaison, a contact person for your area, so that members can stay informed.

There is a very important meeting coming up for all members.  November 15 is the Fall Membership Meeting, where we will vote on next year's budget. Our Finance Committee, lead by Treasurer Donna Callicutt, is in the process of developing a budget proposal, they are looking for members to participate, so let Donna or another delegate know if you would like to be involved.  This is your money, this is your decision.

We are working with the Hospital, though the volunteer department, on the annual United Way drive.  The United Way has strong ties to both labor unions and the business community.  Kara Giroux of D2 is our Community Outreach Committee Chair, and committee members are being sought. Giving a dollar or so a week in payroll deductions isn't even noticed and when added together can do so much good.

It's flu shot time!  I got mine this week and I urge everyone who can to do the same.  If, for religious or medical reasons, you cannot get the shot, then please fill out the paperwork for an exemption.  The Hospital will review your request for an exemption.  We are negotiating an arbitration agreement in the case that there is a dispute over an exemption request.  In other words if you seek an exemption and the Hospital review board disagrees, then an independent arbitrator will rule on it.

Our Political Liaison, Carol Adams, of E3, recently spoke before the New London City Finance Committee, advocating for a budget that protected city services, including the senior center.  Carol also represents us at the SCCLC, the gathering of all the labor Locals of southeastern Connecticut.

Our Secretary, Melissa Hunter, of PACU, is working on our next newsletter.  This is a major project as it is the first one we will publish on our own.  Look for it soon, with periodic newsletters to follow. Melissa is Chair of our Communications and Publicity Committee and is looking for members interested in serving on the committee.

Our State Federation president, Sharon Palmer, has been appointed by Governor Malloy the new Commissioner of Labor.  This is great news for Sharon and the people of Connecticut.  As a result, she will be resigning her position as president of AFT CT.  The state federation executive committee will make a recommendation for an interim president to serve until the next election and the state executive committee will will vote on the recommendation next month.  I am a member of the AFT CT Healthcare Council and will keep you up to date on this. 

Our Professional Issues Conference is April 25-27 in Baltimore.  It's a great conference open to all members, with CEU credits and an opportunity to connect with members from all over the country.  Let me know if you're interested.

Lots going on. I will try to keep you updated though this blog,, newsletters, and our delegates and communication liaisons.  Remember to consider helping on a committee, and remember our Fall General Membership Meeting.

In Solidarity.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Understanding our contract Articles 33-42

Article 33, Bereavement Pay
You are entitled for up to 3 days payed time off for the death of a spouse, parent, step parent, child or sibling, one day payed time off for a grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, or current in law.
Additional time off for the death of a relative may be requested and taken as unpaid or vacation time.  Requests for bereavement time for a non relative must be as vacation time.
We felt that with today's blended families and with families sometimes living in other states or countries it was important to include the ability to request more than the traditional 1 or 3 days and/or request time for a non relative.

Article 34 Jury Duty Pay
If called to Jury duty You will be paid your usual salary for the first 5 days.
The next 20 days are not paid.
Days 26-45 are paid at your normal salary.
Days over 45 are not paid.
Available vacation time may be used for any non paid days.
Under Connecticut state law, if you are called by the state to jury duty, you are paid $50/day for every day starting with day 6.

Article 35, Court Appearance
If you are subpoenaed to appear in court you will be granted the needed leave and may use vacation time. 
If subpoenaed by the Hospital, you will be paid your normal salary. 
If you are a victim of a crime you will be permitted to take time off to attend court or participate in a police investigation and you may use vacation time.

Article 36, Worker's Compensation
If you are injured at work you are paid the remainder of your shift.  The Hospital's insurance carrier will pay you if your lost time exceeds 3 days, retroactive to day one.  If you miss less than 3 days then the insurance carrier is not obligated to pay you but you may use sick or vacation time.

Article 37, Restricted Duty
The Hospital may make temporary, restricted duty (light duty) assignments for work or non-work related injuries or illnesses, during which time you receive your normal salary.

Article 38 and 39, FMLA and Military Leave
We are covered by Connecticut and Federal FMLA acts and the Uniformed Services and Redeployment Act.

Article 40, Pregnancy Leave
Up to 8 weeks of pregnancy leave should you not qualify for FMLA

Article 41, Personal leave
You may request up to 8 weeks of unpaid personal leave.  You must use any vacation time you have.

Article 42, Inactive status
If you exceed leave as set out in Worker's Comp, FMLA, or Military Leave, you are eligible for inactive status for up to one year.  During inactive status you receive no salary or benefits, but your employment is protected.
We felt this was important because no one should lose their employment because of an injury at work, a condition that qualifies them for FMLA, or while serving their country in the military.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why Vote?

I write today in an effort to urge you to register and to vote.  Voter turnout, even in presidential elections is very poor in this country.  In the 2008 federal elections, just over 57% of eligible voters actually voted, and that was a higher percent than usual.  The reasons are many, including a feeling that it just doesn't matter, that all politicians are the same or corrupt, that negative campaigning turns many people off. 
I understand.
However, when 57% of the voters decide, then we have placed our future and our children's future in their hands.
I could go into various arguments about why I disagree with the reasons given for not voting, but I don't think that would change a lot of minds.
Instead, I'll share two personal stories.
The first is about when I testified before the National labor Relations Board in Washington about a proposed rule change that would determine the obstacles to a group of workers trying to unionize.  The men and women on the board had been appointed by Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Obama.  Their views were already public.  It was then that I realised how deep the decisions we make on election day go.  It's not just the laws passed or not passed, its appointments to the labor board, the Supreme Court, and others.  It effects our daily lives.
The second story is very personal. 
When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, my dad and many others, left school and enlisted in the marines.  They went to war to protect the freedom we enjoy.  My dad was severely burned landing on a beach in the South Pacific.  He spent a year in the hospital, nearly died more than once, needed multiple skin grafts, and lived with the scars, including to the face.  Unlike his father, who was a Rhode Island state senator, or his brother Matt, who held town office, my dad stayed out of politics.  On every election day, he quietly made the trip and cast his ballot, he had earned that right for himself, for me, and for you.
If for no other reason than to honor those who have fought to give us the right to vote, I urge you to take the time to do so.
There is still time.
You can follow the link below for registering in Connecticut and other states have similar sites.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Understanding our contract, Articles 28-32

Article 28, On-Call Status
There are two forms of On-Call, Restricted and non restricted.
A nurse on Restricted call must stay at the hospital, non restricted must be able to report to the hospital within 30 minutes of being called.
The rate for Restricted call in minimum wage and for non restricted call is $4.25/hour.
If  a restricted on call nurses is assigned work, they are paid the normal appicable rate.  If a non restricted call nurse is called, they are paid 1 1/2 their normal rate from the time they are notified.
Because of the 30 minute time limit for reporting to work, a parking area solely designated for non restriced call nurses will be set up , they can punch in at any time clock, and they have ten minutes to dress after punching in.  Because some people who are required to be on non restricted call currently live more than 25 minutes from the hospital, a list of "grandfathered" nurses has been established.  These nurses will be granted additional time to report.

Article 29  Charge Nurses Status
A nurse assigned as charge nurse will receive an additional $1.25/hour.  The hospital agrees that the roe of charge nurse will remain a bargaining unit position (there will be no attempt to claim them as supervisors and thus not covered by the contract).

Article 30  Child Care
If the hospital decides to modify or discontinue the child care center, they will give 90 days notice and bargain the effects.

Article 31 Educational Support
Nurses working 24 or more hours a week, who have been employed at least one year, will be reimbursed up to $2,400/year to a maximum of $10,000 total, for tuition. It must be pre-approved, be at an accredited institution, and be taken toward a degree to enhance job competence or future positions.  A grade of "B" or better or "pass" in a pass/fail course must be achieved.  Full details are in the contract.

Article 32  Cafeteria
The hospital may make changes to the cafeteria, vending machines, or other commissary programs.  They will give us notice of such changes and will bargain effects upon our request.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Our Lady of LaSalette

On September 19, 1846, in the mountains of France, Our Blessed Mother appeared to two poor cowhand children, Maximin and Melanie.  She was weeping because her children had turned away from her Son.  She called them back in reconciliation, though prayer, to a life full of His love.

As we once again approach this anniversary, I wanted to reflect on it and what it has meant to my life, some 166 years later.

Shortly after the apparition of Our Lady, a religious order of priests, the LaSalettes, were founded, based on the principle of prayer and reconciliation.  In 1895 the came to Danielson, Connecticut to staff the parish of St James and minister to the many French Canadians who were following the rivers south from Quebec to work in the textile mills that were powered by the water wheels at the dams built along those rivers.  In 1900 they built a church and then a school.  The LaSalettes have faithfully staffed St James ever since. 

I was lucky enough to move to Danielson just in time to start first grade at St James.  The education that I received in my eight years there and the spiritual guidance that I have received over the past 50 years has made me who I am.

Growing up the message I heard over and over was a message of love, love of God for me and love of me for my fellow man.  There was no fire and brimstone, no do or be dammed.  There was only the message of the LaSallets, that God loves me, that he wants me close to Him through prayer, and that He wants me to be kind and good to myself and others, and when I fall short of this goal, He wants me to return to Him, ask for forgiveness, and be reconciled in His amazing love.

Happy Anniversary to the LaSalette Missionaries, from the many people you have ministered to over the years.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


There are no words to do justice to what we feel on this day.
God Bless all those who lost their lives and their families.
God Bless the men and women of the EMS community who routinely run in while others run out.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Labor and Delivery

This was a tough week in Labor and Delivery at the hospital, many changes.
The hospital is decreasing the staff,  placing everyone on 12 hour shifts starting in the next schedule, they have lost their Clinical Director, and there have been some discipline issues.
A tough week.
Let's be honest, it's left some wondering if they're better off now than they would have been before we organized.
I can understand those feelings.
We operate under a contract now.  Like any contract, there are things each side must do, and things each side is allowed to do.  What those things are, is a result of the negotiations that take place.  Those negotiations are tied to the strength of each side at the table.  Management's strength comes from the fact that they are the employer, they write the checks.  Our strength comes from our numbers and the fact that we provide vital skills without which the hospital could not operate.  Our numbers mean nothing if we are not united.
It is my job to see that we are united.
As union president, I have access to much more information than I ever did. Some of it I can share, and some I can not.
Births at the hospital are down and this has caused a need to call off nurses (cancel their shifts) and float them to other departments.  The hospital decided that the by decreasing the staff and placing the remaining staff on 12 hour shifts, these problems would decrease. It is within the hospital's contract rights to do this.  It was their decision.
Under the contract, we have the right to "effect bargain", to bargain in an effort to minimize the effects of such changes.  We were able to bargain when the change would begin so that nurses would at least have some planning time, how the reassignment of new shifts would be done (by department seniority), what would happen to those who were displaced (they will go to other departments and have preferential treatment to return if an opening occurs or accept another position in the hospital).  Without a contract there would have been no effects bargaining, the change would have just happened without any input from us.
The loss of the Clinical Director was strictly a matter between management and Terri.  Having known her for years I must say I will miss her.  I wish her well.
As for the discipline, there is not much I can share because of confidentiality.  I can tell you that the nurses received representation. 
I spent a half hour on the phone with one LDRP nurse one evening late this week.  I ran into another in the hall.  Both have been involved in the organizing effort.  Both were frustrated and worn out from the week.
I spent 3 hours with 4 other LDRP nurses on another evening this week.  Like I said, it was a tough week in LDRP.
Healthcare is changing at an alarming rate.  We must do our best to make sure these changes are in the best interest of our members and our community.  That's why we will protect our contractual rights, file grievances when appropriate, effects bargain, and monitor the process of affiliation and Certificate of Need between Backus and Hartford Hospital.
We now have 14 Union Delegates and are seeking 11 more. I have posted them to the right.  I am also looking for people to get involved in committee work. 
There are two directions we can go.  Foreword in increasing unity and strength, or backwards to the old ways. 
It's up to us.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Leo Canty

My friend, Leo Canty, is running for the Connecticut State Representative in the 5th district.  He is the endorsed candidate and he won a primary for the right to run in the general election.  Now he is in a legal battle with the candidate who did not gain the endorsement and did not win the primary, just to be able to exercise the right he won (twice), to run in the general election.
In 1978 Leo helped organize the union at the Uconn Health Center, Local 3837, one of the most respected Locals to be found anywhere in this country. Leo served as their Treasurer and as their President.  Leo now serves as Second Vice President of AFT-CT, Local 3837's state federation.
Leo has dedicated his life to the protection of working men and women and the preservation of the middle class.
When we struggled against overwhelming odds at Backus Hospital, Leo stood with us, speaking at our rally and marching at our informational picket.
It's time to stand with him.
I know money is tight, but surely we can give up a coffee or two.  Leo needs help to fight his legal battle for the right to run in the general election.
Please, please, please, consider sending a dollar, two dollars, or more if you can.  Put a man in the state house who has proven his dedication to us, to the ideal that this great state, that this great nation, is better with a strong middle class.

Canty 2012

Dear Friend,

I'm afraid I need to ask for your help again.

Court proceedings have started on Brandon McGee's attempt to overturn my primary election victory. Not much got done in court today, and we will reconvene next Wednesday to continue. We may need more time than that as well.

To ensure my campaign's, and my voter's, rights, I have had to retain legal counsel. My lead counsel has already made personal sacrifices to represent my campaign, and is a top flight elections attorney. But, he is spending substantial time on this case and must be properly compensated. A second attorney is helping as he can, but is unable to spend more time without compensation.

To pay for the legal expenses, I have opened a legal fund, as allowed by state elections regulations. I can accept contributions from individuals, in any amount. I cannot accept contributions from businesses, organization, political action committees or state contractors.

If you would like to help, please send a check made out to: Canty 2012 Legal Fund to Al Simon, 66 Wilton Road, Windsor CT 06095

Thank you for your continued support.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Understanding our contract, Articles 24-27

If I don't make some progress on this walk through our contract it will be time to start over by the time I finish.

Article 24 Evaluations
Yes the hospital has the right, and some would argue the obligation, to evaluate the nurses. They have the right to determine the form of the evaluation and what will be evaluated.  Nurses have a right to respond in writing.
The evaluations do not effect wage increases.  Wages are negotiated and spelled out in the contract. Neither the hospital nor the union can use the evaluations in any future arbitrations.  This means that if you get an unfavorable evaluation, and then at some time in the future you are disciplined and we grieve that discipline, the evaluation could not be used as evidence against you in arbitration.  On the other hand, should you receive a favorable evaluation and then find yourself in arbitration, you could not use that as evidence to benefit yourself.
So, you might ask, why have evaluations?  It should be a non punitive tool to evaluate nurses to take a fresh look at strengths and weaknesses and to use that in an effort to become even better nurses.
Some have asked me, "Do I still have to do my goals if my wages are no longer tied to them?"  Yes, the hospital has asked you to accomplish certain goals and pays you for the time to accomplish those goals, so do them to the best of your ability.

Article 25 Job Descriptions
We all have job descriptions, the hospital has the right to modify them and we have a right to a copy of them and the right to "effects bargaining" over any changes.
What is "effects bargaining"?
The hospital has the right under our contract to do many things to operate the hospital.  On many of these, we have the right to "effects bargaining".
Let me give you an example.
As for job descriptions, say the hospital changed the description to say that all nurses need to be certified in XYZ. We would bargain how and when any training would take place.
Here's a real life example:
The hospital has decided to place everyone in LDRP on 12 hour shifts, this is their right.
Because we have "effects bargaining" on schedule changes we are bargaining how the new 12 hour shifts will be dispersed, what will happen to any potentially displaced nurses, etc. 
So, we were able to bargain a waiver of the rule that if you transfer to another department instead of accepting a 12 hour shift, then you would not be held to the normal rule of being unable to bid on new jobs for 6 months.

Article 26 Shift Differentials
This sets the hours for evening and night differentials, basically an additional $3.25/hour for evenings and $4.25/hour for nights.

Article 27 Weekend Differentials
If you work the weekend you get an additional $5/hour (and you don't have to go to your spouse's second cousin's wedding)

Really though, God Bless all the staff working evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. The little extra we get is richly deserved.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Labor Day

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, a return to school for the kids, (some rest for the parents?), football and fall.

It also marks a day to remember what work has meant to us and continues to mean to us.  Often, we are defined by the work we do, at least to some extent.  Much of our self worth can come though our work, whether it be our full time paid jobs or our volunteer jobs.  When we accomplish something, when we contribute to something, when we make a difference, it gives us our purpose, our reason for getting up in the morning.

We should also remember the dignity of work.

Every job, be it that fantastic "dream job" or something that only puts food on the table, has dignity.

Every worker, whatever their social status or material worth deserves dignity, and that includes the ability to earn a living wage for an honest days work.

On this Labor Day weekend, let us commit ourselves to respecting the dignity of all workers

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Union Update 8/25/12

It may not seem like it but much has been happening in your Local recently, but it has.
We continue to meet with management on various issues both at Labor/Management meetings and in between. One of the hot topics is the new schedule changes.  Many people have asked why these have been occurring.  Most people I speak to feel that the schedules worked pretty well the way they were.  I would agree.  Some have asked if the changes are a retaliation for us organizing. 
Management has assured us that the changes were planned well before we began organizing but that during our organizing and negotiating they were barred from implementing any changes.  It is true that during this time the law is clear that they could make no changes to working conditions.  Management assures us that they are now implementing these changes that they had already planned and that they feel are needed for the operation of the hospital.
Management retains most of their rights to make changes in schedules under our contract.  You might ask why.  Because schedules were not a problem in the past and we were unaware that there were planned changes, we did not address them in great deal in the contract, there were plenty of other "problems" for us to fight for. If we cannot come to a somewhat equitable solution, we will make them a priority in our next contract. In the meantime, we work with management to find a solution that works for all involved.
We have had 17 members attend Delegate training, thank you so much to them.  Michelle Hayes, our Vice President/Chief Delegate will be reaching out to them to see which are interested now that they have a good idea of what is involved.  We are still looking for more interested members to fill this role. Being a Delegate is one of the most important roles in a union and a great service to your coworkers. Soon we will officially appoint them and we make an announcement and posting.
Speaking of postings, our new bulletin boards should be up in your break rooms.  They are 18" x18".  They should have an official posting with some contact information.  If you do not have the bulletin board or the posting please let me know.
We had our first executive board meeting this week.  Future meetings will be on the second Thursday of each month at 7:00 PM. In an effort to be reachable by all members, Michelle Hayes and I will have phones dedicated to member access.  You can reach me at 860-908-9711.
I am beginning to look for members to serve on committees.  If you have an interest, please contact me.  I will be serving on the United Way drive committee at the hospital.  It's an opportunity to expand the relationship we already have with the United Way and work with management on something that is of benefit to the community.
I encourage everyone to get the flu shot, unless you cannot for medical reasons or religious beliefs. I do not anticipate any problems with these exemption, but if so please contact me.
Finally, the hospital board have approved the affiliation with Hartford.  Next will come a lengthy process with the state to prove a need and that the communities interest will be protected.  This is the Certificate of Need, or CON.  We will monitor this process all the way though and study the CON in great detail.  If we are satisfied that the affiliation is in the best interest of our patients, our community and our members, then we will endorse it.  If we feel it is not in their best interest will will oppose it. Anyone interested in being part of this should contact me.
We already have sister AFT heath care locals who are a part of the Hartford Healthcare system.
I want to thank you all for your patience during this time between elections of officers and selecting and training of delegates, etc. It's taking some time, but we are making progress.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Solution Driven Unionism

Yesterday I had a long conversation with our Vice President of Human Resources, "T" Buss.  We spoke of many things but much of it concerned nurse schedules.
There have been some changes recently that have caused concerns for many.  I shared our concerns and she shared the reasons behind the changes.  We discussed some possible solutions that would work for all, nurses, administration, and most importantly, the patients.  We agreed to continue our discussions and to reach out to others for ideas.
Recently at the AFT national convention, Backus Federation of Nurses Vice President,  Michelle Hayes and Political Liaison, Carol Adams, listened as AFT President Randi Weingarten gave the key note address, speaking about Solution Driven Unionism.
Here is part of that speech:

We are a union of professionals. Solution-driven unionism drives that point home, showing that we have the know-how and the determination to solve problems.
...They’re walking the walk in places like New Haven. The leaders and members of the New Haven Federation of Teachers are partnering with their district to overhaul teacher development and evaluation and to turn around low-performing schools.
Together, they reached a new agreement that uses multiple measures to assess teacher performance and focuses on helping all teachers improve throughout their careers. It’s a far cry from the shaming and sanctioning of teachers based on a single test score or a drive-by observation, which do nothing to improve teaching and learning.
I’ll never forget the meeting we had at a school in New Haven two years after this plan had been implemented. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro brought together the AFT, Mayor John DeStefano, local president Dave Cicarella, state federation president Sharon Palmer, district officials and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
There was lots of firepower in that room, but the people who carried the day were the teachers and the principal in that school. The teachers talked about the voice they have, the empowerment they feel, and their passion to help children.
Together, they sought solutions to their challenges and came up with a transformation plan for struggling schools that ironically didn’t fit any of the options dictated by the Obama administration. Yet their approach, and the strength of their collaboration, have come to be viewed, as the secretary said that day, as a model.
And their approach was used as a template for statewide reform recently enacted in Connecticut. Do we like everything in that bill? No. But it is true to our values. It ensures that kids’ needs for things like early childhood education and community schools are met, and it values collective bargaining.
This work strengthened our credibility with Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy. And when the more than 400 nurses at Backus Hospital in Norwich, Conn., fought against a vicious union-busting campaign, Gov. Malloy stepped up and helped us secure that first contract.

The Backus Federation of Nurses has been practicing solution driven unionism since our beginning, reaching out to the community with food drives and blood pressure checks and receiving community support in return.  It's a win-win.
As we enter a new phase in our relationship with management, we will do our best to apply the same principles.  We will reach out to our members to solicit solutions that benefit all.  We will work with management to implement these solutions while at the same time standing up for ourselves and our rights. 
As Randi said, it's not an "either/or", it's a "both/and".

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Understanding our contract Articles 21-23

Let's continue:

Article 21 Licensure and Certification:
You must maintain your license and any currently required certifications, the hospital is responsible for providing paid educational opportunities for you to maintain required certifications.

Article 22 Seniority:
There are 2 kinds of seniority, hospital and department.
The bargaining committee purposely tried to minimize the importance of seniority so as to not create 2 classes of RNs, the "old timers" and the "newbies".
Hospital seniority is how long you have continuously worked at the hospital in any role.
Hospital seniority controls in computing any benefits that are tied to length of service. (such as number of weeks vacation)
Department seniority is the amount of time continuously employed in a particular department as an RN.
Department seniority controls in layoffs, recalls to work, and reduction of hours.
If you transfer to a new department, you retain up to 3 years of Department seniority, assuming you have been in your current department that long.

Article 23 Reduction in Force:
If the hospital determines there is a need to layoff RNs, they will meet with the union.  Often, unions and management can minimize the effects of a layoff by coming together to look at other solutions.
Layoffs are by department seniority, in this order: Probationary employees, Travelers, volunteers, least senior in that department.
A laided off nurse has the right to fill any posted position that they are qualified for.  If there are no such positions, they may displace a probationary employee, traveler, or least senior nurse in another department for which they are qualified, or they may elect to accept the layoff.

Article 23 Recall rights:
Laid off nurses maintain recall rights for 9 months and are recalled by seniority to any open position that they are qualified for.  They maintain up to 3 years of departmental seniority.