Monday, April 30, 2012

AFT and Local 25

When we were in Washington last week at the AFT conference, the Hotel workers from Local 25 were having an informational picket because they have been without a contract for over a year.  I wanted to share some pictures of what solidarity looks like.  I wish you all could have been there to experience it, workers standing with workers.  On the last day of the conference it was announced that the hotel had come to a tentative agreement with Local 25.
AFT president Randi Weingarten

UPDATE on contract talks

Friday, April 27, 2012

Negotiation update 4/27

We haven't had much movement in negotiations in the past several weeks.  Management is against a wage scale which we believe would smooth out inequities in wages (as much as several dollars/hr for the same graduating classes) and help retain nurses, which we believe would improve patient safety and decrease retraining costs.
They have proposed an across the board general wage increase of 0.5%, 0.75%, 1% and increases in insurance premiums of 4%, 4.5%, 5% for full time and 6%, 6.75%, 7.5% for part time.  This combination would mean a net loss for all nurses and an increase in turnover, leading to decreased patient safety and increased retraining costs.

They show no sign of moving. The next date they offered for negotiations was 5/22, almost a month away.

After much consideration, your bargaining team has offered the following.

A wage "range" based on graduation date, with a ceiling and floor to each graduation class. 
Increases of 3%, 2%, 2%.  If your increase leaves you below the floor for your class, then you would get an additional bump to reach that floor.
Increase in insurance premiums but smaller than what management had proposed.

This is a significant move by the nurses.

Management is looking at our proposal and promised to get back to us today or Monday.  We have a breakthrough if they accept.  I don't know what else we can compromise and still respectfully represent our members. We are in agreement on the rest of the contract.

The ball is in their court.

On another mater, tomorrow, Saturday the 28th, is Workers Memorial Day, to honor those who have lost their lives while on the job. Sue DelaCruz and Carol Adams will be representing us at the ceremony in Groton. If anyone can join them it's at 8:00 am in Washington Park. If, like me, you are working, or if you are otherwise unable to make it, please take a moment to reflect on these people and their families.  If you do not live in eastern Connecticut, please search google for a memorial service in your area.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Learning to be a nurse

Eighteen years ago, when I first came to Backus as an ER tech, I was taken under the tutelage of a group of nurses who, over the course of 5 years, helped me become a nurse. They taught me much, but most important was the idea that I was an advocate.
Leadership, they taught me, was not "moving up the ladder", it was advocating for my fellow nurses and my patients and their families, and in so doing, our hospital and community. It is more about service to others than authority over others.

Recently, I said farewell, but not goodbye, to one of those nurses, Lesa Hanson, who moved to Texas to be near family. An amazing nurse and person, who taught me to stand up and stand proud. Thank you Lesa, you taught me about leadership through example.
Lately I have called on those lessons more and more. We are engaged in tough contract negotiations for our first contract. Every time I think we are making progress we seem to have an unproductive night, where management's proposals are just plain unacceptable.

The bottom line is that we'll get NOTHING unless we are willing to fight for it. This is where the lessons of leadership come in. Each of us needs to stand up for each other.

I believe that everything we go through plays a part in who we become.  I was blessed to come to know such a remarkable group of nurses when I came to Backus, your example of making your coworkers and patients your first priority influences me to this day.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Washington report

Carol, Jen, Michelle, Ole and I flew to Washington a short 4 days ago but it feels like a lifetime of change has occurred.

We met with our congressional leaders, our national union president, and leaders and members of locals from across this country.

We attended classes on health care and organizing issues, we received updates on AFT’s involvement in communities in this country and abroad, we heard of the struggles of our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin and listened as our own president, Randi Weingarten, told everyone of our struggles at Backus.

We were lovingly mentored by members of other locals who have been where we are now.  We built and reinforced the special bond between the locals that make up AFT Connecticut.

We received pledges of support from Randi on behalf of the 1.5 million members of AFT and from our congressional leaders.

We proudly marched with local 25, hotel workers, who have been without a contract for more than a year.  Today, management agreed to local 25’s proposals. When told, a cheer rose from the assembly of AFT Health Care and we marched to the lobby, with it’s massive, rotunda style ceiling, proudly singing union solidarity songs, our voices echoing though the halls of this grand hotel!

Throughout our stay, in all our meetings and in every casual conversation, we received the same message……

Stay strong, we stand with you, we will prevail!

More than just the information learned, more than just the strengthening of the bonds with other AFT locals, more than the commitment from our AFT president and our legislators, more than the fact that we stood in solidarity with local 25 as they prevailed in their long contract struggle...... the Backus Federation of Nurses has become a full, participating local in the AFT family and I am honored to serve and represent you.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not above the law

On the plane ride to Washington, there was a man sitting just behind us talking on his cell phone prior to takeoff.  The announcement was made that all electronic devices needed to be turned off.  He was talking about some big business meeting he had as soon as he arrived in Washington and he was trying to finalize the details so he kept speaking on the phone.
The flight attendant come over and reminded him that all cell phones needed to be off and he said yes, but he took his time finishing as she stood there watching him.  When he finished, she made her way around the cabin preparing for takeoff and when she walked past him again, he was back on the phone.
The flight attendant told him that she was going to have to kick him off the plane, at which point he said, "no, no, I'm getting off" and he ended his call.
By this time the plane had backed away from the gate and we came to a stop.  We stayed there for 5 minutes and then the plane started moving back toward the gate.  A few minutes later the cabin door opened, a security officer came in, the pilot asked the man to please come with them, and he was escorted off the plane.
After we took off the flight attendant came down the aisle with drinks and we told her we supported her.  She said it was the first time in 7 years that she had to do that.  Later the pilot came over the speaker and apologize for the inconvenience.  He explained that the airlines are under a lot of rules and scrutiny and that when a situation like that takes place the attendant and the pilot have no way of knowing if there is an airline or FAA observer on board, so they have to stick to the rules.
Two thoughts on this.
First, this is a unionized flight attendant.  She followed the rules and even if a complaint had been filed by this man, she would be safe because she did the right thing. What a great protection for people whose job involve the safety of others.  It allows them to advocate for safety, much like unionized nurses.
Second, what makes some people believe they are above the law?  They seem to think that they are so important that they can do as they please.  Not only are their actions illegal, they jeopardise the safety of others.

There was a Connecticut State Police car outside the plane when the plane when the man was taken off.  I don't know if he was arrested, but I know he missed his meeting.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Meeting Randi Weingarten

We had some great workshops today on community engagement and union revitalization through organizing and mobilization. They tied in well with speeches by AFT president Randi Weingarten and John Nichols, journalist for The Nation magazine.

Randi spoke about AFT's renewed and revitalized commitment to community and activism, about the importance of the upcoming elections, and about the struggles in different states. In particular, she spoke of how Governor Malloy has stood proudly with the Backus Nurses as compared to states like Wisconsin, where Scott Walker is facing almost certain recall because he tried to deny workers their rights.

John Nichols spoke of how the people of Wisconsin stood up and said no to Walker. The University of Wisconsin Teaching Assistants Association, an AFT local just like us, was the first to march on the capitol, followed by the nurses, teachers, firemen and women, police, emergency workers, tradesmen and women, farmers, workers, students and citizens from Wisconsin, the country and the world.

At lunch, hundreds of AFT members joined brothers and sisters from local 25, hotel workers, who have been without a contract for more than a year, in a show of solidarity on their informational picket line outside our hotel.

This two year battle at Backus has been emotional for me, and I'm sure for others. We are nurses and we want one thing, to care for our patients.

That means the ability to advocate for their safety and that is what has motivated us. 

I have only told a few people, but this constant barrage against us from management has not always been easy to endure. Management no doubt is counting on this.

Today we had great speakers and great workshops, but the highlight was when Michelle, Carol, Jen, Ole and I met with Randi Weingarten.  She expressed her personal appreciation for the Backus nurses and she pledged her support and the support of the 1.5 million members of AFT.

My bothers and sisters,

today I am revitalized,

I am standing proud,

and I will be one day stronger, one day longer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Capitol Hill

We did a lot of walking today. 

We had meetings with Chris Murphy, Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney, Richard Blumenthal and their staffs.  It's a lot of walking because they are in different office buildings.  Our brothers and sisters from L+M and Danbury joined us.  The message was clear from all in attendance, management is not negotiating in good faith, they are refusing to recognise and give due respect to the nurses, nurses are getting more fed up by the day, and at this point all options are on the table.

We expressed thanks for our elected representatives and senators support and asked them to intervene once again to bring management to the table with real proposals so that we can "get it done" as the Governor said at our rally. 

Today a letter of support was delivered to management, signed by our state officials, reiterating their support and urging the same.

Also today, the Governor's office contacted management to push on this issue.

Our walking was not finished after our meetings.

Local 25, hotel workers, are holding an informational picket outside our hotel.  They have been without a contract for over a year (sound familiar?).  AFT contacted them and asked if they wished us to cancel our meetings.  They said no, but asked us to email management and urge them to negotiate.
I urge you to support them with an email.
We joined the picket line this afternoon and walked in solidarity.
They were very appreciative of us as we walked holding AFT signs.  I know how they feel because of the great support we have had at our rally and informational picket from the entire labor community.

So, a lot of walking today, but it's easy to walk when your walking for a just cause with people who support you.
Injury to one is injury to all!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bakus Federation of Nurses goes to Washington

I will be leaving in a few minutes for the airport.  I am heading to Washington DC with Michelle Hayes, Jen Gaston, and Carol Adams, fellow nurses from Backus.  We will spend several of our own vacation days to meet with, enlist, and strengthen our support with our congressional legislators and our brothers and sisters from the other Connecticut AFT health care locals and locals across this country.

We already have public support from the Governor, our state representatives and senators, the labor community, the non profit community and the people of Norwich.

Management has refused to offer any counter proposals in our last 2 meetings and has refused federal mediation 4 times.  In my opinion this constitutes a failure to bargain in good faith as required by law and I believe it is an attempt to deny us our rights to collectively bargain. 

We have exercised our rights under United States law in an effort to gain a voice in the workplace and stop the bleeding of talented nurses leaving our hospital because retaining talented nurses is a patient safety issue.
The current hospital proposal would mean a net loss of take home pay (pay-insurance premium increases) of up to $200/week and would force nurses to find other employment.

Last year the hospital had the highest percent operating margin (profit) in Connecticut and the CEO received a 26% increase in his base wages. 

So we are headed to Washington, to plead for the employees of Backus and our patient's safety. We can not and will not give up our rights and we will never turn our backs on patient safety.

We will be busy the next few days.  I will do my best to keep you updated.  Know that we carry you with us on our journey.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

See you in court

Before I forget I want to say thank you to the 3 non union supporter RNs who came to negotiations tonight, you are always welcome.

That is the only positive to report.

We started tonight with a counter proposal in which we gave concessions in some language and moved our premiums on insurance from 2% increase each year to 3%.  We held on our wage system proposal and again explained why we consider it so important and we asked them could they explain their opposition to it so that we might find some common ground that would satisfy the concerns of both sides.
They didn't really have an explanation for us. 
Our feeling is that a step system of wages, which is what almost all hospitals have, would help in the retention of nurses because it would give nurses some kind of idea what to expect in future years.  We reiterated that the steps are not written in stone and that there is flexibility for freezes in movement between steps if that is needed because of economic changes.

They asked some in depth questions and then took a 2 hour caucus to look over our offer and prepare one of their own.  When they came back they said that we were far apart on wages and insurance and that we should consider moving some more and that they would see us April 26.

No counter proposal.

No discussion of what might be a solution to find middle ground.

No offer to accept federal mediation, which we have proposed 4 times.

See you April 26.

I am tired of trying to psychoanalyze their actions in negotiations.  I try to apply logic but it just isn't logical. The bottom line is that they have not made a counter proposal in our last 2 sessions, and that is not negotiating, that is stalling.

On May 14, in Hartford, the Federal Government will face Backus Hospital in court on an Unfair Labor Practice complaint.  In part, it reads, "By the conduct described above in paragraphs 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16, Respondent has been failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith with the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of its employees in violation of Section 8(a)(1) and (5) of the Act."

Monday, April 16, 2012

One day longer

I received the following comment today on my blog post "then we win":

"I feel very bad for you; Backus cannot be defeated.
They will just wait you out.
They have no scruples.
Look at all the good people who have left over the years.
Yes, good eventually conquers evil, but you might have to wait until the next life."

Anonymous may or may not be right but never feel bad for those of us who are standing up for our rights.
Dignity came to us when we stood up for ourselves "in spite of" the consequences and we won our struggle the day we said "no more"!

So don't feel bad for us, feel bad for those who are afraid to take a stand for what they believe in, because they can never win.

There is an old labor saying:
How long will we hold out?
One day longer than the boss!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A big ask

I remember going to a staff meeting and someone complained again that the floors were taking too long to accept the ED patients.  I had started meeting with the floor nurses because of our organizing efforts and had come to realize that they weren't exactly sitting eating bon bons with their feet up either. When I voiced this observation, my bossed disagreed and said the floors needed to be more responsive to our needs. 

I thought, when did I become the reasonable one?

Keeping employees divided is an old trick.

This week I was approached by a nurse with a concern over something she received in the interoffice mail.  It was a copy of my blog with "Read and open your eyes" on the top. 

Whether it's a mailing like this or the decert drive, we need to realize what is happening.  Nurses are dividing against themselves and the only one winning is the Jackson Lewis lawyer and he's laughing all the way to the bank!

It's no secret that there are some nurses in favor of and some opposed to our union.  It's something nurses feel deeply personal about, like religion or politics. 

Like religion or politics, we need to respect each other's opinions and agree to disagree. It does none of us any good to be divided, in fact, it weakens us all.

In this spirit, I'm going to ask something of everyone, and I admit, it's a big ask.

I ask all nurses to refrain from negative actions against other nurses, this includes mailing, remarks, dirty looks, and the decert drive.  All these actions divide us.

If we work together, if we all take a place and have a voice at the table, we will make the type of union that benefits all nurses and our patients, and I believe this is something we all want.

I know this is a big ask, but please consider it.

I have one more, even bigger favor.  I am afraid some will not be up to the task above.  For them I ask your patience and forgiveness.  They are still our brothers and sisters, and injury to one is injury to all.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Union update

First, I would like to apologize to those who don't really care so much about our union and our negotiations. I would like to write more about my life as a nurse or just life in general and I realize my blogs have been heavy on the union stuff but 90% of my non work time has been spend working to bring the nurses I work with a fair contract. It's important stuff, important for the nurses and their families and important for our patients. When we have our first contract I believe things will settle down and I will be able to write about other things. I look forward to that, but for now, please bear with me.
At our last negotiation management proposed wage increases of 0.5%, .075%, and 1% over the next 3 years, along with insurance premiums increases that would mean a decrease in take home pay for anyone with insurance. They also said that there is nothing wrong with their wage system which is based on graduation dates.

This week, we demonstrated, with their figures, how people graduating in 2009 had a range of up to $3/hr difference and how some people actually make less than someone who graduated several years after them. We also demonstrated how the number of people from graduating classes prior to 2007, who still work at the hospital, drops off dramatically.

This is what we have been saying. Nurses stay for 5 years and then leave for other hospitals because at that point they have enough experience to get a job at a hospital where the conditions are better.

Management said they do not contest that our figures (really their figures) or our charts are wrong.

Then they said that they hold on their last proposal.

We have asked them for federal mediation, this is our 4th request.

I was asked, Can't we insist on mediation? Mediation is not arbitration. If we force them into mediation, it's like forcing someone into marriage counseling, they'll show up, but nothing will get done.

I also feel the need to address the petition to decertify the union that got so much press coverage. First let me reiterate that these opinions are mine. The nurses circulating the petition have every right to do so. I believe most of them really believe it is the proper course of action. They are the same nurses who voted no on May 11th and were outvoted. They have been galvanized into this action largely by managements illegal actions of denying nurses the wage increase, bonuses and 403b match. There are some nurses who will never see the merits of forming a nurses organization and collectively seeking to make improvements at our hospital. They have been and continue to be invited to meetings and negotiations and to be a part of the process.

We can't go back to the way things were. When nurses squirreled away catheters and peanut butter in their lockers. When we watched our most promising newly trained nurses move off to other hospitals. We can't go back to the days when those of us who had served this hospital the longest found ourselves facing cut after cut.

I know this seems to be a lot of negative news. Rest assured, I am convinced that we will have a contract, a contract that is fair, that will allow us to provide for our families, that we help retain good nurses, that will allow us to advocate for our patients and keep them safe.

There are many things going on behind the scenes that are better for me not to discuss here. These efforts, and the continued support of our members, will bring home this contract.

You can help. Our next negotiation is Tuesday, April 17 at 7 pm. Nothing helps us more than management looking over our shoulders and seeing a full room.

See you there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Was Prepared

Today I present to you a guest blog, written by Denise Parent RN, a nurse at Backus Hospital for 31 years.  Denise has not been a union activist, she's just a loving nurse, concerned about her patients and her hospital. Her writting comes from her heart, and frankly, I wish I had written it.  Thank you Denise for sharing this with us.

I Was Prepared

As I listened with great concern at the first Town Hall meeting seemingly years ago now, regarding how much this hospital was wasting, I was prepared to do my share of conserving! Until I found out it meant hiring a multimillion dollar company who’s sole purpose was to cut costs at the expense of employees and benefits etc…..

I was prepared, being a 31 year employee, to be fiscally responsible and donate my hard earned salary in order to keep my hospital functioning, until I found out that at least 5 Executives received $25,000 bonuses the same year we were told to tighten our belts.

I was prepared to weather this storm and work “short” until the news came out that our CEO in fringe benefits ALONE made $126,000, well over the starting salary of 2 new RN’s.

I was prepared to listen to their voice of reason; until it was revealed the nurses affected the most by these cuts were shift, weekend, and holiday employees. Unfortunately not all the nurses have been impacted equally, there needs to be understanding from both groups.

I was prepared to support my administration no matter what until I saw many of my coworkers leave or get fired, the LPNs who for decades were part of a “hospital family”, who last year were told, “SEE YA!”

I can’t believe, I’m composing this on Easter Sunday, I can go on and on. Yes everyone, it is for me all about loss. Loss of respect, loss of voice, loss of being appreciated and financial loss. This financial burden should not only be felt by employees, but especially by the administrative staff and board members who should lead by example.

But what you can count on is no matter what I have lost in salary and benefits, I will continue to deliver the same excellent care for my patients that I always have. My patients deserve and need that! I will continue to fill my locker with diet hot chocolate, peanut butter, soups and crackers to give to them at 4 am since it is no longer provided by the hospital as floor stock. I will not stop being proud of having been an employee at Backus for 31 yrs.

I will not stop, because now I am prepared.

Happy Easter
Denise Parent

Monday, April 9, 2012

Past, Present, and Future

Because of the rate of turnover, there are so many new nurses at work that I thought it might be good to look back at the formation of our local to help them understand.

About a year and a half ago a group of Backus nurses started meeting and discussing working conditions.  We all shared the same concern, that Backus was heading in the wrong direction and that the bedside nurse was helpless to stop this.  Not being able to live with this conclusion, we decided to see what we could do.  We felt that maybe we could effect change if we stood together, and that we needed to at least try.

Last May we voted and formed the Backus Federation of Nurses, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.  AFT has 5 divisions, K-12 Teachers, PARAS, Higher Education, Public Employees, and Health Care.  AFT Connecticut has 28,000 members, AFT national has 1.5 million members, and the AFL-CIO, which we are also affiliated with, has 11 million members. 
We retain local autonomy and yet have the power of millions.

The decisions for Backus nurses are made by Backus nurses.

Since then, we have worked closely with other AFT locals, other labor unions, labor leaders in Connecticut and nationally, our state representatives and senators, the governor, our Washington representative and senators, community leaders, non profit groups and religious groups to build a coalition of mutual support.

We meet on a regular basis with the leaders of the AFT health care locals, the Southeastern Central Labor Council/AFL-CIO, our state representatives and senators, the Governor, and Representative Joe Courtney. 
A special relationship had developed with the three L+M AFT locals.  The Union has existed there for over 40 years and about 10 years expanded to a third local, now representing almost the entire hospital.  We like to say that there are now 4 L+M/Backus locals, because we stand in solidarity.
We have also established a relationship with the United Way, with United Action Connecticut (an affiliation of religious and civic organizations) and with St Mary Star of the Sea Church.
We have held food drives and blood pressure checks and plan on expanding them.

We have what I see as the beginning of a professional relationship with our Director of Human Resources and our Vice President of HR, a relationship based on mutual respect.  I appreciate this relationship because we will be working closely with them in the years to come.
We have growing relationships with local press and radio too.

I have spoken at the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, the Washington office of the AFL-CIO, and before the legislature in Hartford. Several of us have given testimony to the NLRB in Hartford and at our office in Norwich.

It's been a busy year and a half.
None of this has been easy, it's taken a lot of work by a lot of people. 
Because of all this work we will soon have a first tentative contract.
Then we will all vote on it.
We will be like most other professionals, doctors, lawyers, upper management, we will have an agreement to exchange our time and skills for certain wages, benefits, and working conditions.
One of the most important pieces is that we will no longer we an "at will" employee, able to be disciplined or discharged at the will of the employer.  Now any discipline or discharge will need proof of a just reason and if we cannot agree we will have a grievance procedure and arbitration if necessary. 

Beyond the provisions of the contract there is much for us to do.  I envision food drives, health screening/blood pressure checks, a nurse speaker program for local school and civic groups, CEU education opportunities at our office, and more.  There will be opportunities for everyone who wishes to become involved, based on their own interests and time availability.

Grand ideas, yes, but as the song says, "When you wish upon a star your dreams come true."
There were some who doubted we could get this far, not I.  I know the dedication and commitment of health care workers. We are a unique group, dedicated to a mission of caring.

That's our story up till now, the future is up to you and I.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The bottom line

It seems to me that in order to come to a contract agreement we need to first agree philosophically to what we are trying to accomplish.  On this matter I actually think we can come to agreement. These are my thoughts on where we all stand at this point.

I think we can all agree that retention of qualified nurses is a good thing for the nurses and the hospital.  Every several months the hospital hires a group of new graduate nurses into the residency program.  Getting into the program is highly competitive and a considerable amount of time and money is spent on training.  I think we can all agree that retaining the highest number possible is in every one's interest, from a financial standpoint and certainly from a patient safety standpoint.

Nurses at all other union hospitals know what they will be making from year to year because they are on a step system.  They can even tell, 10 years from now, what they can expect.  Having said that, it's important to realize that these steps are not set in stone.  First, the nurse must continue to perform up to standards.  Second, from contract to contract these steps must be adjusted for inflation and changes in the economy.  This includes, not only upward adjustments for inflation, but wage freezes and even wage givebacks if the hospital in question is facing hard times.  Our union has negotiated such givebacks and freezes, because it is no one's interest for a hospital to go bankrupt.  Such relative certainty has proven positive in retention of qualified nurses.

When we talk retention we must talk both wages and insurance premium costs, because it's not how much you make that's the most important, it's how much you keep.

I believe that the starting point of discussion must be the point where a nurse does not fall behind.  If take home pay decreases from year to year we will have poor retention, high training costs, and poorer patient care and safety. It cannot be "another day older and deeper in debt" and be sustainable.

As currently proposed by management, insurance premiums will increase by year 3 of the contract between $46-$138/week, depending on full time, part time, employee only, employee + 1, or family. 

For us to retain nurses we need to at least balance wages and insurance premiums, it's that simple.

Under our current management proposal wages would increase $14-$18/week for the resident nurse by year 3 of the contract.

This results in a net loss of $2,139-5,877/year, again depending on full time, part time, employee only, employee +1, or family.

We need to balance these and provide a modest overall increase if we wish to retain qualified nurses.

Financially we are lucky in that Backus is in good position. The financial figures just released by the hospital to the state for the fiscal year that ended last fall show an operating margin of just over 9%, the highest of any hospital in Connecticut, with a total net profit of just over $25 million.  This is good news for us.  It means Backus will be able to meet it's financial responsibilities, including wages, and is in great position to expand should the opportunity arise.  I commend the financial people for a job well done.

Looked at another way, if management needed, they could increase each nurses salary by $35/hour and break even.

I do not think such an increase is needed.  I believe a modest increase each year, after increases in insurance premiums are factored in, and the relative certainty of a wage step scale will be enough to retain qualified nurses and ensure the continued financial strength of our hospital and the safety of our patients.

We meet again for negotiations on this Monday, April 9th, 6:00, at the Courtyard Marriott.  I would like us to come to the table in philosophical agreement on this issue.  I believe that if we do we can work out the details to be in every one's interest and, as the governor said, "get it done."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The washing of feet

Truly this is a special time to many people.  This week Christian churches celebrate Holy Week and Easter, our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate Passover and Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate next week.  In the Passover meal we share a common heritage.  Passover celebrates the Israelites freedom from slavery.  It was the Passover meal that Jesus and his disciples celebrated in what Christians now call the Last Supper.

During that meal, Jesus gave us what I think was the greatest example of how to be a leader. 

He washed his disciples feet.

In doing so he showed that a leader's role was to serve those he leads. He said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it."

Saturday was César Chávez's birthday.  Here was a man who truly believed and lived the example of the washing of other's feet. He saw the dignity of every human being and worked to uphold that dignity and improve their lives.

May this be a time for all of us to reflect on what is truly important in life.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Monday, as people drive on Washington St in Norwich, many will ask, "why are the nurses picketing?".

We learned in nursing school that we must be advocates for our patients.  It's the the most solemn duty of a nurse.  Over the last several years we have seen our ability to fulfill this duty at Backus erode.  No longer can we speak freely to advocate without the fear of retaliation.  So, last year, we nurses banded together and formed a federation.

We affiliated with health care professionals from Danbury Hospital, Johnson Memorial, L&M, Manchester Memorial, Natchaug, Rockville, UConn, Windham, the VNA of Southeastern CT, and others, as well as teachers, paraprofessionals, school personnel, and public service employees from across Connecticut, some 28,000 members of AFT Connecticut, 1.5 million members of the American Federation of Teachers and 11 million members of the AFL-CIO.

Since May we have been working for our first contract, a contract that will give us the ability to advocate for our patients and fulfill our responsibility to them.

Management has not cooperated.  The Federal Government has set a May 14 trial date, charging them with failure to negotiate in good faith.

We want the people of the community, the people we care for, to know about our plight.  We hold your hand when your children are born and when your loved ones die.  We feel confident that you will be there for us if you know know and understand.

So let us know you care on Monday by honking your horns, give a wave, or come out and walk with us awhile.  Tell your neighbors and if you know any Backus management or board of directors members tell them also.

Being a nurse is a special thing, much more than a job, it is truly a vocation, a life commitment to caring.  It is an honor for us to care for you.  We just want to be able to do it well.