Friday, June 29, 2012

Just compensation

I'm told that when my grandfather served in the Rhode Island Senate he was payed $17 a year.  I know being a senator is something one does because they want to better the world but not compensating them is just society taking advantage of the situation. Everyone's time is valuable and they should be compensated for it.  It also begs the question, what quality of people do you get without just compensation.

We live in a time where the top people in corporations make hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, while some of those doing the actual hands on work that provides the service or profit do not always make a living wage.
It's also a time when the phrase "shared sacrifice" is a buzzword.

As of last fall the average CEO in America made 325 times the average worker.

I just think that when times are tough and sacrifice is needed, those calling for the sacrifice should lead by example.
We need just levels of compensation to attract qualified people, CEOs, nurses, factory workers, farm works.......everyone.  We also need fiscal responsibility. They are not mutually exclusive.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Like a smoothly running machine

Monday was a crazy day in the Emergency Department, as most Mondays are.  The rooms were full, patients were on stretchers in the hall, I was behind on assessments, medicating, and reassessments of my already too many patients.

Then, lightening struck.

No, it really did.

We received 4 simultaneous Code Reds! They were taking refuge in a building during a thunder storm, thinking they were safe, when lightening hit the building.  In all, I believe 15 people were affected, and the 4 most serious came to us. 

Suddenly, the department was crawling with people from the OR, nursing education, nursing management, and elsewhere, all down to help, or at least try.
It was hard to navigate through the hallways, what with the patients on stretchers and the employees tending them.

Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful for the help.  We couldn't have gotten through it alone. It was a true disaster and it was handled well.

I didn't get personally involved with any of the trauma victims.  I had my hands full already.  Actually, for me, except for the increase in chaos, my work became a little easier because now I had people asking what they could do to help.

Ah, life in the ER!

It's crazy many days, and sometimes like today, we need help.
I think it works if we remember 2 things.
First, that the ER is "a part of" the hospital, not "apart from" the hospital and
second, if everyone does their job as calmly as possible. That's when we get the best outcome.

It's like the old time clocks.  You need the right size, type, and number of gears, each in it's correct place and doing it's own task, for everything to run smooth.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Understanding our Contract Articles 4-8

We are done reviewing the contract and are in the process of getting all the Bargaining Committee members to sign it.  That should be done in the next day or two.  Then we will start printing and passing out copies.
Let's continue our walk through our contract.

Article 4, Management Rights

Basically, this says that management has the right to run the hospital as they see fit, unless those rights are modified elsewhere in the contract. 
Before the contract, management had the right to do this on everything.

Article 5, No Strike, No Lockout

We agree not to strike and they agree not to lock us out, for the duration of the contract. (3 years)
A strike is never to be taken lightly.  That's why in our contract and bylaws we have a rule that 75% of union members must vote to authorize it. 
That means, that 75% of your fellow Backus nurses who have signed union cards would have to feel strong enough to vote to authorize.
It is always our decision, no one from the AFT Connecticut or AFT national has a say.

Article 6, Union Security

All employees who are covered by this contract must become Union Members or pay agency fees.
All full and part time Backus RNs are protected by the contract.  It is only right that we share the costs of administering it. 
We will take part in new employee orientations and distribute a Union orientation packet at that time.

Article 7, Dues Checkoff

The hospital will payroll deduct and send to the our Local the union dues or agency fees for anyone who has filled out a Union Membership/authorization for payroll deduction card or an Authorization for Check-Off of Agency Fees/authorization for payroll deduction card.
Dues and fees stay in the account of our Local, right here in Norwich, controlled by the Local's Finance Committee and administered by our Local Treasurer.  All Local checks need to be signed by by the Local Treasurer and President and all expenses are reviewed by the Finance Committee.

Article 8, No Discrimination

Neither the hospital nor the union will practice discrimination.
Sexual harassment will not be permitted.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Understanding our contract, Articles 1,2,3

I thought I might work my way through our contract and do my best to explain the articles.  Please remember, I am not a labor lawyer, and some things are open to different interpretations.

Articles 1,2,3.
Intent, Recognition, Definitions.

Basically, these three articles state that this is a contract between the hospital and the Employees, who are the union, covering working conditions.  This includes hourly RNs who work full or part time for W W Backus hospital. including at the main hospital, the BOCC, and the new Plainfield ED.  It does not include those working at the Backus out patient centers in Colchester or Montville or for Backus Home Care, because they do not work for the hospital, they are under a different wing of Backus Corporation.

It defines part time as a budgeted position of at least 4 hours a week.

It defines per diem as not being covered by the contract and working on an "as needed" basis, not required to work any set hours, position, or schedule to maintain employment.
I know this is somewhat confusing.  Basically, the union wanted to keep all RNs in the bargaining unit and the hospital wanted to exclude as many as possible.  It's the strongest language we could get.

The hospital has tried to clarify this with their new policy that per diems must be available for 96 hours every 6 months including one holiday.  96 hours is less than the 4 hours that defines part time and it does not state that per diems must "work" 96 hours, only be available.  It also does not state that per diems must work any particular day of the week, such as weekends or any particular holiday.

If something changes in the policy or in how it is carried out in practice, we will evaluate and if appropriate, we will claim these nurses as part time and thus covered by the contract.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


I've written about my Dad before.  Today, I guess because it's Father's Day, I found myself thinking about him again, and feeling like I should blog about him.

I was sitting in church this morning when I first thought about him.  Church has gotten a bad name in recent years.  There's been scandals over mistreatment of youth and stealing of money.  There's also abuse in the name of God.  One only needs to look  at how we justified things like slavery.

But the true message, of all major religions and philosophies, is as true now as it ever was, and it can never be soiled by controversy, because the message is pure.

That message was given to me by my Dad.

I remember he had very little on the top of his bureau in his bedroom, but he did have one wooden plaque.  It read, "Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins". 
I often wondered if his friend Duke, a Native American from the Midwest, had given it to him.  Duke was one of the guys who pulled my Dad to safety on a South Pacific beach in WWII.

Anyway, my Dad never preached about how to live, but he led by example.
His philosophy was simple.  Treat others with respect and as equals.  If you have the ability, help your fellow man out.
So at a time when tolerance of others was not popular, my Dad was a friend to people of all religions, races, colors and economic status.  He didn't have to say this was the right way to live, he lived it.

He dragged my bother and myself along one day to help empty a chicken coup of dead hens.  The farmer was a customer of his, but he was also a friend.  They had lost power and the birds had all suffocated.  Dad didn't have to do it. But, then again, he did. Because it was the right thing to do.
He admired with wonder his brother Matt's skill at fixing cars, realizing that although Dad had the college education, Matt was as intelligent, if not more.
Our Jewish neighbors had one difference from us, they went to temple, we went to church, nothing more.
When Cesar Chavez led the grape boycott in California for a better life for his people, grapes disappeared from our table in Connecticut.
There are so many other examples.

John the Baptist said that the man who has two coats should share with the man who has none and Jesus said that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. 
I heard these things in church.
I SAW them at home.
Thanks Dad.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Union Update

The members voted yesterday to approve the constitution and bylaws. 
Our next task is to elect officers and select and train delegates (stewards) and select committees and get them up and running. Until we establish permanent delegates and train them, the members of the bargaining committee are our acting delegates.

We will have an open house at the union office, 308 Salem turnpike, on July 10, from 12 noon till 5:00.  Nominations for office will be from noon till 2:00 and voting from 2:00 to 5:00.  All members are eligible to run for office, and all members are encouraged to come and vote.  It'll also be an opportunity to see your office, enjoy some good food,  and discuss issues and the future of your Local in a relaxed atmosphere.

Wage increases should have been in your checks this week.  We are asking everyone to check the accuracy for the increase. Most of you should have received a 3% increase.  A small group should have gotten a larger increase because you were behind your graduating class.  There are a few exceptions to these rules.  With this many people getting increases, mistakes are bound to happen and we have already been told about some. This is easy to correct.  If you did not get 3% (or better), please email the delegate from your area and me. We will check and inform HR of any errors.

We have a labor-management meeting on Monday, and we will discuss wage increase issues. There are also issues on schedules and vacations that have come up and other issues.  If you have anything that you think we need to discuss, please email your delegate and me.  This is a period of great learning for managers.  For the first time, they need to work with a contract agreement, it will take time for everyone to fully understand. 

We hope to finish proof reading the contract on Monday and get copies made and out to all members shortly after that.  Thank you for your patience.

If you have not yet filled out a Membership Application or an Agency Fee card, please see your delegate.

The bargaining team is our leadership committee until officer elections take place in July. 
They have been asked to consider endorsing Tom Reynolds for State Senator from the 19th district.  Tom has been a champion for working men and women during his service as State Representative.  He was a supporter of our campaign to organize, signing letters of support and speaking in at our rally.
Therefore, the bargaining committee strongly endorses Tom Reynolds for State Senate from the 19th district and encourages members to support him. 
To qualify for matching funds under state election laws, Tom needs several hundred small donations (as little as $5) from voters in his district.  Please consider sending $5 or more if able. to

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vote on Constitution/Bylaws

The vote on our Constitution and Bylaws is tomorrow, Thursday, 6/14, from 2-5 pm, in conference room 1 at the hospital.  I encourage all members to come and vote.  It should be quick, just walk in, get checked off the list of members, vote, and you're done, much like voting in a general election. If you haven't had a chance to fill out a Membership Application, it's not a problem, you can fill one out then and vote.  As in all union elections, only members can vote.

I would also like to encourage people to sign up to serve on committees and/or as delegates (stewards).  Sign up sheets will be available Thursday.  Some of the committees are listed in the constitution ( Negotisting, Finance, Elections, Communication and Publicity, Grievance) but you'll notice on page 10, "Other Committees". 
Some of the possible ideas are: Health and Wellness, Community Outreach, Recreation, Education, Workman's Comp, Workplace Violence and Safety, Political Liaison, and more. 

If you have something that interests you, maybe something you're already involved in, talk with us, maybe it's something union members could help with.

I also understand people are busy with life.  Maybe your time is so limited that you can only contribute ideas right now, that OK, we need good ideas, good guidance.

Our Local will be what we make it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Being misinterpreted

Recently I said something to a someone whom I respect and it was taken the wrong way.  The person was offended.  When it was pointed out to me I was confused.  It was only when I stepped back, and tried to see things through their eyes, that I was able to see how they could feel the way they did.

Then I felt real bad.

The last thing I would do was offend this person by disrespecting them, and yet, what I did could have been interpreted that way.  I have since apologised.

It make me wonder, how many times have I done this in the past and not realized it. 

I try to be sensitive to other's feelings, I really do, but how often do I not realize that others might get the wrong impression of what I say or how I say it?  Yes, it is impossible to go through life and never be misinterpreted, but I can try to see things though other's eyes.

Also, how many times have I misinterpreted what others have said or done and become offended by that?  Let me give them the benefit of the doubt.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Let's go Celtics

I have been a Boston Celtic basketball fan all my life.
This year, as often, they find themselves in the playoffs.
They are older, they are banged up, but they are there.
Every time the "experts" count them out and give them no chance, they win and continue on.
They are up against a great team, the Miami Heat, who have a great chance of willing the championship.  Miami won Games 1+2 in Miami and everyone counted the Celtics out. But then again....

Back in Boston for games 3+4, the Cs won them both, tying the series.  then they went to Miami and won game 5, putting Miami on the brink of elimination.
Last night, in Boston, Miami star Labron James, had an epic night and the Heat blew out the Celtics by 20 points.  Every time the Celtics rallied, Miami answered.

Late in last night's game, with maybe a minute or two on the clock, (which lasts about 5 minutes with clock stoppages), the Celtic fans, with their team down 20 and no chance to win, started chanting.
Let's go Celtics!
Let's go Celtics!
Let's go Celtics!
They continued chering till the game was over.

It was not a cheer to inspire the Cs to come back and win, the fans understand when it's over, it was a show of respect for the effort the Celtics have put on the floor all season, and for many season past.
The fans realize that Miami will be favored on Saturday.  They realized that if they Celtics lose on Saturday, this would be their last chance to show how they felt about this team.  They realize, that because of age, because of the way players are traded, this could be the chance they might have to show their respect for what these men have done over the years.

So, Boston did not boo their team that was losing badly, they cheered them, and that's the way it should be.

Let's go Celtics!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Union Update

The Constitution/Bylaw Committee finished it's work Monday night.  The Constitution/Bylaws will be voted on by all members, next Tuesday, 6/14, 2-5 pm, in conference room 1 at the hospital. Thank you to the committee for their work. 
A day of nominations and elections of our local's officers has been set for July 10. All members are eligible to run for office and vote.

The following people have expressed a desire to serve the local:
John Brady as President
Michelle Hayes as Vice President.
Donna Callicutt as Treasurer
Missy Hunter as Secretary

In addition, Carol Adams has offered to serve as our political liaison and Jen Gaston has offered to serve on our Communication and Publicity Committee.  Many others have expressed an interest to serve as delegates (stewards) by signing up at the vote on the contract.  We will be contacting you.  We will have sign up sheets for members interested in serving as a delegate or on a committee at the 6/14 and 7/10 votes.  I strongly encourage everyone to become involved to the level they are able.

The contract is being reviewed for typos, when finished we will sign it, have copies printed, and distribute them to all members.

I am being asked about filling out Membership Applications.  If you voted on the contract then you have already signed up.  Many other people have signed up since then.  If you have not had the opportunity yet, it's OK.  Contact me and I'll make arrangements.  All non salary full and part time RNs must fill out a Membership Application or an Agency Fee form.  We will also have the forms at the June 14 vote.  At some point we will contact anyone not yet signed up.

Per Diem RNs have received a letter about the new hospital policy.  The new policy places you into a category that excludes you from the bargaining unit, meaning you are not covered by the contract, and not part of the union.  Many of you have been strong supporters and I wish we could have gotten contract language that included you, but I believe we got the best we could. Should you wish to be in the unit, please consider applying for a budgeted position.

The increase in weekend/holiday differential should be reflected in this week's check and the increase in wages in next week's check.
There is much to do in the coming months, delegates (stewards) need to be selected and trained and committees need to be filled. 
But we have already accomplished so much, together we will accomplish so much more.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Life and a Sunday afternoon

I'm blogging from my back screen porch on a Sunday afternoon.  My 3 grandchildren are in the little above the ground pool in the back yard. They're fighting like cats and dogs.  The youngest, our granddaughter Zoie, is complaining because the two boys, Mikey and Elijah, are splashing water.  My wife, Michelle, is trying to referee, it's a battle she is losing.

It's just like a scene from something I've seen before.  What was it?

Oh yes, last year, in our backyard.

My older son, Sean, the father of Zoie and Mikey, is getting the grill ready.  He brought over a steak to cook.

The weather is great, big change from yesterday when it rained hard all day.  Today it's sunny and warm with fair weather clouds floating by. 

A nice afternoon.

Some things in life seem to be like the kids fighting, same old same old,
and others are like the weather, big changes from day to day. 

I had a little trouble with the pool when I took it out of winter storage.  It has a ring at the top that fills with air and then floats on top of the water, pulling up the sides.  The problem was that the air was leaking and I had trouble finding the leaks.

I guess life is like that also, there's always something to fix.  I've found that for me, the problem is knowing what to fix and what to leave alone.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Raising Haiti

Jessica Patti, pictured above, is a Backus Federation of Nurses RN.  She is founder and president of Raising Haiti, a non profit agency who’s mission is to help improve the social, educational, and medical conditions of the people of Haiti.

Jessica shared with me the following story about her first visit to Haiti.

She was on her way to work as a travelling nurse on a beautiful Caribbean island. On her way, she had planned a weekend stop in Haiti (pre earthquake) to help at a clinic.  While at the airport, she remarked to a Haitian women about the beauty of her daughter.  The women begged Jessica to take the little girl back to the United States and be her mom.  This Haitian mother was willing to give up her baby girl so that the girl could have a better life.

That encounter has changed Jessica’s life.  Now she, and others, many of them members of our Backus and L+M AFT locals, travel at their own expense to Haiti roughly 6 times a year to minister to the health needs of the poorest of the poor. 
Matthew Spates, MD, who worked at L+M and now works in the Backus ED, was recently honored for is work with Raising Haiti. Matt has made 10 trips to Citi Soleil (Sun City), just outside Port-au-Prince. Matt is also Vice President of Operations for Raising Haiti.
Raising Haiti is working on purchasing land to establish a permanent clinic and staff it with Haitian doctors and nurses while continuing to send Connecticut staff on trips to assist.
I am not sure if there is a role for us as locals or as a state federation, but I would like to help.  So I put it out to you, our members are carrying out our mission, as health care providers, as union members, and as citizens of the world.  They are helping the poorest of the poor.
Can we help?
The Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals/AFT runs a clinic in Haiti with a similar mission.
Robert Kennedy, in paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw said,  "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why?  I dream of things that never were and ask why not?"