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.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fr. Lecours

There has been much negative news about clergy and churches and much of it has been deserved. Abuse and cover up has occurred, leaving shattered victim's lives and a stain on organized religion. While none of this should be downplayed or forgotten, it's also important to remember that there are those religious men and women who have done the right thing, who have dedicated their lives to a greater good, who have followed the true tenets of their faith.

One such man is Fr. Lecours.
Fr. Lecours stands no more than 5 feet tall but he has a heart and a smile twice as big. He served for 30 years at St. Anne Church in Ballouville, CT. He knew every one of his parishioners by name. A few years ago the decision was made to close that church for economic reasons but the bishop told Father he could stay until he was ready to retire. True to his nature of putting others before himself, Father told the bishop that he did not want to be a burden to anyone and that if the church must close than it must close. St James Church in Danielson received the greatest gift with that decision because Fr. John O'Neil ask Fr Lecours to come to Danielson. The parishioners of St Anne followed Fr. Lecours, and St. James had to add on another Sunday mass to accommodate.

His smile lights up a room, his homilies speak of love, his gentleness makes us all better people.

Recently, Father had to stop saying mass on Sunday. He is retired now, living at and lighting up the halls of St. Joseph Living Center with his smile.
He was back at St. James this weekend, celebrating his 65th year of service as a priest.
Father, the people of St Anne and St. James, and all the people you have touched in your 65 years of serving God thank you and wish you the best. You are truly one of God's angles here on earth.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feet in the ocean

There's something about having my feet in the ocean that just seems right to me.  I often wonder if it's because scientists believe that life on Earth started in the sea, or maybe it's because like the ocean we are made up of mostly salt water, or maybe it's just because I have fond memories of times spent at the ocean.  Whatever it is, it just feels right.

Another thing about the ocean around here, it's cold!
Getting into the water can be a chilling experience at best.
It brings up the age old question, do you go slow, a step at a time, or do you go quick, get it over with.  There's something to be said about each way and it's also true in life.
Going slow, be it the cold ocean or events in life, allow us a chance to adapt, a chance to take it one step at a time.  That's great, as long as we don't get overwhelmed by the whole process and become unable to start.  Sometimes, the only way to go is to just jump in.  Sure it's shocking, but it's over quick and you aren't paralyzed by the enormity of the task.

The ocean restores the natural rhythm that is often missing from our hectic lives.  The tide come in and goes out, the waves roll in and break at the shore.   In our 24/7 lives our natural rhythm often gets lost, the ocean helps bring that back.

Whether your one to ease in slow or jump right in, it seems that we may have evolved from the oceans but we still keep one foot in.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Understanding our contract, articles 17- 20

Article 17, Shift Cancellation

Sometimes the hospital will determine that census levels are such that all scheduled staff are not needed.  This article spells out the process for cancelling staff.
The hospital will call the primary telephone number you give them so it must be kept up to date.  If the hospital does not attempt to provide notice by a phone call then the employee will be assigned at least 4 hours work or payed for 4 hours work.  Shifts will be cancelled in the following order: overtime employees, volunteers, travelers, perdiem, above budgeted hours for week, bargaining unit employees on a rotating basis beginning with least senior.

Article 18, New Positions and Voluntary Transfers

All open bargaining unit positions will be posted and the hospital will select the most qualified candidate, seniority will control if two candidates are equally qualified.  After successfully voluntarily transferring to a new positron an employee cannot bid on another open position for six months.  To the extent possible, the hospital will keep the position left by the transferring employee open for 3 weeks to allow the employee to return if they rescind the transfer request.

Article 19, Assignment and Mandated Transfers

If the hospital determines that it must involuntarily transfer employees, it will first give the employees and the union 10 days notice.  Such transfers will not be for arbitrary or capricious reasons and they will not be used as a form of discipline.  If such a transfer is needed. the hospital will transfer the least senior qualified employee.

Article 20, Performance of Work

We follow "obey and grieve".  You are required to complete any assignment for which you have been trained and demonstrated competency to the best of your ability. If there is a dispute about the propriety of the assignment, you are instructed to perform it the best you can and then do two things.  First, as soon as feasible after completing the assignment, fill out a notice of objection, sign it and have the ordering supervisor sign it (these forms are being prepared and will be ready shortly), and second, speak to your delegate so that we can determine if a grievance is appropriate.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

We are meant to share our gifts

The other day in church there were two readings that both dealt with the same issues. 

In one, Elijah feeds 100 with 20 loaves of bread and in the other, Jesus feeds  5,000 with a few loaves and a few fish.

Both these readings contain several lessons. 
First, sometimes when something seems impossible, it isn’t.  Maybe we just need the help of a higher power, be that God or other people.

Second, we are all asked to bring something to the table to share.
Third, we only have to share what has been given to us.

Each of us has gifts.  They come in the form of special talents and interests.  They are different for each of us.  Our goal must be to attempt to identify what they are in us.  When we are given a git it is our responsibility to bring it to the table, to share it with others.  If our gifts are modest or great does not matter, what matters is that we take those gifts and use them for others.
Elijah had 20 loaves and the young boy in Jesus’s story had a few loaves and a few fish.  It was enough.  It was enough because they trusted that though they did not understand HOW, if they trusted and if they shared what they had, ANYTHING was possible.

The same is true in our lives.  Each of us has gifts, some great and some small.  Our goal then, must be to share these gifts with others, and when we do, anything is possible.

One of the great gifts in my life has been my relationship with Michelle.  37 years ago today we were married.  We have shared good times and bad, and it continues to be a gift.