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".

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