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.