Monday, October 15, 2012

The Power of We

Today is the sixth annual Blog Action Day, when thousands of bloggers from around the world will write "about one important global topic on the same day."
This year's topic is "The Power of We."
The Power of We is a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world, either for their own communities or for people they will never meet half way around he world.

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.
I grew up in an American Irish Catholic family.  I learned of Catholic social doctrine, which teaches that we are one human family, with a responsibility to care for the earth and the poor, and to respect the dignity of work and the rights of workers. I learned of the struggles of my ancestors in Ireland and in this country.  I learned what happened when they banded together to protect themselves and their families by becoming politically active.  My own grandfather took up this call in the Rhode Island state senate.

Now I practice as a Registered Nurse in a small community hospital in Connecticut.  Several years ago a cost cutting consultant was brought in.  In the years since then, the hospital has cut nurses wages and benefits, increased profit margin, and laided off our Licenced Practical Nurses during a nursing shortage.
This has led to an incredible turnover of nurses at our hospital, prompting Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy to refer to it as a "starter hospital", because nurses start their careers here and move on.
So two years ago we decided to band together, to use the Power of WE.
Facing strong administration opposition but with the support of our governor, representatives, senators, other labor unions, and the community, we voted and became the Backus Federation of Nurses, a local of the American Federation of Teachers
We are in our infancy as a local, but we have already seen what solidarity can do.

No longer are we "at will" employees.  Now there must be just cause to discipline or discharge.
No longer does administration have the last word.  We have a grievance procedure and arbitration by an independent arbitrator.
No longer can they just "walk us out" as they did to the LPNs.
No longer must nurses be afraid to openly advocate for themseves, their colleagues, or their patients.
My hope is that we have started a process that will lead to a hospital where young, talented nurses wish to come to work and even more, they wish to stay.

In the process of the formation of this union, I started this blog as a way to tell our story.  I was invited to join the National Writers Union, Local 1981, UAW. 
I am proud to stand in solidarity with my brother and sisters of AFT and the UAW, because together we have the Power of We, and together we can make a real difference in our communities, our nation and the world.