Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The other day I received an email from AFT in Washington.  Part of the email was a request for some information, but what got me excited was the fact that they had issued the Backus Federation of Nurses a Local charter, officailly makeing us AFT Local 5149!
I realize that most of the world will not notice this moment in history, I know that most of our members will say "OK John" and not feel the excitement I do.  In fact, I'm not sure exactly why this meant so much to me, it just did.
Just over two years ago a small group of us started meeting, first in coffee houses, then in the Norwich office of the UAW, and finally in our own office.  We met in secret because our employer was not in favor of us organizing.  We met because as nurses we felt we had to, we had been taught to advocate and we were advocating for ourselves, our families, our patients, our hospital and our community.  The hospital didn't agree, not all the nurses agreed, but we were compelled by an inner drive.
We grew in numbers and started meeting with nurses at their homes, being invited into their living rooms and kitchens, hearing their stories, and their hopes and dreams.
We held an election and after winning we met for a year negotiating for our first contract.
It was a difficult journey, but one that brought me closer to so, so many nurses and made me even more committed to the idea that standing together we could make a diffence.
I have said all along that I hope for a hospital where young, bright nurses come to work and want to stay.  I hope we have started down that road.
Together, the nurses of Backus Hospital, along with so many in organized labor, politics, and the community, brought us to the point where I received that email. 
Maybe that's why I was so moved.  To me, "5149" represents what happens when people believe in something bigger than themselves and when they take personnal risks because they believe it's the right thing to do.