Thursday, March 28, 2013

Senator Murphy's visit

I was running slightly behind, emphasis on slightly, when I saw break lights ahead of me, lot's of them.
Oh no........
Traffic jam on the interstate, as far ahead as I could see.
I was near an exit, so I did what any normal person would do.
I pulled a U turn and drove up the on ramp.
I mean, it's not like anyone was coming down to drive into a traffic jam.
The back roads were better but still clogged with traffic.
I called the hospital and asked for the info desk.  They seamed a bit unbelieving but it was true.  I was meeting the hospital CEO, CNO, and chief of staff, to give US Senator Chris Murphy a tour of our hospital.
And....I was late.
Not to worry, I arrived about 2 minutes before Chris did.
We toured several parts of the hospital and then met with nonprofit healthcare providers from the area in a roundtable discussion.
The changes in healthcare are a bit like the changes in technology, they evolve quicker and quicker every day.  The concerns of the people around the table are how to make it work.
Chris Murphy is a friend of the working class and the poor.  He is pragmatic.  He believes the road ahead will have twists and turns, but that ahead is the only way to go. He listens to all without a preconceived notion.  He's a hard worker.
OK, I'm a fan, but it's more than that, more important than that, I have respect for him, and his staff.
And he and his staff have respect for me, our Local, and all of organized labor.  That's why they asked that I join them for the tour.
Respect can be contagious. 
I believe that at the end of the day the relationship between Labor and Management was improved, a result of us working together.
The road ahead, of healthcare and Labor/Management, will have twists and turns. (It may even have traffic jams).  But like Chris, I believe that only direction to go is ahead, even if we sometimes need to use on ramps and back roads.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Testifying in Hartford

I wanted to share with you my testimony on SB 1128, An Act Concerning Influenza Vaccinations for Health Care Employees.  I was unable to be in Hartford to testify on this day but I was able to submit my testimony electronically.  It looks fancy, but in reality, all I did was write up my rough testimony and send it to our lobbyist, Jennifer.  She polished it up, added the header, and placed it in the correct format.
I encourage you to do the same on issues that are important to us.  Erin Cummings and Carol Adams recently did the same, on this same bill and on SB 968 An Act Requiring hospitals to report nurse staffing levels.








Public Health Committee

March 19, 2013



Good afternoon Senator Gerratana, Representative Johnson and distinguished members of the Public Health Committee.  My name is John Brady. I am a Registered Nurse at Backus Hospital in Norwich. I am also President of the Backus Federation of Nurses, a union representing approximately 400 registered nurses at Backus Hospital.  I submit this testimony in opposition to SB 1128, An Act Concerning Influenza Vaccinations for Health Care Employees.

I strongly encourage my members to carefully consider receiving the flu vaccine every year. However, I also understand that there may be many reasons why some of my members may chose not to be vaccinated, including religious objections and health concerns.   Health concerns range from an adverse reaction to a full allergy.


As an emergency room nurse, I care for many patients who have received the flu vaccine and then tested positive for the flu. The decision of which strains of influenza to vaccinate against is an educated guess. Some years this guess is close and other years it misses badly. . The CDC estimates this year’s vaccine to be 62% effective. There is a strong argument that wearing a mask provides better protection, for both the health care worker and patients.  Failure to comply with this legislation could place health care workers’ jobs in jeopardy. The CDC has set a goal of 90% vaccination rate among health care workers, a goal that is achievable with a voluntary labor/management program.


For all of these reasons I stand opposed to mandatory vaccinations of health care workers. Instead, I propose a common sense approach. Health care workers should be given the opportunity to either be vaccinated or wear a mask while at work during the flu season.


I urge a no vote on SB 1128.


I am at your service if I can be of help.

John Brady, RN
President, Backus Federation of Nurses


Monday, March 25, 2013

Safe staffing saves lives

We all have had days where staffing was so poor that we feared for our license and our patients safety.  Nothing burns health care workers out faster and drives them out of their occupation than this.  Worse than that, is when it becomes a chronic problem, as it sometimes does.
In Connecticut, we have legislation that says each hospital should have a safe staffing committee to monitor this.  That's how important it is.  The people of Connecticut have made it law.
This committee needs to be at least 50 % RNs working at the bedside, so that the people at the bedside, the ones who know safe and unsafe, have a voice. 
This year, we have introduced a bill that would make reporting by these committees an automatic occurrence.  On a regular basis the hospitals would need to post on a public website, what the ratio of staff to patients has been.  This is information that is readily available and posting it is in the public interest. 
This bill is not without opposition.
Some claim it would cause an undue burden on hospitals.
Reporting of safe staffing should not be considered a burden, it should be considered a responsibility.
As health care professionals we entered the field to advocate for our patients, and we do that at the bedside and at the statehouse.
I urge you to write you legislators supporting this bill and also to check out the web page below that contains links to more information.

Contact legislators on Bill No. 968

Safe staffing website

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lessons of Passover and Easter

Passover and Easter hold many lessons for me.
In Passover, God protected the Israelites from the angle of death and delivered them from the slavery of Egypt. 
It reminds me that we all have the right to be free and that if I trust in my Higher Power, whom I chose to call God, that I will be protected.
Thousands of years latter, Jesus entered Jerusalem to prepare to celebrate the Passover. He is met as the King of the Jews, with palms being laid on the road in front of him.  Only days latter, he is crucified. 
In the past two years I have met congressmen, senators, governors and union presidents.  Sometimes, I think to myself, "is this really happening to me?"  Jesus' story reminds me that I am but the spokesperson for a group of people who deserve all the credit, people who have dedicated themselves to the care of others. It also reminds me that the greatest accomplishment is the opportunity to be of service to others.  
May God bless you and your family at this holy time of the year.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Governor's (third) Visit

Wednesday morning I was reading the paper and I saw that Governor Malloy was coming to Norwich on Thursday for a town hall meeting.  I give the man credit, he travels around the state holding town hall meetings and basically gets beat up by the electorate, because, well, people complain.
So I thought, if the Governor is coming to Norwich, we should invite him to stop by our union hall.
The Governor has been our friend.  He met with us very early in our organizing campaign, two years ago, after another Norwich town hall meeting.  He told us he supported the rights of workers to organize and that his mom and aunt were nurses.  He came again one year ago to our rally on the street near the hospital when we were struggling to get our first contract.  He stood with us, telling the hospital, "get a contract, get it done."
There are many people who we need to thank for helping us get where we are.  But the Governor did what a leader does,
he led. 
He was out in front.
So, on Wednesday morning, I emailed Terri Merisotis, our Membership Mobilization Coordinator, at AFT-CT, and asked her to pass on our invitation, you know, just to be polite.
Latter that morning she called.  The Governor wanted to know who would be there because he was considering coming.  I said, the Governor can have whomever he wants there, he's THE GOVERNOR.  If he wants a crowd, I'll get a crowd.  If he wants to relax and regroup, he has a place to stop.
Latter that day, Terri called and said his schedule wouldn't allow the time to stop.  OK, I thought, at least we offered.
Thursday morning I received a call again from an excited Terri.  The Governor's schedule had cleared and he wanted to come for a visit.
We spent about 45 minutes with the Governor. We had refreshments and talked.  He wanted an update on our Local and how our relationship was progressing with the hospital. We discussed changes in health care, Obama Care, the state budget. 
At one point he asked us, as health care professionals, if he could partake in one piece of cheese.
(I hope I don't get him in trouble with Mrs Governor or his doctor)
His aide let him know when it was time to head to Norwich City Hall, we snapped a picture, and reminded him that whenever he is in Norwich, we are his home.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Alter Ego

Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Clark Kent and LMPA all have something in common.
We all know that Peter is Spiderman, that Bruce is the Hulk, that Clark is Superman.
They look a little different, they have different names, but they are one in the same.
It's what's called an alter ego.


LMPA is the alter ego of L+M Hospital.
Since November, L+M has fired 44 employees and rehired new employees under the name of LMPA!
Why would they do that?
Because L+M now claims the new employees are no longer covered by a contract.  They claim they can be fired at any time and for any reason, because they have no collective bargaining rights, no "just cause" rights that union workers hold.

As Local 5049 President Lisa D'Abrosca put it, it's like a union grocery store opening a new store across the street, running the old store into the ground and out of business, and shifting the work to the new store where they can mistreat the employees.
It's just plain wrong!

Our 3 L+M sister locals are standing together, standing up, and standing strong.  They will fight to protect their members who were fired and they will fight to ensure that the new employees rights are protected as members of their unions.
They have filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge against the hospital and are waiting to see if the National Labor Relations Board agrees with them that L+M has broken the law.

I stand in solidarity with the leadership and members of locals 5049, 5051, and 5123, and ask you to do the same.
Injury to one is injury to all.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My hope for the Pope

"We have a Pope" came the announcement in Latin!
With those four words Francis was presented to the world. He will lead the Catholic Church, he will influence world leaders, he will pastor his people.
I've read that he is the son of immigrants and that he lives a simple life. As a cardinal he lived in an apartment, cooked for himself, rode the bus, ministered to the poor and prostitutes.
Sounds good.
His views are conservative for me, but then again, most of the Church's leadership is.
My hope for him, for all the world, is that he is true to the teachings of Jesus. That we are all brothers and sisters, that none of us is perfect, that it is our job to forgive, not judge. That when one of our brothers or sisters suffers, we all suffer. That whatever we chose to call our higher power, God loves us and cares for us.
My hope is that Francis lives his life as an example we can all imitate.
Francis pledged to pray for us and asked us to pray for him.
We have a Pope.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Union Update

Things have been busy at Local 5149.
Last Saturday, we partnered with the security and support staff union (SPFPA) and the United Way for a food drive at Stop and Shop. We collected 1720 pounds of food and $270 in cash and gift cards, due to the work of many volunteers and the generosity of the people of Norwich. The food and money will go to the Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center which distributes food to 96 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, child care centers, community meal sites, and programs for the elderly.
We were supported by our AFT CT president, Melodie Peters, who came to donate and bought us lunch, by Senator Cathy Osten, by CT AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Lori Pelletier, and by Backus CEO Dave Whitehead, who all came and donated.
Besides the obvious good of collecting the food, the drive provided an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with union and political leaders.
It also began a dialogue with Dave Whitehead about possible future joint projects.
Our relationship with hospital administration is always going to be a complicated one. There will be times when we disagree with them. At those times we must stand firm on our principles. However, there will be times when we can work together and we must be strong enough to be willing to do so.
Monday was the monthly Labor Management meeting. We have come to an agreement on "Voluntary call off" in which the most senior person will NOT always get the day off. I will disclose details after management has had time to explain the agreement to the clinical directors.
We had lengthy discussion on the compensation for mandated time for the snow storm. We presented a possible solution that would give fair compensation to all hospital employees effected. Management will meet and discuss, and they will get back to us. I just want you to realize that we have not, and will not, forget this very important issue.
Several people volunteered to serve on the hospital Safety and Staffing committees. We forwarded those names for consideration. We are under represented on these committees, and we are working to see that the hospital is in compliance with the state law. 50% of the Staffing committee needs to be bedside RNs and 50% of the Safety committee needs to be non management.
We also talked about what happens when a schedule is out, and you need a day off. Can you ask a perdiem to cover your shift. Yes and No. In general, the hospital wants perdiems to be available to fill holes. However, this does not mean it can never happen. In fact, in some cases it might be a scheduling advantage. The manager can OK a situation like this if they feel it helps.
This is one of those situations that we are going to have to monitor. If it continues to be an issue we will seek to get better contract language next time.
On Monday night Carol Adams, Deb Richiemer, and myself attended the Southeastern CT Central Labor Council, connecting with members of unions from across southeast CT. Carol and Deb attend for us monthly. Congressman Joe Courtney was a guest and it is always good to see him. He is a friend of workers.
On Tuesday I met with VP of HR, T Buss, on a couple of grievances. We had a productive discussion on both prime time vacations and partial week vacations, and we both would like to come to an agreement. Our partial week grievance was filed last fall and will come to arbitration soon and our prime time grievance is at the last step before arbitration. We discussed possible solutions and we will both speak with our respective people and maybe we can come to agreement. If we come to an agreement we could avoid both aberrations, and if we cannot, we will proceed to arbitration.
Tuesday night was both our monthly Delegate meeting and our Spring General Membership Meeting and Election.
Melissa Hunter was elected as Vice President and Donna Callicutt as Treasurer. You cannot imagine how much work these two ladies do for the local. I am extremely pleased that we will have their service for the next 2 years. The terms of office for president, secretary and constitutional delegates, expires next spring and therefor those offices were not up for election this year.
On Wednesday night, I was invited to the tri local meeting at L+M. The executive boards of  the 3 AFT L+M locals (RN, LPN/Tech, Health care workers) get together and discuss common issues. I was invited because of our close relationship with them.
Together, the 4 Locals represent 2,000 southeastern CT health care workers, and there is power in numbers.
Our sister Locals at L+M are facing a situation where 44 members have been laid off since November as the hospital transfers work to LMPA (a part of L+M) and claims these workers no longer deserve the rights of collective bargaining.
The L+M Locals have filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming L+M is breaking the law.
We need to stand in solidarity with our L+M brothers and sisters. I will keep you apprised on the situation.
Carol Adams and Erin Cummings have been working on 2 bills in Hartford, on safe staffing and mandatory flu vaccinations. Both were invited to testify to the Public Health Committee and Carol will do so on Friday. Erin is not able to make it this time due to other commitments. I want to thank both for working on issues so important to all of us.
Your department delegates have the seniority lists. Please check with them to make sure your seniority is recorded correctly. We have found mistakes.
Lastly, I have been appointed as voting member of the Quality of Care Advisory Committee of the CT Department of Public Health as a representative of the Connecticut AFL-CIO. It is my honor to accept this appointment, but even more important, it will give us added voice in many arenas and it is an indication of the high regard that the Labor Community holds for the nurses of Backus Hospital, to select one of us.
Like I said, 5149 has been busy, but the work is being done by many people, and that's where we get the word "union".

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Living United

He exited the grocery store, rolled his overfilled carriage to us, removed one small bag, looked at us, and said, "Thank you for doing this." 
We were stunned.
He was leaving an entire cart of groceries, what looked like enough for a small family for a week, as a donation for the Gemma E Moran United Way Labor Food Center.
This remarkable scene was repeated at least 3 times more and these donations, as well as hundreds of one or two cans of tuna, or peanut butter, or other items, at a time, filled our truck.
The people of Norwich were so, so generous.  It was an honor to play a small role in this.
This is the third food drive that the Backus Federation of Nurses has held in conjunction with the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut.  The first two combined for just over 3,000 pounds of food.
This time we collected 1729 pounds of food and $270 in cash and Stop and Shop gift cards, and we weren't even asking for money!
It is heart warming.
This year, we asked our brothers and sisters of the SPFPA, our security and support staff union, to join us, and they answered the call.
My deepest thanks to all the members who came out and donated their time, to the many, many people who donated food and or money.
Thank you also to AFT CT president, Melodie Peters, for helping and supplying lunch for us, for Lori Pelletier, secretary-treasurer of the CT AFL-CIO who stopped to donate and to help, to State Senator Cathy Osten and Norwich  Education to Employment Committee member, Charlie Witt, for their help, to our field rep, Greg Kotecki and his wife, who donated an entire carriage of food, to Backus Hospital president and CEO, Dave Whitehead, who stopped to get twizzlers for his daughter's acting group and donated 3 cases of vegetables,and to Sharron Peccini, of the United Way, without who's help none of this would come to fruition.
Thank you also to radio stations WICH and WILI for giving us air time to promote our drive and to Stop and Shop and it's unions.
The United Way theme, "Living United", was seen in action.
None of us has to do a lot, if all of us do a little.
Here's just a few of the pictures, more are on our FB site, "Backusnurses"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center

 This Saturday, 3/9/13, The Backus Federation of Nurses, SPFPA (our hospital security and support staff union), the the United Way will hold a food drive at Stop and Shop in Norwich from 8:30-2;30.

This will be the third food drive we have held in the past 18 months.  In the first 2 drives we collected over 3,000 pounds of food from the generous people of the Norwich area.  The food goes to restock the Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center.
Since 1988, the Gemma E. Moran United Way Labor Food Center, located in New London, has played a key role in providing one of the building blocks to a good quality of life by feeding food insecure individuals and families all across our community.Alleviating Hunger in New London County
The Food Center is one of three food banks in the state. Every year, the Food Center distributes more than two million pounds of donated, surplus food to 96 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, child care centers, community meal sites, and programs for the elderly. These member agencies in turn provide food and meals to 20,000 men, women and children throughout New London County each month.
My favorite story from past food drives was when a lady, on her way into the store, mentioned that she was having tough times, and was close to needing the food pantry herself.  Our members empathised with her and told her not to worry, they knew when would help when things improved for her.
On her way out she stopped, dropped a can of soup in our carriage, and stated, "I realized while I was shopping that there is always someone worse off than myself" 
THAT is the spirit that the food center was built on.
If you can help, please come by Saturday.  Donate what you can, be that food, time, or both. 
I guarantee you that you will get back more than you give.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Legislative Breakfast

This morning Carol Adams and I attended a legislative breakfast for the southeast CT area. It was an opportunity to get together with members of other AFT locals and area legislators to discuss issues of interest.
There was an excellent turnout with teachers, department of corrections, parole, and healthcare represented. Our 3 sister locals at L+M were, as always, well represented, and our state federation was represented by our field rep, our state president and vice president, our lobbyist and her intern, and our membership mobilization coordinator.
Senators Osten and Stillman as well as Representatives Jutila, Wright, Bowles, Riley, and Department of Labor Commissioner Palmer took time from their busy schedules to listen to us.
The legislators spent time at each table, listening concerns of interest to each group, then they moved on to the next table. Someone joked it was "speed dating" but there was plenty of time for conversations.
Carol and I relayed information and asked for support for 3 bills.
One would prohibit employers from requiring employees to receive annual flu vaccine as a condition of employment.
Another would require hospitals to report staffing levels.
The third would require " for profit" hospitals to report the same financial information as "not for profit" hospitals.
I'll break these down in more detail in future blogs.
The first 2 are issues that our members have told us are important to them and the last one could become more important in the future.
The bills were developed by the AFT CT Healthcare Council, to which I belong, and the AFT CT Political Action Committee, to which Carol belongs.
In addition to pledging support on our issues, several of the legislators, as well as our state federation president are planning to help at our food drive next Saturday.
I know, this is dry and to most, incredibly boring, but I want you to understand what goes on behind the scene. I want you to understand that when we ask if you can testify before a committee to support a bill, that it does make a difference.
As healthcare workers, we must advocated at the bedside, in the community, and at the Capitol.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Safe Staffing

Nothing is as important to health care as patient safety.  Doctors take an oath to "first do no harm".  That oath applies to everyone in health care, whatever their role.  One of the important factors in patient safety is adequate staffing.  In this tight economy it is important to remember this.  The pressures to cut staff to the minimum are large but we must guard against ever cutting to the point were safety is compromised. 
In Connecticut, we have legislation that says each hospital should have a safe staffing committee to monitor this.  That's how important it is.  The people of Connecticut have made it law.
This committee needs to be at least 50 % RNs working at the bedside, so that the people at the bedside, the ones who know safe and unsafe, have a voice. 
This year, we have introduced a bill that would make reporting by these committees an automatic occurrence.  On a regular basis the hospitals would need to post on a public website, what the ratio of staff to patients has been.  This is information that is readily available and in the public interest.  The bill in in the hearing stages an has already been watered down.  As it now stands the hospital would have to report these ratios to the state but not place on a public website.  Several of our nurses have indicated a desire to testify when needed on this issue and/or to serve on this hospital staffing committee.
It is our responsibility a health care professionals to be aware of initiatives like this that effect our patients, and to be active when able.  It's why we entered the field, to advocate for our patients, and we do that at the bedside and at the statehouse.

Raised Bill No. 968

Safe staffing website