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".