Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Bottom Line

Today continues our series, part 2 of 3, of guest blogs from the Presidents of the L+M Locals.
Today, Stephanie Johnson, President of Local 5051 LPN/Technologists tells it like it is.

Once upon a time there was a small community hospital that was committed to improving the health of the region. This hospital was well respected in its community and its staff was well thought of by the management and the public it served. For many years this was an idyllic setting, where patients could come, be taken care of by someone they actually knew because they were from their community as well. The patients felt good about this care because the staff was committed to the hospital, its mission and their work.
That was then, this is now. Fast forward a few years to 2005 when the hospital had a new regime take over. The front line staff at the hospital hasn’t changed much, many loyal employees, some of which have been in their employ for several decades. What did change? The attitude that healthcare is more customer service than patient care. The belief that loyal, well trained staff is easily replaced instead of valued and respected. That safety is a word we throw out only when big agencies are watching. That culture changes because the word comes down from the top instead of being an exemplar of change, not using fear but leading by example. The premise that the unions were not here to stay and we could be easily broken apart.
The relationship the unions have had with this hospitals current leadership has been rocky from the start. Why you may ask? We dare to challenge the hospital’s ability to change terms that are specifically spoken to in our contracts. The nerve of us “fear mongers”, as we’ve been called.
One might think we strive to have this contentious relationship but this is simply not true. When respect is given in a relationship and opinions are welcomed and actually encouraged, a strong working relationship can and will develop. This is not the approach taken by many members of leadership. We have things that we work on together such as the annual United Way campaign which is successful every year. So why not have the same approach when it comes to the day to day dealings.
The Union is here to protect workers’ rights with respect to wages, hours and working conditions. You would think these issues would be something the hospital and the union wouldn’t be too far apart on. Safety; everybody wants a safe working environment. Yet it’s a fight for the unions to have a say in safety. Hey, we’re just the people working in the areas that have the experiences…you would think we might know a little something about what may work best in our areas.
An open role for dialogue between leaderships is what is necessary to keep this ship afloat. Respect for the clauses in each of our contracts, written out of necessity not just for fluff. Respect for the workers who carry out this hospitals mission statement day in and day out. Respect for the actual work we do, noting that not everyone can do the special kinds of care that we deliver. Respect for the knowledge we workers have and our many years of experience. We just found our bottom line.
In Solidarity,
Stephanie Johnson, President
Local 5051 LPN/Technologists

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