Friday, November 29, 2013

Strike Update

The last few days have been a whirlwind.
Our sister locals at L+M hospital went out on a 4 day unfair labor practice strike on Wednesday.
Then the hospital threatened to lock them out.
Wednesday meant picketing in the wind and rain.
Thursday (Thanksgiving) meant turkey, stuffing, pies, etc donated and dropped off at the picket line from people and restaurants of the New London area. I had my turkey meal in the RV with Lisa D'Arosca, president of the L+M RNs.
Lisa, and Stephanie Johnson, president of the LPN/Techs, have been living at the picket line.  Stephanie went horse for a while from using the bullhorn.
Harry Rodriguez, president of the Healthcare Local, is barred from the picket line, because his local is in the middle of a contract, so Harry has been holding down the fort at the office.
Our professional staff from AFT Connecticut and AFT national have been unbelievable.  We always rely on them for their expertise, and this week they have been putting in long, long hours.
Brother Ole actually fell asleep while standing up at the picket line in the middle of the night, in the cold.  He awoke when he started to fall to the ground.
I've always considered healthcare work more as a vocation than a profession. Our professional organizers, field reps, and others approach their work in the same way.
Our elected leaders in Rocky Hill and Washington have been wonderful.
Melodie, Steve, and Jean have been on the line, and today we were joined by national president, Randi Weingarten.
I have been in email contact with Randi, AFT VP Francine Lawrence, AFT Healthcare Director Mary MacDonald, and NFN president Steve Rooney, all expressing support and pledging to involve others across the country.
I was asked to speak at the rally today.
Our political leaders are with us. Senator Blumenthal, Governor Malloy, Mayor Finizio, and too many state senators and representatives to mention have walked the line, Senator Blumenthal twice.  Senator Murphy was unable to come, so he sent his top aide. Perhaps as important, are the phone calls they have made and the pressure they have exerted to force L+M back to the table.
Our brothers and sisters from so, so many other unions have joined us, as well as the entire community.
I'm proud that my people, from Backus, where among them.
All this support has forced the hospital back to the table tonight, hopefully in a more reasonable mood, and hopefully, they will reconsider their threat to lock out the nurses and techs when they return to work tomorrow night.
a whirlwind.
Where will it end?
Hopefully with a contract that gives reasonable job protection to the nurses and techs, that's all they want, to be able to return to work and, if that work is moved to an outside building, to follow that work.
No matter what happens, the community and the workers are standing together, in solidarity.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


On Wednesday, at 6 am, the nurses and technicians of our sister locals at L+M hospital  in New London will take a courageous stand and go on strike.

It will be the first strike at a Connecticut hospital in 33 years.

The issue at hand is the hospital's refusal to stop the practice of laying off workers, moving the work to outside buildings and rehiring others to do the work, and then, denying these new workers the right to join the union.

The Federal Government is currently prosecuting the hospital for just this practice.
The problem is, the hospital has already said it will appeal any decision and tie it up in the courts for years.

The RN and the LPN/Tech Locals are advocating for contract language to protect L+M workers from their own management.

It's sad that health care in this country has come to this.  Some in the decision making roles are willing to put personal profit ahead of patient welfare.

Our brothers and sisters have been left will little choice.

The Governor, our senators and representatives, the labor community, the religious community and the greater southeastern Connecticut community are all standing with the workers.

I urge you to find your way to the hospital sometime in the next few days to show your support.
If you are not within travelling distance, I urge you to call Bruce Cummings, the CEO, at (860) 442-0711, and leave a message for him, to negotiate in good faith.

I hope to see you in New London, as I stand with my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

An open letter to my L+M brothers and sisters

My brothers and sisters of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital,

As you begin what could be an historic week, I wish to try to express to you my admiration for your courage and leadership.
The battle you are fighting is not yours alone.  It is a battle that you fight for every health care worker in our state, and for our patients and communities.

You are a remarkable group of people.
You have dedicated yourselves to the care of your fellow man.
You are there for your patients and community at their birth, their death, and every step in between.
You share with them tears of joy, and tears of sadness.
For you it is not just a job, not just a profession, it is truly a vocation.

It is clear that the corporation that runs your hospital is more interested in lining their pockets and breaking the law, than in giving you the respect you deserve.
However, please know that you have the respect of your community, the faith community, the political community, and the labor community.
In particular, know that you have my respect, the respect of the Backus Federation of Nurses, and the respect of the entire AFT family.

If it were not for you, Local 5149 would not exist.
You were there for us in our struggles, and we will be here for you.
Your leadership has been our mentors and supporters as we learn what it means to be a union, and your membership an example of what "solidarity" truly means.
You are an exceptionable group of people, lead by an exceptional group of leaders.

It is with pride that we will join you on the sidewalks of New London this week.

In service,

John Brady
Backus federation of Nurses
AFT CT Local 5149

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK lives in us

I was sitting in my 3rd grade class room at St James School, when the announcement came over the loudspeaker. 
Our president, our Jack, had been shot.

We prayed and then we left for the day.

We walked home in silence, greeted by my Aunt Rita, who was watching us for a few days.  She was puzzled when she saw us and when we told her, she didn't want to believe.

Our Mom and Dad were in California, ironically in the very hotel where Bobby would be killed in a few years time.

Within a few years, the forces of evil took Jack, Martin and Bobby.

But they could not take their dreams.

Their dreams live in the hearts and actions of all those who believe in the dignity of all people, who believe that a person's worth is not measured by their color, or class, or religion, or social standing, but by their commitment to helping their fellow man.

Their words guide us.
"Ask what you can do"
"I have a dream"
"I see what is not and ask, why not?"

They paid the ultimate price for what they believed in, can there be a greater cause?
May be rededicate ourselves to this cause.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lessons from the road (with deep respect to Jack Kerouac)

I have done more travelling this year than most of my previous years combined. 
I have been to Washington 3 times, and Baltimore and Chicago once each, all on union business. 

Now I'm returning from a family trip to Disneyworld. 

No more trips for awhile....
Well, till January, then it's San Diego...
and May,...Baltimore....
and July,....Los Angeles. 
But, then, no more trips for awhile....,,

One tip I'm learning from all this...,
Travel light. 

Nothing worse than schlepping too much unnecessary stuff on a trip. 
The same holds true with life, doesn't it?

Didn't JC send his followers out instructing them to take nothing extra with them?
Doesn't Toaism and Buddism teach simplicity?
Doesn't George Carlin have a skit about "stuff"?

It goes against our modern culture and American sense of self reliance, but maybe, in certain situations, we should give it a try. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Letting go in Florida

What would happen if I just let go?
I tend to be a planner. 
Nothing wrong with that I guess, it helps get things done, but it also sets up expectations, which if not met, lead to....
Some of my fondest vacation memories come from the unplanned events. Times when we happened upon a great restaurant experience or met some interesting people that we weren't expecting. 
Like this morning. 
I'm up early, before everyone else, sitting with coffee and blogging on my smart phone. I'm at an outdoor table in mid November, it's warm enough to be in shorts and sandals, there's plenty of hot coffee nearby, and when I look up, the full moon shines through the palm trees. 
Unplanned, unexpected, and unbelievable. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

We owe our veterans

What went through that young Marine's mind as his landing craft neared the beach?  He had found himself in the South Pacific, so far from his home in Rhode Island, facing an enemy he didn't know, an enemy that had attacked his country at Pearl Harbor. 
Like so many his age, including his brothers, he had put his life on hold, to defend his countryman. 
The front of the craft opened as they hit the beach. The young Marines rush ashore, directly into enemy fire. 
Many were hit, including our Marine from Rhode Island. 
The pain must have been unbearable as his clothes caught fire from the flame thrower. Only the courage of his comrades would save his life. 
He would spend a year in the hospital, with multiple skin grafts. He would receive Last Rites several times, but somehow, he would survive.
The scars would remain forever, and yet his children would not notice them. They would only see his inner beauty. 
He would marry and raise 6 children , including his writer. He would teach them more by example than word. He would teach acceptance of others, regardless of race, color, or creed. He would teach that all men, all women, have dignity. 
And his story would be repeated a million times with variations. It would be repeated by his brothers to their children. It would be repeated by those a who pulled him to safety, by others who have served and continue to serve, who he never knew, because this young Marine's story is remarkable, but it is not unique. 
It is the story of those who are willing to pay the intimate price. 
So when I'm discouraged, or tired, or when I wonder if fighting for what I believe in, what my father believed in, that all people should be treated with dignity, whatever their color, creed, race, sex, sexual preference, occupation, or social position, or anything else that makes them different from me, is worth the effort. When I wonder if it might not be easier to give in and let the people of privilege run things, when I wonder if I can make a difference, when I wonder if my brother of color, or poverty, or addiction, or homelessness, has a chance, I think of that young Marine, and what was going thoroughly his mind as he neared the beach. He must of had doubts, he might have been tired, he was probably scared. 
But he did not waver. 
His comrades did not waver. 
I must not waver. 
We must not waver. 
We owe it to them. 
We owe it to ourselves. 
I owe it to my dad. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

One option

The other day I got an email of desperation from a real good recovery room nurse.  I want to share it with you.

I know you have heard this over and over again but it has to be dealt with.  I left work yesterday crying and on the verge of quitting.  We had one call out and even without a call out we are in crisis mode.  We can't even go pee. The most recent saying from our clinical coordinator is I know your not ready but another one is coming out for you. (from the OR)  This is unacceptable.  We have two people hired to start in December but not enough staff to train them appropriately.  I know she, Judy, is going to expect us to take Pt's and train someone.  This is unacceptable.  We need travelers to help get us through and the OR gets them but we don't.  Everyone is aware of our situation but nothing gets done.  We have one traveler but its not enough and he is done late Nov.  I need some push on this issue.  Please help.

I responded by forwarding the email and the following to the hospital CEO, two vice presidents and the director of Quality for Hartford Healthcare.

Can someone please tell me how our continued, daily, beating to the pulp of nurses, not only in PACU, but throughout the hospital, is in the best interest of the organization, the employees, the patients or the community? 
It is a patient safety, patient satisfaction, and quality issue and it is an employee moral and retention issue.
Thank you for your consideration,

The next day PACU was better staffed.

Maybe it is because I have been patient for so, so, long.
Maybe it is because my nature is to cooperate, not confront.
Maybe it is because I cannot stand to see our nurses continuously disrespected.
Or maybe, I am just maturing as a Union President.

I will no longer stand bye and watch good nurses be bullied or harassed by management. 
I will  not watch them be short staffed.
I will not watch them be placed in a position to be injured.

There are two ways to receive respect.
It can be granted voluntarily by the other party, or it can be demanded and faught for.  
I have waited patiently for the respect to be granted to our nurses, it has not come.
That leaves one option.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

John Olsen

John Olsen served as president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO for 25 years.
25 years!

Imagine all the changes in that time.
Imagine the struggles, the victories, the defeats, the disappointments, the sleepless nights, the extreme highs.

Now he retires.
Not to sit in the sun, but to serve his fellow man some more, working with the John J Driscoll United Labor Agency and the Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation.
You see, John is tough and gruff on the outside, but his heart beats true with the desire to help those who others beat down, the homeless, the hungry, the immigrant, the disenfranchised.

Last Friday night, John was in a packed room of like minded people.  People to whom he is an example of how to live.  Care for your fellow man and don't be afraid to fight for them.

The Governor, both U S Senators, all 5 U S Representatives, Ted Kennedy jr, Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, and a house full of union presidents and leaders, gathered to honor John and celebrate what he stands for.

Many gave speeches, many cheers went up. but no cheer was louder than the cheer for the union hotel workers who were serving us diner.  It was fitting because that's what John Olsen stands for, what he has dedicated his life to, what he has shown to us time and time again.
It can be summed up as this:

All work has meaning.
All people deserve respect.

Thanks John.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Boston Strong!

It's a good week to be in New England.
Our boys have done it, they are baseball's World Champions!

For someone who grew up with year after year of disappointment, year after year of good springs and summer fades, of 86 years of "the curse"..........
and then.......
We could all die happy.

But wait, the baseball gods were not done.
Having lifted the curse, they would reward us again in 2007!
Surely we did not deserve this, we celebrated, but wondered, what price would the gods demand for this second gift?

The past few years have been tough in New England, indeed, for the entire northeast.
An October snowstorm left us without power for weeks, Hurricane Sandy, flooding in Vermont, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and this spring, the Boston bombings.
The rest of the country has not been spared.  Hurricanes, oil spills, shootings, wildfires, and on and on.
With September 11 still fresh in our memories, no one could blame us if we felt a bit beaten down.
We had stood together after September 11, we had risen out of the ashes, we had new life.

The question became, could we do it again?

Maybe it took a city, a region, who had lived 86 years under "the curse" or maybe it was just time, but after the marathon, a new cry began.
It started slowly, quietly.  It started as they all do, not with voice, but with action. As the firefighters and police had rushed in on September 11, so did they on April 15.
Boston Strong
Boston Strong
Boston Strong
Boston Strong
Boston Strong
Soon it was a cry heard across the country, a cry that said, "You may knock us down, but we WILL get up!"
It became a cry of hope, not only for Boston, not only for New England or the northeast, but for all.
Boston Strong applied just as much to those fighting fire fires in the west, as bombings in the east.  It applied as much to the children of Newtown as the runners and spectators of Boston.
In one of the greatest displays of solidarity, the great New York Yankees declared that they too, were "Boston Strong!"

The gods could not ignore us any longer.  We had been tested. We had stood together and stood strong, Boston strong.

So, for the third time in my life, the Red Sox are World Champs, and this time, for the first time since 1918, the gods smiled on us and let us celebrate at Fenway.