Friday, September 27, 2013

I met WHO?

I started this unionist work to be a part of a movement to improve things at the hospital and as a result, I have been invited into coworker's living rooms and lives, I have developed wonderful friendships, and I have traveled  places, and met people, that I would have never imagined.
I have been to Washington several times, Baltimore, and will soon be in Chicago and San Diego.
I have met the Governor and our US and State Senators and Representative several times, all kinds of Organized Labor Giants and Community Leaders.
I have spoken before National Labor Relations Board and the AFL-CIO in Washington, at State AFT and AFL-CIO Conventions and to the National Federation of Nurses.

Sometimes I feel like maybe I've been mistaken for someone else.

All that being said, I was not expecting what came yesterday.
I have been at the Connecticut AFL-CIO Convention the last three days and often, President John Olsen, himself a labor giant, will pause to recognize someone in the hall.  So yesterday, he paused, recognized Ted Kennedy, and mentioned that he would say a few words at the upcoming fundraising reception for the United Labor Agency, which meets the human service needs of workers and their families.
I thought, "boy he's got a famous name."

Shortly after that, I was standing at the reception with AFT CT President Melodie Peters and VP Steve McKeever, when this Ted Kennedy came by to say hello.
Melodie asked him, "Do you know John Brady, he represents the registered nurses of Backus Hospital?"
"Nice to meet you John," he said, we shook hands and he asked about the hospital and who we represent both at Backus and elsewhere.
We spoke for several minutes, then he moved on to speak with others.

I made some silly comment to Melodie and Steve about famous names, because one of my sons is named Tom Brady.

When it came time for Ted Kennedy to speak, John Olsen spoke about his family and I suddenly realized.
THE Ted Kennedy!

You have to understand, going up in an Irish Catholic family in the 60s, the Church hierarchy was Jesus, the Pope, and the Kennedys, and not necessarily in that order.

I was so excited that I called my wife who said, "That's nice, hey, could you go to Stop and Shop on the way home?"

I represent the greatest group of people in the world, people who give their heart and soul every day in the care of others.
As a result, it has opened up a world of new experiences, but my better half has a way of reminding me of my place.
It's the place of all of us really.
Me, you, or a Kennedy, our place is to be of service to each other.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Today will be another busy day.
The Connecticut AFL-CIO convention is today through Friday and I'll represent the Backus nurses.
The governor is speaking today and prior to that, he'll have lunch with the 3 L+M union presidents to discuss all the ongoing problems at their hospital. The 3 presidents have graciously invited me along.

Problem is, I might miss the lunch because I have our first arbitration at 10:00 in Rocky Hill. 
Arbitration is the completion of the grievance process, and because this is our first, it is, in a way, historic.

An employee was disciplined and discharged, they disagreed with the discipline, and for the first time in the 120 year history of the hospital, management doesn't have the final word. An independent arbitrator will decide.

This is the difference between an "at will" employee and a "just cause" employee.

Non union employees are disciplined and discharged completely at the will of the employer.  The best that employee can hope for is unemployment insurance if the labor department agrees that they were not at fault.  In a limited number of cases, the employee may, with the help of a lawyer, be able to prove discrimination due to sex, age, color, etc.

A unionized worker who is covered by a contract with a "just cause" article is afforded protection, in that management must prove there is a "just cause" to discipline or discharge.
It will be unfortunate if I miss lunch with the governor, but as he has told us on other visits, he is a great supporter of the worker's right to organize and collectively bargain.
Protecting that right is the reason I will be at arbitration. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Rules of (Community) Engagement"

I came home from work and sat down to write a letter to L+M Hospital CEO Bruce Cummings to tell him I stood with the New London community in opposition to the layoffs and threatened layoffs, the elimination of the Kid Safe program, the direction he is leading the hospital.  A direction that puts profits and executive compensation ahead of patients and the community's needs.
The letter writing is part of a community action campaign to influence the hospital, reminding hospital executives that it is a "community" hospital.  The campaign is aptly named "I am L+M."

When I finished, I warmed some leftovers and sat down to eat dinner, and I picked up my AFT Healthcare workers magazine, HeathWire, which had just come today.
The cover story is titled "Rules of (Community) Engagement" and reports on the coalition between organized labor, faith based groups, and community groups to reclaim their communities, in particular at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, Fletcher Allen Heath Care in Vermont, and Christ Hospital in New Jersey.

I thought, that's exactly what we did at Backus and are doing now at L+M!

It's an idea that AFT is totally behind and the AFL-CIO will take up at the convention late this month.  

The idea is this.  
Organized labor, faith based groups, and community action groups share many of the same concerns, all centered around the idea that the working class and low income workers of this country have been sacrificed while the top 1% have benefited, and that this is bad not only for those adversely effected, but for our country and society as well.
It's an idea that takes the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and organizes it to be effective.  It involves phone banking, letter writing, informational  picketing, political action, and more.

Take L+M for example.  Among other things, the hospital is threatening to layoff the kitchen and housekeeping staff and replace them with a private firm.  These are the lowest paid workers at the hospital.  They buy their groceries at the local stores, they attend local churches, they have kids in local schools and on local sports teams.  These are not just "numbers", they are our neighbors, and what effects them effects us.  
So the community is coming to their aide.
I welcome you to be part of the movement.
Write the CEO and tell him to do the right thing.
Bruce Cummings
L+M Hospital
365 Montauk Ave
New London, CT 06320

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Our own management theory

My management philosophy is simple.
     Surround myself with good people who know what there doing
     Let them do their job
     Give them the support they need.

I'd write a book on it but I'm not sure how long it would be, what with just 3 bullet points.

Management theories come and go... and come and go... and come and go.
They used to have fancy names.
Now they usually come with initials, always capitalized.
Everyone gets excited, everyone attends training, consultants get paid, and a few months later it's back to business as normal, waiting for the next theory to come along.

It's been said that being a union president is like running a small business.  It's also been said that a union president is only as good as his or her executive board and delegates.

I could tell you about all the wonderful things our eboard and delegates do, but unlike me, they shy away from notoriety.

Let me tell you about one night last week.
We had a delegate meeting at the office and after that, our Treasure and our Secretary, Donna 1 and Donna 2, worked on the books in one room and VP Melissa and I were in the other room discussing union issues. Our Political Liaison, Carol, was in Rocky Hill, representing us at a training session run by Amy Clary, from our Washington office.
At one point, Melissa and I called a member who was in a bit of a jam.  We spoke with him for 30 minutes and to be honest, Melissa handled most of the call and really didn't need me.

Our Local is small and our local is young, but our local is active, learning, and growing.  We are a voice in the AFL-CIO, in AFT Connecticut and in AFT in Washington.  We are well connected with our sister Locals, and our state and national union and political leaders.

We don't need a management theory, we have people who believe in what they are doing, know how to do it, and have the support of the members.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The hearts of caregivers

A 27 year employee of my not for profit community hospital is battling lung cancer.  She hasn't been able to work since March and has lost her health care coverage.
At the same time, I read that a second not for profit community hospital in the area, L+M Hospital in New London, has an offshore "office" in the Cayman Islands.

From The Day newspaper:
"L+M hasn't moved $20 million offshore, (hospital spokesperson) Only $120,000 is on deposit in Grand Cayman, he said."
This is the same hospital that just laid off workers and cut their Kid Safe program to save $165,000.

We live in the richest country in the world.
We have workers who give their lives to a community hospital, a school, or in public service, and when they get sick, we don't care for them.
Not for profit community hospitals have Cayman Island offices and top executives that make $761,734/year, some even more, much more. 

Day after day workers across this country get up, send their kids off to school, check in on their elderly parents, and head to work.  
We don't do it so the people we work for can get rich.

We do it because of the patients, the students, the people we serve, the people who will drive the cars and live in the houses we build, sail in the ships we produce, cross the bridges we repair. 
We fight for our patients, students, and the public to receive the care they deserve.
We fight for our coworkers to receive the respect they deserve. 
We fight because of the values ingrained in our hearts, the hearts of workers; and our hearts are strong.  
The hearts of caregivers.
If you'd like to help one of those workers, our sister Noreen, please check the link below.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"This is a very painful time for hospitals."

L+M hospital is a not for profit hospital in New London, CT.  The other day they announced layoffs and one of the effects of those layoffs was the elimination of a program that exists to keep children safe.  The following are excepts from an article in the New London Day, the local newspaper, followed by a breakdown of the top 10 employees at L+M (none of whom were laid off)
An L+M program since 2001, Safe Kids was eliminated Tuesday when the hospital laid off 33 employees, among them 13 who worked at Safe Kids. Safe Kids focused on preventing childhood injuries with car seat inspections, educational programs about avoiding dog bites and poisoning, and sports, water, motor vehicle, bicycle, firearms and fire safety information, among other areas.
The hospital spokesperson said the program cost L+M $165,000 per year and generated no revenues.
At the Connecticut Hospital Association, news of the L+M layoffs came as no surprise.
Their spokesperson said hospitals have been eliminating jobs through layoffs, buyouts and by leaving vacant positions unfilled.
"Hospital employees are also feeling the cuts through wage reductions, furlough days, salary roll-backs, the elimination of merit raises, and reductions in paid time off," she said. "This is a very painful time for hospitals."

 POSITION TITLE                                SALARY   
1. President, CEO                                           $761,734     
2. Chief Operating Officer                                 $484,902      
3. Chair, Department of Surgery                       $428,327 
4. Vice President, CFO                                      $431,702
5. Vice Pres. of Strategic Planning                      $347,841
6. Chief Legal Officer                                         $324,214 
7. Chief Information Officer                                $300,811
8. Vice President, Patient Care                             $307,103
9. Vice President, Physician Practice Management   $287,114
10. Medical Director Physician                              $269,719

Grand Total:                                                     $3,943,467

I did the math.
The top 10 employees are paid $75,835 each week.
The Kid's Safety Program costs $3,173 each week.
33 hard working employees are out of work.
"This is a very painful time for hospitals."
But apparently not for hospital executives.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered

“These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value."

― Thomas Paine

Plato and Aristotle define a tyrant as, "one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others"

Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others.

I hate tyrants, I hate bullies.

I always have, I'm not sure why. I do know that the only fight I ever had in school was with the class bully, because he was picking on the only kid in the class that was smaller than I.  I watch it day after day until one day I could take it no more. I didn't care what happened to me, I didn't care if no one else would stand up to him, I just didn't care.  Seeing that poor kid picked on day after day became intolerable.

To this day there is little that upsets me more than seeing someone who holds power over another use it to their advantage, at the expense of the other.

I sometimes feel as Thomas Paine did, that these are the times that try men's souls.
Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.
But those who feel as I do have no other choice, we must continue the struggle for fairness and respect for all, and we can take solace in Paine's words, " that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sister Rita

"Just what a Catholic nun needs, another cross" I kiddingly said to Sister Rita Johnson, as I greeted her in the cafeteria.
Rita and I go back 18 years, she'd said a lot of prayers for me and my family, as she has for so many people at the hospital for 3 decades.  She has encouraged, she has held hands, she has sat and cried, and she has done it all without judgement and without any expectations of rewards or recognition.  
I guess the Pope got tired of waiting.  
He bestowed on her the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, also known as the "Cross of Honour".  It is given for distinguished service to the church and is the highest medal that can be awarded to the laity by the Papacy.
I could list all the good Rita has done, but perhaps it is better to attempt to explain what she means to me.  I have a feeling there are thousands of people who feel the same.
I call Rita the "undercover nun" because she dresses in civilian clothes.  But it's also because she is nothing like the good sisters who taught me in school in the 60s.  They could be scary.  I have a hard time ever imagining Rita that way.  
Over and over and over she has "put people on her prayer list" for me, my kids, my wife, my brothers in law, my sister, my mother, my in-laws and more.  I can't measure the power of her prayer support, but I have to believe she has God's ear.  The power of her emotional support has been enormous.
She is a friend who understands that my quirky, sometime irreverent, jokes often mask my fear and worry.  She would do anything for me and I for her.  
When we expanded the emergency room a few years ago, I went to Dr Sidmen, our director, and asked if it would be OK if Rita came down and blessed the new area.  
Rita brought some holly water from the Middle East, sprinkled a little around the rooms, sprinkled a little extra on me, and said a brief prayer, asking for blessings on those who would work these rooms and those who would be treated in them.
There was no press, no grand ceremony, just Rita, Dr Sidmen, Howard, our nurse manager, and myself.
She has made many, many more trips back to those rooms, often not under the best circumstances, to comfort patients and staff.
She is a rock.
She is an example of how we should live our lives.
Thank you Rita, it is an honor you would never seek, but that you richly deserve.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Happy Labor Day

I will spend this Labor Day at my brother's house, with much of the family, having a traditional end of the summer cookout.
Many of my colleges will spend it at the bedside.

Not to worry, they'll get Thanksgiving off and I'll be at the bedside then.  It's the life of a bedside nurse.

Labor Day originated as a day to honor the workers of this country, upon whose strong backs and with whose keen minds, this country prospered into a nation envied by all others.  A nation where a man or woman could, through a good, honest days work, make a living wage and see to the needs of his or her family.

Today, that same man or women must often work 2 or 3 jobs to do the same for their family, and when they ask for a hand with childcare, they are accused of being lazy and living off the government.

All the while, income inequality grows.

"The rich get richer.""

"Money goes to money."

And what made us a great nation is replaced by profits and greed.

It is ironic, that Organized Labor's efforts give us the first Monday as a day of rest from work, a day to celebrate the worker, and yet, 50% of the workers of my hospital will work Monday, while 99% of management relaxes.
50% of the bedside nurses across this country will care for patients, 99% of their bosses will rest.
50% of all health care workers will work, and their coworkers will work the next holiday, while their CEO and Vice Presidents are at home or the beach.
50% of our Firefighter and Police and EMS and fast food workers and many more of our brothers and sisters will work.  While those at the top end of the pay scale will take a break.

And you know what, that's OK.
It's OK because WE are what made America  the "light on the hill" for the world and WE are what will make it a shining example of equality and fairness.
What started in Madison is a movement of workers, standing together and seeing that for this country to be great the workers must demand respect.

So, my brothers and sisters, whether you spend this Labor Day at the barbecue or the job site, remember that WE built this country, and We can rebuild it.