Friday, January 31, 2014
Their executive boards, delegates, and negotiation teams have been incredible.
I lack the words to fully describe my admiration for the strength and solidarity of their members.
Fully a year ago, Harry, Lisa, and I, along with Greg, field rep for all 4 locals, traveled to Washington to speak to our legislators on this problem and to have Harry and Greg give a presentation to AFT healthcare presidents about it. That was the groundwork that would lead to an unprecedented campaign in which the community, politicians, AFT locals, the AFL-CIO, and our brothers and sisters of all unions would join in solidarity and say in one voice, "I am L+M!"
Being illegally locked out of their own hospital for 3 weeks just before Christmas did not dampen the spirits of the L+M workers. Yes they were cold, worried, and even scared.
But when the building trades cook you breakfast and lunch on the picket line, when other unions and individuals contribute over $65,000 in solidarity funds, when the Governor and his administration, US and Connecticut senators and representatives, the city mayor, and your national and state federation leadership march with you, when people drop off more coffee, donuts, and food than you can eat, when the United Way opens it's arms to you, when the Elks cook you a pasta meal, when the AFL-CIO donates Christmas presents for your kids, when the entire community comes out to support you............
Well......it warms you up, it eases your worries, it gives you strength.
After 7 days of an Unfair Labor Practice Trial, the United States and AFT v L+M Corporation, there has been a breakthrough.
A tentative agreement will be voted on by union membership on Monday. If ratified it will settle both the ULP and the contract.
I am so proud of my L+M brothers and sisters, proud of my own members, many of whom grew to understand the word "solidarity", proud of my state federation and national federation, all it's members, leadership and remarkable staff, and proud of the labor/community movement.
In a time when personal profits are often the guiding light, we have seen a better light, a light that shows that people can come before profits.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
When I think of this question, my thoughts immediately go to people like Gandhi, King, Mandela, Jesus, and Cesar Chavez.
Who but they could have done what they did?
We've all met people of whom we say, "They were born to do that."
Often, we think of clergy or religious as being called, but non religious are also called, we all are.
Some people are called to the missions, to help people, often in other countries but also in our own.
I believe nursing and health care is a calling. But I've also know nurses to whom nursing is not their calling.
Your favorite teachers had probably found their calling and maybe your favorite coach.
Some professions lend themselves to us thinking of them as callings, but I think all professions can be callings.
I think it's more they way the individual person thinks of, and approaches their work that makes it a calling.
I've met taxi and bus drivers who can brighten my morning with their warm greeting and ease of laughter, with their willingness to tell stories and listen compassionately to my worries.
To many of us social activism is a calling.
To start, we must have a passion for it, a willingness to work long and sometimes difficult hours on it.
It's something we could not, "not be doing."
It is a passion, but more than that.
What makes a passion a calling is a belief that in carrying it out we are fulfilling part of our purpose in life.
Most important, we do it not because it benefits us, but rather, it benefits others.
Their is an ethical component to a calling.
So, a banker or a manager or a CEO, may have found their calling. It's not that they are good at what they do, although that follows as a side effect. It's that they are driven to it out of an inner need and they are not motivated by personal gain, but out of how they can help others.
We can have more than one calling in our lives, they can change over time.
How do we find it?
The answer to that is in the name.
We need to be listening for it.
Friday, January 24, 2014
It's an expensive stance, as Mr. Collins points out, with a team of Boston lawyers and CEO Bruce Cummings' "big team of vice presidents, each paid in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year" looking on as Cummings took the stand.
"Even with it's tens of millions stashed offshore, L+M is still a product of the community," Mr Collins continues.
Hospitals across this state and indeed, across this country, are watching this trial.
I fear they are watching to see what L+M gets away with, so that they may try the same.
If so, they are completely missing the point.
They should be watching to see, whatever the outcome of the trial, how L+M has already lost.
They have lost the community's support, the very community they were built to serve.
Healthcare institutions, and hospitals in particular, do not exist to make large personal profits for the people at the top of the corporate ladder.
They exist for one reason and one reason only, to care for the sick and their families.
They have an ethical responsibility to do so.
The trial will be decided in Hartford, but the people of Connecticut have already decided.
How do you find in the case of L+M not upholding it's ethical responsibility to the community it serves?
In the case of L+M illegally firing it's own workers, replacing them, and denying those replacement workers collective bargaining rights?
In the case of L+M illegally locking out it's own workers for three weeks?
How say you people of Connecticut?
Monday, January 20, 2014
Thank you Dr King for showing us how to life as we were meant to live. Not as white, black, brown, yellow, or red. Not as catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist. Not as English, Pole, or Chinese.
But as brothers and sisters of the same loving Father, by whatever name we know Him, whatever color we see Him as, whatever language He speaks to us in.
Thank you for reminding us that non violence is the way to our destiny.
That all people, no matter their station, deserve respect.
That their is dignity in all work.
That it is our duty to care for one another.
That there is always hope.
Friday, January 17, 2014
Monday, January 13, 2014
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Rod Sherman, the chairman of the AFT Small Local Unions Task Force, started today's meeting by asking me to give an L+M update.
"I was in a meeting when I got your email. I clicked a link, pull led out my credit card, and was able to donate."
He, like others was vested now. He, like others, was saying "I am L+M!"
I reminded them that my small Local would not exist without the support of the L+ M and other AFT Connecticut Locals.
Sitting to my left was Erin Benham, who with her Meriden Federation of Teacher members, walked the line in New London.
I reminded them of the issue that led to the strike, the illegal moving of work out of the hospital and denial of union representation.
I went through the timeline of the 4 day ULP strike, the illegal 3 week lockout, the return to work and the continued work for a contract.
I told them how the other unions, the political community, the AFT Locals, and the southeastern Connecticut community, all came together.
I told them how AFT Connecticut and AFT national sent staff to New London, and how Randi Weingartin came in support.
I told them how touching it was to the L+M workers to have this support, especially, the financial support from around the country.
Rod shared his thoughts of how "this" is what this task force is all about, finding ways to help small locals.
We are a diverse union, spread far and wide, and we face many challenges. But we have the ability to come together in solidarity and when we do, nothing can stop us.
Friday, January 10, 2014
It's the third and probably last gathering of the AFT Small Unions Task Force.
It's the sixth trip in the past 12 months for union business.
Maybe I should get paid by the mile?
In a way, that's what this task force is about.
AFT is set up so that each individual Local is an independent federation or union. In the case of my Local, it allows the Backus nurses the greatest say over their own destiny.
We control our own budget (thanks to the incredible work of our treasurer, Donna Callicutt). We control what issues are important to us when it comes to negotiating. We decide who, if anyone, we endorse in political campaigns. Etc.
All our officers, executive board members, delegates, and members, work in the hospital, not in some far off office where we never see or hear from them.
You get the picture. It's a grass roots organization.
That's good in so many ways. It's also a challenge due to the limited resources available to a small Local.
This task force is charged to study, and offer recommendations, on this challenge.
How can AFT best help Locals that are small enough to have leaders that work full time in the workplace, and.....run a small business in their spare time.
These trips are a good example.
Yes, our expenses will be covered, but, unlike hospital or school management, who might go to conventions and meetings as part of their work week, our time is on our own.
That's why it's on a weekend, because many of the 18 Local presidents who make up the task force are teachers. Others, like me, will use vacation time.
I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining.
I have never been involved in anything so fulfilling in my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to be appointed to assignments like this and for the opportunity to serve my fellow members.
It's a great opportunity to meet members and leaders from all over the country, to share ideas, and to make friends and connections.
This task force is but one example of many. Workers helping workers, people helping people, all working in solidarity with limited resources for the greater good.
Saturday, January 4, 2014
Since his election last year, Pope Francis shaken up the establishment.
A simple man from Argentina, who ministered in the slums as a priest, bishop, and cardinal. A man who lives in a simple apartment and does not need lavish material things.