Sunday, February 23, 2014

Turning the other cheek

“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
Never has a truth so pure, so right, and so in line with fairness and respect to the working class been spoken.
Surely John, nonviolence is fine, but we must stand up for ourselves and  for others!
Understand my brothers and sisters, the meaning of these words, spoken as part of the sermon on the mount. They should guide us in our work and in our lives.

In those times, the left hand was "unclean".  The right hand was used  to strike another, much as it is used now to shake hands.  To strike another on the right cheek was to use the backhand, something done to a servant or someone of a lower class. By standing your ground and offering the left cheek, you would be demanding respect, because the attacker could not use the backhand, and the palm of the hand against the face was a sign of equality.
So yes, it is nonviolence, but it also is a demand for respect.  It is what guided Dr King, Ghandi, and others. It is what must guide us.

Today I received an email from one of our nurses.  She tells of being afraid to speak freely in advocating for herself, her coworkers, and her patients, because of fear of retaliation from some bosses, and threats that she better keep negative comments to herself.
I wish I could say no one else has ever expressed this fear.
There are some good and fair bosses, and there are some toxic ones.

Both my nurses and management should understand this, we will stand with those who are fair and against those who are not.
It will take time and courage, but we must continue to stand our ground, demand respect, and turn the other cheek.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Good friends

When Lt Governor Nancy Wyman asks, "How are things at Backus John?", you can tell she really means it.
She cares whether or not we are respected, whether or not we can advocate for our patients, our coworkers, and ourselves.
The Governor cares too. Just let him start telling you about how his mom was a nurse who started a union.

So when I told the Lt Governor today that we were making progress both in finding our voice and improving labor/management relations she was pleased. But when I told her that Backus denied 23 individuals health insurance because they missed a 10 day signup period, even though they had some reasonable extenuating circumstances, she was not pleased.

It may take new contract language to correct this, but unlike in the past, now it is not impossible, because now we have a contract, and good friends, in good places.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I am a capitalist

I am a capitalist.
I believe that if a man works long and hard to establish a business, if he invests his time, sweat, worry and money, and if he is lucky enough to be successful, then he should reap the rewards of his success.
If he takes his meager savings and works day and night to open a retail store, or any business, and he does well, then he should get to enjoy that success.  He should drive a nice car, live in a nice house, go on nice vacations, own whatever nice toys he wishes, send his kids to great schools.
He worked for it, he deserves it.
If he expands to two stores or three or thousands through his hard work and good fortune, he has a right to his profits.

I also believe that he has an ethical responsibility to the people who helped him succeed.  He has a responsibility to pay a living wage with benefits and healthcare. If he does not, them he steals not only from his employees, but from society who is left to pick up the added cost of supplementing the wages and providing healthcare.
He has a responsibility when economic times turn poor to practice true "shared sacrifice" and not freeze his employees wages and cut their benefits while maintaining or increasing his profits.
He has an ethical responsibility to run his business in a non polluting way because to do otherwise is, once again, stealing from society to line his own pockets.
He has an ethical responsibility to treat his customers, business associates, and employees with respect in all things.
He has an ethical responsibility to pay his fair share of taxes to maintain roads, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, the very things society provided for him and are a part of his success.
He has a right to expect that the people running public schools and colleges and community hospitals run those institutions in the same ethical way he runs his business and not profit at the expense of others.
He has a right to expect other business owners to practice with the same integrity that he does, because if they do not, then it is not a level playing field.
He has a right to expect that society and the lawmakers they elect will hold other business owners and administrators of non profits that benefit from his taxes, tax breaks and public donations, to the same such ethical standards.

When I see large retail businesses who could provide their employees with a living wage and health insurance, underpaying and not offering benefits, I know that they are undercutting such an ethical man and stealing from society.
When I see Universities increasing class size and Community Hospitals increasing staffing ratios, all while the administrators are reaping larger and larger salaries, I find it unethical, not only for what they are doing to their employees but for what they are doing to society and ethical business men.

When I am told that this is capitalism, the free market system, I want to scream, "IT IS NOT!"
It is stealing and it is unethical.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It matters

"Thank you so much for working so quickly to help me! I have been feeling so stressed about all of this."
One of my nurses had been disciplined for use of sick time.
I looked at her record.
2 days sick from February to September and 14 days since then.  What was up?
When she answered the phone she said she had just been trying to find my number to call me.  She was expecting her first child and was having a difficult pregnancy, including the need for a short stint of doctor ordered bed rest.
"I'm afraid I'm going to lose my job!'

I assured her she was not going to lose her job and we went over the steps we would take to reverse the discipline and protect her.  She was so relieved.

There was no abuse of sick time, there was only appropriate use of it.
The hospital has this complicated sick time policy what actually has two discipline tracks running simultaneously and includes "double occurrences" if you are sick in inclement weather.
It is so confusing it prompted my field rep to ask,
"So I can be disciplined on both tracks at the same time?"
"Can I be fired twice?"

Bottom line, policy doesn't trump contract and contract says "discipline for abuse of sick time."

So glad we unionized when we did!

Being able to help relieve this nurse's stress during a difficult pregnancy makes the hours in meetings, the travel, the negotiating, the late nights and early mornings planning and writing emails worth it.

I want to thank my officers, executive board, delegates, and our field staff for all the dedication and time you spend looking out for our nurses.

It matters.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

First they came.....

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime. He spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Germany, 1937.

One of my roles as a member of my union's grievance committee is to defend coworkers wrongly accused.
Often I am asked why I care so much that 23 union and nonunion employees will have to go a year without health insurance. 
They missed the two week sign up period didn't they?
I am asked why I defend a particular nurse for being late in a snowstorm.
The rest of us got here on time didn't we?
I am asked why I defend someone who misses days of work.
I'm here, should she be too?
I'm asked why I stand up for the nurse who after 35 years of service may have lost a step.
I shouldn't have to pick up her work should I?
I'm asked why I defend a nurse who isn't pro union.
She stood with management when we tried to organize didn't she?

Forget for a moment that some people didn't sign up for insurance because they were a half hour late handing in the paperwork, or were out of the country for a month, or were tied up in the operating room on the last day, or were called to a sick child at school on the last day and forgot till morning.
Forget that the nurse may live on a country road that had trees down blocking the road.
Forget that the nurse may have a legitimate chronic illness but doesn't qualify for a FMLA  because she hasn't worked here a full year.
Forget that a 35 year nurse has gained more in experience that she is willing to pass on than she could ever lose in speed.
Forget that we live in a country with a range of beliefs from conservative to liberal and that all have merit.

Forget all that for a moment and remember what Niemöller said.
The oppressors will not come, at first, for the strong, the popular, the sociable, the young or the beautiful.
They will not come, at first, for the employees who are on top of their game.
They will come, at first, for those on the margins, on the fringe.
They will came, at first, for the one's that other employees could easily say, "I guess I can see why they're in trouble, they came in late, they are out sick, they are getting older, they are, they are, they are,"

If they come first for the weak, will not the strong fail to protest, will not the strong eventually take notice and fall in line?

Then remember that eventually they came for Niemöller too.