Monday, April 28, 2014

My Everyday Heroes

I never anticipated becoming a Labor leader at this point in my life.
I thought I would quietly ease into retirement, travel, take it easy.

But sometimes life has other plans for us.

I found myself being looked to for leadership at my hospital.
I found myself giving testimony in Washington and Hartford.
I found myself speaking in public, being placed on committees, and recognized by other Labor leaders and politicians.

Not so much because of who I am, but because of who I represent.

I was not prepared for this.

I receive great support and guidance from my union's professional staff.  They truly are the best at what they do.
That's the science of Unionism.

But what of the art of Unionism?
What about how to manage the expectations from members and others?
What about learning to balance work, union, and family?
What about someone who's been there before me?
With whom I can let my hair down (if I had any).

I have been blessed to have become friends with three of the finest people I have ever met, all of them great Labor leaders, and they have mentored me and supported me.

Harry Rodriguez, Lisa D'Abrosca, and Stephanie Johnson, the three union presidents of L+M hospital were recognized today by AFT.
In a union of 1.5 million people, they have been honored as the Heathcare Everyday Heroes.
The official reason will be because of the fantastic leadership they exhibited with the L+M strike and lockout.

But there's more to it than that.  They are my heroes because without them, I would not be me.

My Everyday Heroes.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

We are Yue Yuen

L+M Hospital fired workers, moved work out of the hospital, replaced the workers, and denied the new workers the rights to Collective Bargaining. The workers struck for 4 days and then were locked out for 3 weeks.
Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings in China is the worlds largest producer of footwear for such companies as Addidas, Nike, and Timberland.
They are also crooks.
For 2 decades they underfunded workers Social Benefit Fund as required by Chinese law.  This underfunded retirement pensions, medical insurance, housing and injury compensation.
48,000 workers went on strike when they found out.  They have been met by police and dogs.
There are many shades of gray in our world, but there is also right and wrong.
When someone takes advantage of another for their own gain, because they can, there is no gray.
It is wrong.
The workers in New London, Connecticut and in China are our brothers and sisters.
That was done to them is wrong.
We stand with them because to not stand with them would be unimaginable and unacceptable to who we are.
We are L+M!
We are Yue Yuen!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Don't let Connecticut become Wisconsin

I wanted to share this video with you.
It is the work of Matt O'Connor and Neal Thomassen, of AFT Connecticut, with help from the rest of the staff.
It is about what happened in Wisconsin when Scott Walker was elected governor and overnight gutted worker's rights.
It is something no one would have imagined happening in Wisconsin, yet it did.
His campaign team used sensitive issues like gun control to divide workers and the end result was that all of Wisconsin suffered.
In Connecticut we live in and are surrounded by states that believe the rights of workers are fundamental and protected by our constitution.
Could it happen here?
It happened in Wisconsin.

Please join me this coming Monday, April 28, 5:30 pm, at Lake of Isles in Preston CT, for a fundraiser for Governor Dan Malloy's re-election.
As Connecticut's chief executive he has been a tough negotiator with public employees and teachers, but he has never questioned the right to collective bargaining, as Scott Walker does.
Governor Malloy has publicly supported workers and collective bargaining and in particular as been a friend to Connecticut's nurses and health care workers.
It is now time to be his friend.
I hope you'll join me, and my brother Harry and sisters Lisa and Stephanie, the L+M presidents, and other local labor and community leaders.
Donations of $5-$100 will be graciously accepted.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Forming a union "shouldn't have been this hard"

This brings back memories. 

I traveled to Washington with Ole and testified before the NLRB in 2011 about much the same thing.

Is this a cause for concern, that we continue to fight the same battle?
Maybe, but it is also a cause for hope, in that, individuals are still willing to stand up and fight for what is right.
I applaud my sister Donna and her coworkers for their bravery and I pledge my solidarity.

Forming a union "shouldn't have been this hard," aide tells NLRB
In September 2013, an overwhelming majority of the home health aides at the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut signed union cards and a public petition asking for voluntary recognition. When their request was summarily denied, they filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to call for an election. Despite delays and 54 days of anti-union harassment from their employer, 25 out of 26 aides came out to vote, and 23 voted to join the VNASC Federation of Registered Nurses, Local 5119/AFT. In April 2014, Donna Miller, the home health aide who organized her colleagues, testified before the NLRB about her experience. Miller also shares her story here.
Donna Miller at the NLRB Hearing
I have always gravitated toward older people, even when I was young. I became a certified nursing assistant as a stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse, but I have been a CNA for 23 years because I love my job. I really enjoy taking care of people, especially in the comfort of their own home. I have the privilege of spending an hour or two with them a few days a week. I celebrate their successes and am able to motivate them to achieve their goals. I also have clients at the end of life. This is especially rewarding because I am able to provide comfort and ensure they can be in their home where they want to be. Right now, I am taking classes to pursue that dream of being a registered nurse. I'm getting older, and this work is getting more difficult. I want to stay with patient care, but I'll take care of my patients' needs in a different way.
I have worked for the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut for 10 years. In the summer of 2013, I decided it was time for a change. I saw how much better the nurses were treated and realized it was because they had a union and they had a voice. This made me realize that we needed a union and we needed a voice, so I got the ball rolling. I talked to my co-workers and we were all on the same page, so we contacted AFT Connecticut, the union that represented the nurses.
We had a list of questions, and they were all answered. Within two weeks, a majority of us decided we wanted to join the union. We signed union cards and a petition, and we asked management to recognize our union and begin the bargaining process. It was a clear majority, but management said no.
So we wore buttons declaring our solidarity to a staff meeting, and we signed the petition in the parking lot in full view of management and took a picture. The answer was still no.
A lot of aides were cornered by management who tried to change their minds. We got fliers with pictures of groceries on them tucked into our work schedules asking if we could afford union dues. The president of the company wrote hand-written letters—some in Spanish for the bilingual aides—and mailed them to our homes, encouraging us to vote no. But we were not intimidated. The nurses were supportive and encouraging.
A lot of aides were scared of losing their jobs. People called me with questions, and I would encourage them and let them know we were going to get what we deserve. I did what I could to keep them on board. I was scared too, but I was also sick of being treated so unfairly.
I have been given the opportunity to speak in front of the five-member NLRB appointed by President Obama. I want to tell them how challenging it is to organize a union. It is very hard for workers to stand up to their bosses and ask for a voice. We need our government to be there for the workers to facilitate the process of forming a union. It should not have been this hard.
We sat on the sidelines and watched the nurses who are unionized get increased pay, no take-backs and fair work hours, while we have had benefits taken away, work hours decreased and no significant increase in pay. We had no voice with any change in our working conditions, but I believe all this will change with our first contract. [Photo by Damon Hunter/NLRB]
April 14, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I can't pray and text at the same time

We live in an increasingly digital and instant everything world.
I remember years ago hearing the question asked, "How often do you check your email?' because of the fear that we were becoming slaves to our computers.
Now that we have smart phones; checking email, Facebook and twitter is continuous,
Our phones call us with a vibration in our pockets like a call to prayer.
It's like the question of how many meals to I eat in a day.  Just one, all day.
People are starting to talk "digital."
Going "off line" no longer means turning off the computer and speaking face to face.  Now it means waiting to speak one on one instead of in a group of people.
One of the fears I have is that by always trying to stay connected, I lose the connections with people in real life, real in person human interaction.  Think of how often we check our phones while talking to someone
Another fear I have is that I lose the connection to myself.
Call it prayer, or meditation, or whatever you wish, but time spent on our spiritual selves is important and has been throughout human existence.
In our obsession to being "connected" let us remember the need to stay connected to ourselves, each other, and whomever we call our Higher Power.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Hebrew roots

As an Irish American I trace my heritage back to Ireland, and in my case, Scotland and England.
As an Irish Catholic American, I trace my spiritual roots back to the Middle East, to David, and Moses, and Abraham.

I am as much an Israelite as I am an Irishman.

The Irish story is well known, years of abuse from landlords, a potato famine, and mass migration to America for a new life of hope and freedom.
The Hebrew story is similar, enslaved in Egypt, freed to roam the desert until they finally reached the Promised Land.
The Irish faced discrimination in the country, the Jews faced the gas chambers and concentration camps.
But both have survived, both prevail, and both have done so because of a faith in a God we both share.

This week we celebrate both Holy Week and Passover.  Both speak of love of a God who never abandoned us.
Passover began the Exodus to freedom, a long trail that continues still.
May the God of Abraham bless us all, his children.
Happy Passover, Happy Easter.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani!

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Christian Holy Week. This week is also Passover.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus of Nazareth, the man Christians believe to be the Jewish messiah, arrived in Jerusalem as a hero.
He would celebrate the Passover meal with his followers, then he would die on a cross.
From hero to executed, all in one week.

Haven't we all felt that way at times?

While on the cross, near death, he would cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
This man whom many believe to be both God and man, would have at least a brief wavering of his faith.

Haven't we all felt that way at times?

So many lessons from this week.
Perhaps one is that we all feel like giving up at times, that life is just too hard, that we can go from hero to persecuted so quickly.

Haven't we all felt that way at time?

On Easter, Jesus would rise from the dead.  He would again spend time with his followers, and when it was time for him to leave this world, he would not promise them or us an easy life, but he did promise that he would be with us always.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Finding time to write

I'm not sure if I've ever written a blog about the process of writing.
What makes one person want to sit with pen and paper, or at the keyboard, and put a piece of themselves out there for anyone who wants to see.
The explosion of social media proves that there are many who are drawn to it.
Others do it solely for themselves, in journals and diaries.
Both ways serve many purposes.
It's a form of self expression, like painting or singing.
It's a platform for one's beliefs.
It's a way of internally clarifying one's thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes, when I sit to write, I don't know where the writing will take me.  I don't know what the next sentence will be, until I write the one before.
Sometimes, I do know where I want to start and where I want to end, and the interesting part is getting from A to B.
I appreciate those who have elevated writing to an art form, those who's words are poetry, even if they are prose.
I also admire those who write often, such as those who write a daily blog.
My friend Bill Kenny is like that.
One of the best things for me is that writing forces me to slow down, to look inside, and to remember that as busy as I am, as important as all the tasks of my daily life may be, the world will go on if I take the time to write, or rest, or enjoy.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The next Wisconsin?

Yesterday morning Michelle Hayes, one of our eboard members, and I attended a gathering of several unions in Middletown.
Present were four guests from Wisconsin, who told of how in one election, Wisconsin went from being a pro-union, pro-worker state to one that stripped workers of even the right to collectively bargain.

Last night, our VP Melisa Hunter, delegate Dave Misiaszek, and I celebrated with our L+M brothers and sisters, on their victory over a hospital administration committed to doing the same to them.
Present there were one US Senator, one Lieutenant Governor, one state senator, two state representatives, the mayor of the city and several aldermen.

In Connecticut, our elected officials believe in a strong middle class, in Wisconsin, they do not.

Not so long ago, Wisconsin was like Connecticut.

The question is: Will Connecticut, and other progressive states, become the next Wisconsin?

Big money people spend billions to convince voters that unions are bad, that people receiving public pensions are bad, that people on food stamps are bad, that immigrants our bad, and so on.
This same big money underpays their workers, and denies them heath care insurance, which forces low income workers to need food stamps and government insurance.
They take advantage of immigrants by paying them less than minimum wage and providing poor and unsafe working conditions, because they can get away with it.

In my opinion these big money people line their pockets while relying on taxpayers to foot the bills they should be paying.
They are unwilling to accept their ethical responsibilities.
They divide us with distractions on hot button issues, so that they can continue lining of their pockets.

We have an important election this fall.
Please register.
Please vote.
Please remember, that there is nothing more important to our country's future, than a strong middle class.
Connecticut online voter registration link

Friday, April 4, 2014

Say what?

My darling wife has been on me for years to get my hearing checked.
So recently, when I saw my primary doctor, I told him of her wish.

Doc, "What do you think?"
Me, "Well, I do have trouble understanding what she says at times, but I think it's because she mumbles."
Doc, "It's a fact that men of a certain age start to lose the ability to hear higher frequencies and women, who speak in a higher frequency, become even higher when they get frustrated with husbands who cannot hear them."
Me, "of a certain age?"
Doc, "Tell you what, I'll refer you for a hearing test and her to a speech therapist."

Anyway, I have hearing aides now because apparently I am of a certain age.

Today was my first full day wearing them.
I put them in my ears while my bagel was toasting.
The scraping sound of the butter knife going across the bagel was enough to wake the dead!
How does anyone in my house sleep late when I get up and make that kind of racket?

I had to call the IT guys at work.
My computer keyboard sounds like the old fashioned typewriters!
I told them it was broken.
They said it always sounded like that.

I don't know how you non hearing impaired people do it.
I mean, how do you put up with all the noise all the time?

I made it through my first day and ironically, I'm not sure I need them now, because my wife seems to have stopped mumbling.

I'm taking them out now for the night, all this auditory stimulation is tiring.