Saturday, August 23, 2014


The estimate of how much my hospital spent fighting it's own employees when we organized runs as high as $11million. The hospital admitted to almost $1million.
I know, crazy, right?

Contrast that to what Meriden Federation of Teachers president Erin Benham has been able to accomplish with a cooperative relationship with her superintendent, Mark Benigni .

I got to know Erin and hear of the cooperative program last year when we served together on the AFT Small Union Task Force, along with AFT leaders from across the country.
She told me how she and Mark speak on the phone every morning as they head off to school, of how signage of the Meriden Federation of Teachers hangs in the entrance of the school, and how teachers and administration work as a partnership to the benefit of students.
She told me that it was not always this way, in fact, some previous administrations were quite hostile towards teachers.  Erin stood up to them, meeting force with force, but always offering an olive branch if they were interested in a better way.  Eventually, by a combination of standing her ground and offering cooperation, the relationship started to change and when Mark became superintendant, the cooperation bloomed.

Erin demonstrated what AFT President Randi Weingarten calls "a little bit bad ass, and solution driven unionism," and serves as an example of what is possible.
And the real winners?
The students.

I try to imitate Erin's approach and haven't given up hope that it is possible.  We recently reached a tentative agreement to have joint Labor/Management training on working together with the Federal Mediation services.

So, when Governor Malloy was looking for a new member of the Connecticut State Board of Ed, Erin was a natural choice. She was appointed this week.
The students and in fact, all the people of Connecticut, are lucky to have Erin in this new role.

I am lucky to have her as a friend and mentor.

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