Saturday, November 29, 2014

Open letter to my L+M sisters and brothers

My L+M sisters and brothers,

One year ago you gave us a gift.
You showed us how to put others before ourselves.
You stood up for your patients and your community.
You showed us what is possible when we stand together.

Your administration thought that profits should come before patients,
that you would not have the conviction to stand against them,
that you would not have the solidarity to stand strong together,
that the community would not stand with you,
that your political allies would fold,
that the labor community would sit this one out.

They were wrong on all counts.

It was not easy, the outcome was not certain.
It was wet and it was cold.
You had worries about health insurance, lost wages, Christmas presents, and more.
But you sat and talked with each other in the office to work through concerns, you stood under gas heaters on the coldest nights so that the picket line would always be manned, you watched outdoor movies wrapped in blankets to show you remained strong.

And the community!

Like the manna in the desert, the coffee and donuts never ran out. Cars would drive up, a smiling face, a word of encouragement, more coffee, more donuts. 
The building trades cooked breakfast and lunch for you, right there on the street.
The Elks provided anther dinner.
Local bars and pizza offered discounts.
The fire department delivered Santa with toys from your union sisters and brothers.
There were more politicians than at a convention, and they returned again and again.
The shirts and the hats, and the signs showed the breath of the Labor Community that came to your support, including our AFT president, Randi.
Community organizations and community members provided so much support.

You had no way to know that it would turn out this way, but you had faith, you had solidarity, you had leadership, and you had a belief that your patients and your community hospital would suffer if you did not take a stand.

It was a stand you had to take for the same reason you became healthcare professionals,
it's apart of who you are.
Caring for patients is what you do.

Thank you for standing up for your patients and your community.
Thank you for the lesson in solidarity.

In Service,

John Brady
Backus Federation of Nurses
AFT Local 5149

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving message

I wanted to take a moment this Thanksgiving morning and reflect on my involvement in the Labor movement and my thankfulness for this opportunity.

What started as a meeting with Marianne and Ole in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, CT has led me to places and given me opportunities  I could have never imagined.
I have traveled extensively and made friends with labor leaders across this country.  Each friendship has helped me grow and made me more certain that this is the right place for me.
I have celebrated victories and held hands in loses, both professional and personal.  
I have sat at the negotiations table, testified before hearings, knocked on doors, and marched on picket lines.
Where once I was meeting in a coffee shop with organizers, now I am meeting others, telling them they too can find their voice.

I grew up being taught that we should share our good fortune, not step on one another to move ahead. That we should treat all with dignity and respect. That those in authority have an obligation to use their power to benefit others and that they should serve, not seek to be served.
The Labor movement has given me an opportunity to put those beliefs into practice.

My fiend Junior said it this way, "I'm thankful that I've been given the opportunity to be part of the labor movement, and I get to be in it with such terrific people."

I would be remiss (and in trouble) if I did not say I was thankful for my wonderful wife, Michelle, who is so tolerant of the time I spend in meetings and on trips. She understands the importance of the work I am trying to do, and though she is jealous of my time, she places the needs of others before her own. She is an example to me and I am surely not deserving of her.

We all play a role in the movement, whether we are in organized labor or not, by the way we live our lives and the choices we make.  Every day we either advance the cause of fairness and dignity or we advance the cause of selfishness and greed.
I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope you too will take a moment and reflect on your own place in the movement.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Our children are dying.

And it is tragic.

There are many reasons why.  
The proliferation of guns, racism, a more violent society, cutbacks in social spending and psychological care, a growing income inequality gap, and more.
The bottom line is that hardly a day goes by without hearing of another school shooting or another young man of color being gunned down.

And they're our children, all of them.
Whether first graders in a quite New England town, students at a busy university, or young black men in Florida or Ferguson.
They're all our children.
They all die from violence.
They all die too early.
And they don't need to.

I don't know who was at fault in Ferguson, or Florida, or anywhere else, but I believe that we all must take part of the blame.
We prize our personal freedoms, and we should.
But we must balance that with the safety of our children and with appropriate police armament and force.

We must have a willingness to continue the fight for a society of equality, and respect. A society where we invest in psychological care, in our children, and where we extend a hand to help someone up, not to push someone down so that we may gain.
A society where we value our children and each other.

Right now, I don't have the answers.
I have tears. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Danbury/New Milford vote Union Yes!

Today, 228 Healthcare Technical professionals found their voice.

They will benefit from this, as will their families, but most important, their patients will benefit.

The Technical professionals of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals voted to join the RNs and become brothers and sisters in the ever expanding family of AFT.
By doing so, they will be able to advocate for their patients and their community without fear of retribution.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, the greatest role of any Healthcare worker, any teacher, any public employee, is to advocate for their patients, students, and the public they serve.

Sometimes this means speaking against those in power.
That is a difficult thing to do when those in power control your paycheck.

Today, our newest brothers and sisters not only found their voice, they joined the voice of the 29,000 members of AFT Connecticut and the 1.6 million voices of AFT, as well as our brothers and sisters of other unions.

I know the courage it took for them to stand tall. I know the hard work it took. I know the level of expertise it took from our AFT Connecticut staff.

To all of you, I say well done.
Never again will you stand alone.
Injury to one is injury to all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Open Letter to the Nurses and Techs of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals

My sisters and brothers of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals,

My name is John Brady and I am a nurse in the emergency department of Backus Hospital in Norwich.
This Friday you have an important decision that will effect your lives and the lives of many.
For perhaps the first time, you have a vote about what happens at your workplace. 
Think about that.
YOU have a vote.
Has that ever happened at work before?

A few years ago we had the same vote at Backus.
Backus had changed.
It wasn't the community hospital that it once was.
Our opinion wasn't appreciated as it once was.
We were no longer caregivers, we had become an  "operating expense."
Our neighbors were no longer our patients, they were "stakeholders."
"Efficiency experts" had come through like a tornado and left a shell of a hospital in their wake.

It was never about the money or the benefits, as important as that is.
It was about having enough staff, enough time, enough supplies and resources and someone who would listen to us, respect us, and engage us in the proper care of our patients.

I'll never forget sitting in the living room of an oncology nurse's home, with she and her husband on the couch.  
We spoke about our common frustrations with the way things had become in OUR hospital and how, if we stood together, we could change that.  As her eyes started filling with tears her hushand took her hand.  
She said, "John, they took away the peanut butter from MY kitchenette to save money.   Peanut butter that I would give on crackers to my patient if I could get their nausea to subside after chemo, When they did that, I said to my husband, I have no hope."
"Today," she said, "you have given me hope."

Are things perfect today at Backus?
But today, we speak freely and advocate for ourselves, our patients, our community, and our hospital without fear.
If you decide to join us on Friday, you will join 10,000 AFT healthcare workers in Connecticut, 29,000 AFT Connecticut members, and 1.6 million AFT national members in being a voice for your patients.

It is your decision, for maybe the first time in your working lives, your decision.
Better than hope, I promise that never again will you stand alone.

In Solidarity,

John Brady
Backus Federation of Nurses
AFT Local 5149

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ebola lessons

This week, I and 2 other Backus front-line ER nurses trained at Hartford Hospital to be Ebola "super users," which means we can now train others to care for suspected Ebola patients and supervise their care of these patients.
The training involved learning and practicing the gowning up and un-gowning (donning and doffing) of the enhanced PPE (personal protective equipment).
It was a well run program and if we carry through with the plan to train bedside staff it will accomplish what I believe it needs to.

Ebola is a virus that spreads through body fluids. It has killed over 5,000 in people in cases that have laboratory confirmation,  and estimates of 12,000 total, this year, including 186 healthcare workers as of mid September.
Enhanced PPE both protects the healthcare worker and limits the chance of spreading the disease. Eradication of Ebola depends on stopping it's spread, as there is currently no cure or vaccine.

Do I think we will see a suspected case at my hospital?  It wouldn't surprise me.
Do I think we'll see a case that is proven to be Ebola?  I hope not, and the odds are on our side.
However, if we do, the results can be devastating if not managed properly.
That is why I and so many others have worked so hard on insisting that front line workers be involved in planning, training and practicing.

I want to thank my union (AFT) leadership, staff, and members, who have been and continue to help us advocate for ourselves, our patients, and the public.
It has been an uphill battle and yesterday was a big step.
Even if we see no cases of Ebola, I don't know of anyone in healthcare who believes this is the last virus of this nature that will come our way.

The underlying theme in Ebola care is to involve front-line staff, take your time, do things correctly, double and triple check, provide adequate resources, practice, practice, practice, and safety, safety, safety.
It is the theme that should run though all of healthcare, but so often, short staffing and the push to see more patients in less time, conflicts with these principles.
We insist that the airline and nuclear industry practice safely, we should do the same with healthcare.

What I have learned from this experience, is that healthcare workers can use their collective voices, can team with the Departments of Public Health, CDC, OSHA, legislators, and the public, and we can advocate for safety in healthcare.
As my good friend Lesa Hanson said when we were organizing, " I once thought a nurse's role was to advocate at the bedside, now I realize we must advocate at the bedside, the boardroom, and the statehouse."

Below is an example of the enhanced PPE we trained with.
You don't learn this in Nursing School.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank you veterans

It's late, and I'm tired, and I want to be in bed, but I couldn't let Veterans Day go by without saying thank you to the men and women who serve or have served our country.

It is a country that sometimes seems hopeless, unable to get out of it's own way, unable to compromise enough in Washington to get much done, but it is at it's core, I believe, a country grateful to you.

We disagree to the extreme about so many issues: gun control, reproductive rights, the appropriate size and role of government, even our appropriate military role.
But we do so because we live in a country where free speech is a right protected above all else, a right you have fought to ensure.

Retired or active, facing combat or not, overseas or at home, you put us ahead of yourself, and there is no greater gift you can give your fellow man.

So yes, I am tired.  I imagine many of you are too. I imagine instead of a warm soft bed, many of you face or have faced, many cold nights in the field, with little rest.

May God bless you and your service, and may He keep you safe.
Thank you.

Friday, November 7, 2014


This week we had some wins and some loses.
This is my attempt to put my feelings about all this into words:

I've been working real hard, along with a great group of people, on a variety of projects to make life better for my members and workers in Connecticut and across the country.
Ebola, the elections, organizing, community engagement, coalition building between AFT locals and between us and other unions.
It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy, by a lot of people.
Frankly, it seems overwhelming at times, and it seems exhausting at times, but never, never, never, does it seem to be not worth the effort.
Sometimes we face opposition from places we expect, like administrations and political parties, and sometimes from places we don't expect. But we carry on because we support each other.
Some of us share close relationships, some of us respect and feel a kinship from a distance.
We may disagree like siblings, but we stand united against opposition.
We win some battles and we lose some, and some we fight to a draw, and some we vow to continue fighting.
Sometimes we reach agreement and cooperation with those who would oppose us, sometimes we have to agree to disagree, and sometimes we have to be a little "bad ass."
We are united in that we fight for a cause, we fight for a movement, we fight for justice, we fight for respect for all.
We are a part of a bigger movement, "the movement", which includes organized labor, and others who share our beliefs that we can do better, that we can be fairer, that we can build a just society built on respect.
To my sisters and brothers in this movement, I want to share my gratitude for your leadership, inspiration, and example to me and others.
I want to encourage you with the words of Timothy:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
And the music of Dave Matthews:
Everyday, I get in the car, sometimes rested, sometimes not, and I push the CD in and listen to the words. I find inspiration in them as I find inspiration in you.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

If you don't vote.....don't bitch!

There are less than 36 hours until an election that has many very tight races. 
The results of the election could sway the direction of our state and our country for years to come. 
I understand if not everybody wants to be involved in Labor walks and phone banks. 
And that's cool,
I get it. 
However, many have died since 1775 for this country and for our right to vote. 
Many of you have served in the military, or had family members serve, many have lost buddies, lovers and family.  Many others have returned injured.
They had one purpose, to ensure our right to vote. 
Many minorities and women were beaten and even hung in this country, striving for the right to vote. 
If we cannot take 20 minutes out of our lives and vote on Tuesday, do we not disrespect these brave people? 
As Abraham Lincoln said:
that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Please, please, please, vote Tuesday. 
And please, if you don't vote Tuesday, don't bitch

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863