Thursday, December 31, 2015

That was an interesting year

That was an interesting year.

I went from bedside to boardroom and had enough experiences to write a book.
(maybe I will some day)

I started the year as an ER registered nurse, in my 16th year as a nurse and my 21st year in the ER.  I was treating heart attacks, traumas, ODs, and cut fingers.  I was literally a part of saving lives and sometimes not being able to save them.

I was president of the Backus Nurse's Local and fighting management to protect my member's rights.
Now I'm State Federation VP and fighting for the rights of 30,000 members but also finding myself a manager of our own staff.
It's quite a change.

Along the way I have established and deepened relationships with so many people, some of whom I knew previously, some I have met, and some I only knew from afar.
Although no longer in a position to have to make life and death decisions, I now have to make decisions that can effect a larger number of people's lives.

I was asked which position was more stressful by some education visitors from Baltimore.
I guess you have to be in healthcare to understand.

The decisions I now make weigh heavy on my heart, sometimes incredibly heavy. 
My work day often extends to 9 or 10 in the evening and I may not be in the office on the weekends but I am probably working every day of the week......
But, it is not the same as titrating multiple IV drips in an effort to keep someone's father alive, it is not the same as standing with a young mother when she realizes her infant is not going to wake up, it is not the same as hugging a new nurse as she cries after caring for and stabilizing a young car accident victim who is her brother's age, as she watches him being shipped to a higher level of care hospital, not being sure what his final outcome will be, and telling her she did a good job...she gave him a chance.

My transition has not been without bumps in the road.  I was not perfect as a nurse and I'm not perfect as a leader.  I make mistakes. I do hope I learn from them.  I have an incredible amount of support, at home from Michelle who has been there for me for 40 years, and at work from incredible leadership partners and staff and from supporters from around the state and country.

I do want to say something about my transition.  When I ran for this office, I ran as a part of a ticket.  I was not running to replace the then sitting VP, I was running because I believed in the ticket as a whole.
I had a discussion with Steve early in the campaign and explained this.  We agreed that we would refrain from any negative campaigning.  He kept his word and he assisted me in the transition.  He is a gentleman in every sense of the word and I thank him for his service.  I hope I can be as much a gentleman when the time comes that someone runs against me.

No one can know what the new year will bring, but Labor is at a crossroad.
Union membership is at an all-time low and we are being assaulted in the courts by cases designed to deal a death blow, yet public opinion polls show more people now see unions in a positive light. Perhaps we realize that incredible income inequality and the shrinking of the middle class is turning us into a society of haves and have nots.  People see that standing together in unions may be the only thing that can reverse this trend.
We have our work cut out for us, but being a unionist is like being a nurse. 
It's not a profession, it's a vocation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Message

He was born in a foreign land in a stable because he was both an immigrant and homeless. His mother conceived before she was married. He grew up to be a carpenter, taught by his father to work with his hands, and later an itinerant preacher. He never traveled far, never attended college, never wrote a book, and never had his own church. I’m told his longest speech was the Sermon on the Mount in which he summarized all his teachings in what takes 12 minutes to read.
He spoke of sharing what we had with others, that we were all brothers and sisters, that we should welcome the homeless, the sick, the poor, the marginalized.
These were the teachings of Jesus, the poor Jewish poor who’s birthday we celebrate and who’s teachings are similar to the teachings of most of the world’s religions and philosophies.
Which leads me to questions.
How can greed and financial success for a few at the expense of the many be OK? How can we talk about building a wall between us and our brothers and sisters to the south? How can we talk with such hate about an entire religion and threaten to bar them from our homeland? How can this country, that evokes the name of God on our currency, not be outraged by such things, not be embarrassed, not say to ourselves, is this the teaching of the one who’s birthday we celebrate?
It is easy to become discouraged, but we must not.
We must recognize the danger that people who speak with such hate pose and we must speak out against it, we must stand in solidarity against those who would benefit at the expense of others, but we must also remember that across this country and the world there our people who do believe, people who toil daily to bring a voice to the voiceless, respect to all, fairness, enough food, a living wage, medical care, an end to discrimination and bigotry, and we must celebrate, support, and encourage such people.
I wish you the brotherly love that this season should mean.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


This week the Connecticut Working Families party honored 15 workers for the work they do in helping achieve equality, fairness and respect.
It also awarded special awards to three remarkable leaders who stand out in special ways.
Wildaliz Bermudez received the Merilee Milstein Award to Organizing, Activism & Leadership. She is a newly elected Hartford Councilwoman who fights for improvements in Hartford's schools, for a cleaner environment, and for Universal Healthcare in CT. She has advocated as a community organizer in New Haven and Hartford with the poor, the immigrants, and people of color.
State Senator Marilyn Moore received the Progressive Political Leadership Award. She is a lifelong community activist and now a CT State Senator. She is an advocate for health equality, living wage, the hungry, and the quality of life for all of Connecticut's residents.
AFT CT President Jan Hochadel received the Brian Petronella Labor Leader Award. She is an engineer by training, who returned to school and became a physics teacher in the CT State Vocational/Technical School System. She was teacher of the year in 2006-2007. She became an activist in her union which represents the 1600 teachers of the system (SVFT), eventually becoming it's president. She is a national leader in the Vocational/Technical school movement which is now being recognized as an important and desirable career path for students. This past summer she was elected as President of the 30,000 members of AFT Connecticut, and represents members in education, healthcare, and public service. She is an emerging national leader in the labor movement.
It was an honor to hear them all speak and afterwards to have the chance to speak with Wildaliz and Marilyn. they are inspiring.

Jan is my friend. We met in 2014 at our national AFT convention. She was considering a run for AFT CT president and was told she should meet me to hear about healthcare issues in Connecticut. In 2011 I had been involved in the successful organizing drive of Backus Hospital and was elected president of the Local. She asked if we could meet sometime back in Connecticut and we did, sitting for 4 1/2 hours talking about healthcare, but more about my experiences in organizing Backus and her experiences in mobilizations of public sector workers in right to work states. Although our backgrounds and our activism history are different, we were united in our outlook of the world and the labor movement.  We see all things from the perspective of organizing, not servicing.

I had never been conscious that I viewed the world this way until I met her.

We continued to meet and eventually she asked me to join as her running mate.  It was an easy "yes" for me.
At some point I was telling a mutual friend about our 4 1/2 hour meeting and saying it had felt like only 10 minutes and she said, OMG, Jan described it to her in the same way.
Jan is a remarkable leader and an incredible hard worker.
She has the ability to see and plan the big picture, to develop the details and metrics for success, and then to carry it out and get others to carry it out with her.
I wanted to tell her that she can't do it all herself, in an effort to get her to concentrate on the picture from 30,000 feet. The problem is, she is the one person I know who CAN do it all.
Her work can be incredibly stressful at times and come with decisions that effect so many people and yet she will tell you it is the best job in the world.
The truth is, I have the best job in the world, because I get to work with my friend and be a part of her journey.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

ALL workers deserve respect

This week I had to be part of one of the most difficult decisions a union leader has to make.
The dedicated Healthcare workers of Danbury and New Milford hospitals are attempting to form a union.  These are the people who do the most important work in the hospital. They clean and disinfect the rooms and the OR, they work as CNAs and help patients clean up, get to the bathroom, and a million other tasks, they answer the phones and input orders in the computers and so much more.
They are the life of the hospital.
They are also the people who get the least respect, and that is just so wrong on so many levels.
In June they voted and narrowly missed forming a union but the federal government ruled that the hospital had so egregiously violated their right to a free, fair, and impartial election that they ordered a new vote. That vote was to have been yesterday.
Unfortunately, the hospital continued is disrespect and intimidation tactics and made a fair election impossible.
Earlier this year, they hired a union busting firm (including a convicted felon who had served time) and gave them access to patient care areas to intimidate the workers.
In the last few weeks, managers illegally promised healthcare workers a 5% raise if they voted against forming a union and no raise if they voted yes.
They threatened elimination of the nursing program, layoffs, and that workers "would have to go through the union to get vacations" if they voted for unionizing.
They even lied and told workers there would be a $500 initiation fee to join the union.  AFT has never had an initiation fee.
Workers have been so bullied that they are afraid to go on record about these things but they will tell you in private.
In short, the actions show a complete disrespect by management towards the workers.
I know these workers. I have spent time with them in planning meetings and house visits.  I cried with them in June. And this week I cried again, when I had to face the reality that proceeding at this time in a second election under these circumstances was unfair to them.  
In consultation with the worker's leadership and the leadership and dedicated staff of AFT national and AFT Connecticut, the officers of AFT Connecticut recommended withdrawal from the election.
The workers did not fail, they are incredibly strong and dedicated sisters and brothers and they will live to fight another day.
This Wednesday, another group, the Technologists and Therapists of the same hospitals will hold their own vote on unionizing.  They have faced the same disrespect and intimidation as the Healthcare workers.
When they vote overwhelmingly YES, they will be saying to the hospital management that ALL WORK HAS MEANING and ALL WORKERS DESERVE RESPECT and they will be saying they stand in solidarity with their Healthcare worker sisters and brothers.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

AFT Connecticut goes to Washington

I’m riding on the train from Washington to home with the offices of AFT Connecticut.

We started with a day-long meeting on Friday in Connecticut, followed by 2 days in Philadelphia, and then 2 days is DC.

A lot of meetings, a lot of travel.

We met in Philadelphia with AFT leaders from across the northeast and in DC with leadership from A&R (our largest affiliate in Connecticut), leaders from AFT North Dakota and representatives of many of the departments of AFT in an “orientation” of  leadership.  We also met with AFT President Randi Weingarten and AFT Executive Secretary/Treasurer Loretta Johnson and their staffs.

We began a process of long range strategic planning for our state federation on Friday and that continued through the weekend. I want to give special thanks to Randi’s Chief Counsel, Mark Richards, for helping us with all this.  His experience, expertise, and guidance is wonderful.

We travelled many geographical miles, but more than that, we travelled many miles towards the goal that Jan set when she assembled this leadership team, a Union that puts Members First, that is built on Communication & Collaboration, Transparency, and Organization.

Our members work incredibly hard, in our schools, our hospitals, health centers, as VNAs, and as public servants.  They deserve leadership that believes in them, works as hard as they do, and are good stewards of their trust.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Save our hospitals

I first worked in a hospital in 1994 as a CNA in the emergency room.
The hospital was a different place then.
The president would walk about and visit with each department at least once a week.
I know he wasn't perfect, but he did seem to care, about the staff and the patients.
I felt I had found my home.
I returned to school and became a Registered Nurse and felt like I could make a real difference in people's lives.

At some point the president was asked to leave and replaced with someone who had no healthcare experience, who moved his office off campus and who looked at the hospital as a business that just happened to have patients.
Employees became an expense, not a resource.
Our voice started to be ignored and our patients suffered.
If we spoke up, we were spoken to.
Now the hospital is part of a "system," the president is "regional director," and he makes near $1.5million a year!

This would be a sad enough story if not for one more thing.
This story is being repeated at hospitals across our state and country.

Right now, workers and the community of Windham Connecticut are fighting to keep needed services from closing.  The "reason" for closing the ICU is "lack of need" but the fact is that the only reason there is a "lack of need" is because the system that owns the hospital wants to ship ICU patients over 30 minutes away to the main hospital.  
The community will suffer.

In Danbury Connecticut, workers at the hospital have voted to unionize to have a voice. Management hired convicted criminals and gave them access to patient care areas in an attempt to intimidate the workers.
The money to intimidate the workers is money intended to be used for patient care, much of it our tax money in the form of medicare and medicaid payments.

At the same time, the Connecticut Hospital Association is waging a media campaign to increase taxpayer funding to hospitals.  The director of CHA makes $800,000/year.
Where does CHA get its funding?
Hospitals pay dues to CHA.
That dues money is also taken from patient care dollars, our tax money.


Why fight workers, why fight the community, why pay dues to CHA?

Executives at Connecticut's not for profit hospitals make lots and lots of money, often over $1million/year.
Unions formed by workers speak out against this abuse of taxpayer's dollars and cuts to vital services and are a threat to executives salaries.

Perhaps if CHA dues money came out of the pockets of the executives things would be different, but they are basically playing with our money and have nothing to lose.

I know this is difficult to believe.  We want to think well our our community hospitals.
At one time we could and we still can, but we have to remember that our community hospitals are  the Nurses, Techs, Therapists, and healthcare workers.
These dedicated workers are trying to save our community hospitals from greed and misuse of our tax dollars.
They need our help.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving message

There are many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.
They all have to do with relationships. 

This past summer, Michelle and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. 
Maybe some day I'll figure out why she's put up with me all these years.
I am thankful for her love and patience with me, especially her acceptance of the long hours and travelling I am doing in my new position.
Although she'd prefer I be at home with her, she understands and accepts how important the work is to me.

On that note, I am thankful that the 30,000 members of AFT Connecticut, though their elected leaders, have given me the opportunity to work on their behalf. It is an incredible opportunity.
I am thankful for the people I am working with, my fellow officers of AFT Connecticut and all our Locals, and the staff.  I am also thankful for the relationships we have with AFT national, the AFL-CIO and the many other individual unions  and community groups we work with in solidarity.

The Labor world has a lot going on, on so many fronts.  It is easy to sometimes feel overwhelmed.
There are groups out there bent on destroying the very right of workers to stand together in solidarity.
They cloak their message in "right to work" and "students first"  but what they really mean is "right to fire at will" and "me first." They raise case after case like Friedrichs v California teachers to destroy the largest group that stands up for the 99%, Organized Labor.

But we are fighting back with community allies and public opinion is turning.
Our enemy is not only the rich and powerful, our enemy is apathy and the feeling that our cause is hopeless.
It is not.

Across Connecticut and the nation, workers are standing in solidarity with their community allies and building a better life for all of our children, not just those of the top 1%.

I am thankful to be a part of this movement.
Happy Thanksgiving.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Organizing and Statigic Plans

I returned late last night from 4 days in Las Vegas at the AFT/NHP Organizing Conference.  It was both tiring and rewarding.
It's good to be home.
There were approximately 50 organizers from around the country and it was an opportunity to learn techniques others have tried and to improve our skills, to catch up with friends and meet new ones.
Some of the participants are incredibly skilled and gifted, some are organizing directors of their state federations, some were relative newcomers, and a handful elected leaders, or as I call us, "amateur organizers."
We heard stories of organizing campaigns and learned and practiced skills, such as writing a campaign plan.
Members deserve to have skilled people working for them, developing strategic plans, and making smart investments of time and resources.
That was what this conference was about.

Organizing is not just an activity we undertake to bring members into our union.  It is what we do to increase internal unity, to prepare for contract negotiations, to pass new legislation, to find, recruit, train, and elect union members to public office and union leadership.

More than an "activity," it is a philosophy that needs to guide our every action, because our strength is in our numbers and the more members and community involved, the  stronger we all become.

To be successful, we must adopt this organizational philosophy, we must have a well thought out strategic plan, and we must execute that plan. Our members deserve that and it is incumbent on elected leaders to guide this.
These are the things we practiced at the conference.
These are the things we at AFT Connecticut are committed to practice.

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and while that may be true of the "team building" that occurred on our downtime, it will not be true of what we learned and practiced in the conference.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Guardian Angels

I will be in Las Vegas this week at the AFT/NHP Organizing Conference.
Ole and I have been asked to tell the Backus organizing story as a small part of this conference.
This has caused me to look back and reminisce.
What we did was pretty remarkable.
370 nurses with little or no union experience came together and stood up to an administration willing to break the law and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to stop us.
We did it because we had lost the thing that is most important to a nurse or any healthcare worker, the ability to advocate for our patients without fear of reprisal.
As I read through old emails and posts, I recalled the courage of individual nurses and how we helped each other became stronger and stronger.

But we would have been nowhere without the professional organizers who we worked with.
They showed us how to gain a voice.

More than just tell the story of Backus to the organizers in Las Vegas, I would like to find a way to convey to them what an organizer means to a worker.
To be successful, a worker and their organizer must trust each other and when that happens, a bond is created.

The book of Daniel says, "And those bringing many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever."
Organizers bring many to righteousness.
If Healthcare workers are "angels" as some people claim, then organizers are our "guardian angels."


Friday, November 13, 2015

Open letter to my sisters and brothers of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals

My sisters and brothers of Danbury and New Milford Hospitals,

In June I posted a letter to you on an upcoming vote to unionize.
In it I spoke of how for perhaps the first time in your working life you would get to have a say in your conditions of employment.
I told you that I had lived though a similar situation at Backus Hospital in Norwich 4 years ago, when nurses stood together and advocated for ourselves, our families and our patients and formed Local 5149.
In June I spent time with you visiting and talking about my experience.

It is your right to decide for yourself whether to form a union or not.  The hospital has a legal obligation NOT TO INTERFERE or influence your decision.

Because the hospital violated the law last spring by hiring known convicted criminals to walk through patient care areas and tell you lies about the evils of unions and how the hospital would change its ways and start to "take care of you" if you voted against unionizing, the federal government ruled after a trail that the hospital had violated this law and has ordered a new election.

That vote will be December 11.

My hope is that the hospital will allow you to decide for yourself.
They may call you together and explain why they think it is a bad idea.  These are called "captive audience" meetings.  These meetings violate the spirit of the law.
More than that, they violate your dignity.
The hospital has made it abundantly clear they do not favor you gaining the same rights that your nurses have had for 35 years.  Further meeting are not "informative," they are meant to intimidate.

I do urge you to become informed.  Talk to one of the activists in your area, come to a meeting at the union office, take a call from an organizer or coworker. 
Ask questions, get answers.

On December 11 YOU get to decide. Be informed.
Only one person will know how you vote on December
That is the way a democracy works.

You have a right to a voice, I urge you to take it.

In solidarity,

John Brady RN
Executive Vice President
AFT Connecticut 
Organizing Committee Member, Backus Federation of Nurses

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Enough is enough, we demand respect

I have been spending a lot of time recently in the Danbury and New Milford Connecticut area.
The reason I make the 4 hour round trip is because I have been there before.
I don't mean physically, although that is also true, I mean I have been where these workers have been.
I have struggled to stand up with my coworkers. It is not easy.

1100 dedicated caregivers are standing up for themselves, their families, their community and their patients. These are techs, therapists, and other healthcare workers, the Respirtory Theripists, Occupational Theripists, Physical Theripists, CNAs, and so many more. Almost all of the caregivers other than the RNs who have been unionized for over 30 years.

The reaction?

The community is standing with them.

Nearly 150 community members stood with them last weekend at a candle light vigil for healthcare, including neighbors, clergy, legislators, and union sisters and brothers.
State representatives Arconti and Godfrey and U S Senator Blumenthal stood with them. Senator Murthy could not be there but called and pledged his support.
Members of CHCA, the union of workers at the other WCHN network hospital, Newington, joined us.  
They understand.
They are facing some of the same difficulties with the same employer.
They came to show solidarity.

The hospital is showing disrespect.

They have broken the law several times.  
The federal government has ordered a new election for the Healthcare Workers. The hospital is dragging their feet with legal maneuvers because they know that they cannot win without breaking the law.
The federal government has also charged the hospital with breaking the law yet AGAIN!
The trial for that will be in January.

The hospital is also showing disrespect towards the LPN/Tech/ Theripists at the nenotiation table. They will not agree to the most basic contract language. Not even non economic language that has been in the RN contract for 30 years and has never been a burden to the hospital.

The reason is clear- the hospital wants to break the LPN/Tech/ Theripists group. 
One year after voting to stand together, the hospital will not show them enough respect to at least recognize their wishes.

All these 1100 workers are strong.
They have been patient. They have been respectful. All they want is to work in an atmosphere where they are respected for the wonderful caregiving they are famous for.
The hospital have shown disrespect. 

These workers will not waiver.
The rest of the 30,000 members of AFT Connectict, the 1.6 million members of AFT, the 28 million members of the AFL-CIO, the community and the legislators will stand with them.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What has happened to our community hospitals?

It takes a lot for a group of hospital employees to stand together in unity and form a union. 
It is not in their nature.
They are people who give of themselves to others every day and they so very much want to believe that others feel the same.
Especially, the hospital they work for.

However, when they believe that the hospital no longer shares their viewpoint, when they believe that the hospital cares more about lining the pockets of the few at the top than caring for the patients in the beds, then there is no group with more conviction, more courage, and more solidarity than these same workers.

This is the situation today in the Western Connecticut Health Network, the corporation that owns Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and hospitals.

In the past year, 3 groups of workers have decided to stand together and form unions because they could no longer stand by and watch their community hospitals forgetting to put Patients Before Profits.
One year ago, LPNs, Techs and Therapists at Danbury and New Milford voted to affiliate with AFT.
This past June Health Care Workers at Danbury and New Milford voted.
This past week, Health Care Workers at Norwalk Hospital filed for a vote with CHCA, a sister healthcare union affiliated with ASCME.

The result?
The Network is dragging their feet in negotiations with the LPNs, Techs, and Therapists, not even agreeing with language that has served well for 35 years in the contract between the hospitals and the Registered Nurses.  It is clearly an attempt to discourage the workers and break their union.
It will not work.
The Danbury/New Milford Healthcare Workers lost their vote in June by a very narrow margin in an election with so many labor law violations that the U S Government took the Network to trial, overturned the vote, and ordered a new election. That vote will be soon, the workers await a date, expected to be in early December.

This week, the NLRB, the branch of the U S Government charged with enforcing labor laws enacted by the U S Congress and signed into law by presidents, both Democrat and Republican, after a thorough investigation, has found evidence that Danbury CEO Dan DeBarba and the union busting consultants he hired, violated the law again!
Specifically, they are charged with "interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights."

The trial with be January 26, 2016 at 10:00 am in Hartford.

I want you to understand something.
This is not the workers, or AFT, or "the union' suing the Hospital Network or Dan DeBarba.
It is the United States Government putting them on trial for violating the law.

What has happened to our community hospitals?

Danbury Rising, a coalition of faith and community groups, workers, and legislators,  will stand together tonight in Danbury at 5:00 pm at Broadview Middle School for a short Candlelight Vigil to remind the Health Network  that they exist for the patients, not the other way around.

Please join us.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Danbury community understands

Danbury Rising! stands in solidarity with those that provide the care we count on, our nurses and the healthcare professionals at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals. Join us on Sunday, November 1 at 5:00PM at Broadview Middle School to show these caregivers we have their backs.
For a flyer of the event, click hereFor a flyer in Spanish, click here

To RSVP for the Facebook event, click here
We look forward to seeing you all there!

The Community of Danbury and New Milford understand the issues the workers at the hospitals face.  They understand what it means to work short handed, for 12 hour shifts days on end, they understand making so little per hour that they have to work multiple jobs.

They understand because these workers care for their mothers, their fathers, their siblings and their children when they are ill.
They understand because they have seen these workers bathe their loved ones, hold their loved one's hand when they were scared, cry with the family when that was all that could be done.

They also understand that the hospitals are wasting millions of dollars on lawyers and union busters instead of investing in these workers and negotiating in good faith.
They understand that the greed of the top executives has no bounds.
They understand that the hospital's call for the state to increase funding is akin to throwing good money after bad until the hospitals stop wasting patient care dollars. (which are taxpayers dollars)

Because they understand, they're holding a vigil this Sunday.
Please join them and tell the hospitals to do the right thing and put patients before profits.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

3000 postcards makes a tall stack and a large statement

On Tuesday of this past week, representatives of the people of Windam Connecticut delivered 3000 postcards, each with an individual's name to the Department of Public Health and the governor to stop Hartford Healthcare's plans to rush through a closing of services at Windham Memorial Community Hospital.
It is disgusting what large healthcare systems are doing in the name of profits for a few individuals at the top.
The people of this small community in eastern Connecticut have said NO!!!!!!!!
Not in our community.

The community is pushing for full hearings on the closing of vital services.
I am proud that AFT Connecticut and the two AFT Locals at the hospital are a part of this coalition.
Patients Before Profits

Friday, October 16, 2015

An open letter to my mobiliztion sisters and brothers

Sisters and brothers,

Thank you.
For all the hard work and dedication that went into this week.
More than that, thank you for the love and guidance.

When I met Jan and Ed, they told me about these "mobilizations" and how they had changed their lives.
They tried to explain it to me and I think on some level I got it, but some things I just have to experience myself to fully understand.

When I started the week, I understood the "why."  (That's the peanut butter story right?)
The "why" is the Movement, the members, the people. It is helping them find a voice and use it.
Through the course of the week, I think I started to understand the "how."
I learned through the presentations, but more, though the many conversations I had with so many people, especially the team leads, who came in from many states with the experience of other mobilizations and organizing drives behind them.

I have so much more to learn.
But I have also learned so much.

I also realized this morning that this week was an organizing opportunity.  Every conversation moved me a little further along in my understanding.
(Almost like as if there were "Leader Links" or Lynx of a chain)
So, I was not just learning how to organize, I was being organized!

Well played my friends, well played.

I must go because I have work to do and doors to knock but once again, thank you and I look forward to being with you all again.
I'll leave you with these two final thoughts that I heard this week.

Every decision is a moral decision.
Every conversation is an organizing opportunity.

In solidarity,

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thoughts from the Mobilization

I am on day three of a mobilization here at AFT Connecticut.
I am surrounded by activists, by people to whom this MOVEMENT is not a job, it is a calling, a way of life.
Some of them are professionals, some of the came to it through an organizing drive in their own shop, some through a grassroots effort they became involved in, and some were elected into it.
Some have incredible insight and skills, some have much to learn, but all have the desire.
Some wear their passion on their sleeve, some keep it deep inside, but all feel it.

I am invigorated!
I am renewed!
I am inspired!

We ofen talk about organizing a new shop so that we can give these workers a voice.
We should organize, either new or existing shops, to help people find and use the voice they have.

“Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?”

He spoke of very simple things- that it is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form.

"Set aside," came a voice from the multitude, "even if it be the Law of the Flock?"

"The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other.”
― Richard BachJonathan Livingston Seagull

We call ourselves a Union of Professionals at AFT and that is true, but I hope it is not completely accurate.
My hope and I think our goal should be that we are part of a MOVEMENT of ACTIVISTS, a people finding and using our voices. what this mobilization is about.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Healthcare is not a business

On Friday, Governor Malloy's budget office announced that it would distribute $14.1 million to six small hospitals, stating there are “massive differences between large hospitals and small ones in profit margins.”
"We know that hospitals are not one-size-fits all, and that’s why we’re proactively reprioritizing and reallocating dollars to support small hospitals that need support most,” Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said in a statement. “To be clear, hospital systems are seeing extraordinary revenues, but today we’re working to reprioritize and reallocate payments so we can assist the small hospitals and support patient care.” New Haven Register.

This is certainly a step in the right direction.

Some hospitals and some hospital CEOs are making incredible profits and salaries.
This is not only wrong, it is not sustainable.
It is time we started to view healthcare as a system, in which some hospitals will make money and some will not, and sometimes it is not due to better management at one than the other, it is sometimes due to things like where the hospital is located and the poverty of that region.

We need to remember that hospitals are in the business of providing for the health of their patients and the community, not in filling someone's bank account, and that hospitals who need more help from the state should get it, not the hospitals who do not need that help.

St Luke said, "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same."

This should be the guiding principle for hospitals because healthcare is not a business, it is a calling.
We, the public, need to hold healthcare management to this principle

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Time for Better Choices with Patient Care Dollars

 So let me see if I have this right.

Hartford Healthcare has backed out of affiliation talks with Day Kimball Hospital, blaming cuts to Medicaid announced by the governor two weeks ago.
Those cuts are estimated by Day Kimball management to amount to $5.6 million a year. Granted, that is a lot of money, even more than the $3 million a year the CEO of Hartford HealthCare receives in salary and bonuses annually.

"Both our organizations have just taken a gut punch," said James Blazar, a Hartford HealthCare senior vice president overseeing strategy.

As large as $5.6 million is, it pales in comparison to the $103.5 million that Hartford HealthCare made in 2014 and the $346 million it made in 2013.

"Hartford HealthCare has every right to make a corporate decision not to work with the smaller Day Kimball Hospital. But when it has made over $800 million the last five years, the claims made are a bit outrageous," Gian-Carl Casa, undersecretary for legislative affairs in the state budget office, said in an email.

Seems like Hartford HealthCare could afford it.

Yes, some hospitals like Day Kimball, Windham and others are struggling.
That's why legislators voted to provide them with more resources last year.

It seems like as soon as that extra money went did Hartford HealthCare.

Which brings me to this point.

A hospital is not a hospital is not a hospital.

Some hospitals are struggling. Some hospitals are doing fine. Some hospitals are struggling but are part of larger health networks that are doing fine.
Some hospital leaders are starting to look at top management compensation while others continue to give bonuses, even with losses. Some are allowing top executives to cut vital services and lay off caregivers, making the growing income inequality problem in Connecticut worse in the process. 

"This means their highly compensated executives are telling Connecticut taxpayers to supplement and subsidize the hospital corporation's high salaries and extraordinarily positive revenue margins," Casa said. "Hartford HealthCare is doing more than fine, and it's wrong for them to ask taxpayers to foot the bill."

We have been consistent with our message to the governor and legislators.

Hospitals that truly need help should be given it and hospitals that do the right thing in the treatment of their workers and the patients they serve should be rewarded. It’s time for larger hospitals to lead by example, cut compensation for top executives and put money back towards quality healthcare for all. 
We applaud any hospital administrators that lead by example and choose not to waste patient care dollars fighting their own workers. Administrators that consider executive compensation freezes or roll-backs, and put the needs of their community first -- and who remember it should always be patients before profits.
We applaud the legislators for sending distressed hospitals extra help last year and for advocating for a reversal of the recent cuts. We applaud the governor for stating he will listen to reasonable solutions and announcing Monday that his administration will address the concerns of hospitals that are losing money, but, as he said, "that doesn't mean we should have to give money to every hospital."
It's time for overcompensated hospital executives -- just like Wall Street and for-profit corporations’ CEOs -- to pay their fair share. It's time for financially flush health networks that benefit from tax breaks and public subsidies to help community hospitals that are struggling. 
It's time to remember that the business of healthcare is to care for the health of the community, every community.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

We hold the board ultimately responsible

Imagine you're a Respiratory Therapist and you just finished a 12 hour shift.
You have to drive home take care of a few things then you hit your bed.
Now, imagine you repeat that the next day
and the next day
and the next day.
Now imagine that on one of those days you are "in charge" of your department because "charge" is rotated among your small department, and that day, someone on the incoming shift is sick or delayed and you have to stay late.
Your 12 hour shift becomes 16.

52 hours in 4 days.
Imagine making life and death decisions for your patients with that fatigue.
Imagine driving home on day 4.

Well, at least the paycheck would be good with all that OT you might reason.
What if the four days where Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday; meaning they fell into 2 different weeks, keeping you under 40 hours/week and making it all straight time.

Unfortunately, this happens at Danbury Hospital.
Unfortunately, management refuses to discuss it in nearly 10 months of negotiations with their LPN/Techs and Therapists.
This is just one example of the unreasonable stand management of WCHN, the network owning the hospital is taking.
They will not negotiate in good faith, even on non economic issues, even on issues they have negotiated with their RNs long ago and reached agreements that have worked well for years and years.

In addition, while all this is going on (or not going on) in the LPN/Tech and Therapist negations, management was found to have violated the law by not allowing their Healthcare workers (CNA, housekeepers, kitchen, etc.) to have a free and open election on whether they wanted to form their own union.
The illegal activity was deemed to be so egregious that the federal government has ordered a new election.

In situations like this, workers are forced to take their concerns above the CEO, to the board of directors.

But how does one do that?
It's not like the Healthcare workers are playing golf with the board.
It's not like the therapists are invited sailing.

The workers have to go to where the board members are and plead their case.

That happened this morning.
Our national president Randi Weingarten, our divisional VP for Paraprofessionals Shellye Davis, and several other members who are at the AFT Racial Equity Conference in New Orleans, visited a WCHN board member, Spencer Houldin, who was at an Insurance Association Conference and presented the concerns of the Danbury workers.
You can read more here:
They told him that he and his fellow board members are ultimately responsible for the actions of the CEO and upper management.  We will not let them shirk that responsibility.
You can help.
Follow this link and sign the petition to the board of directors. Hold them accountable.
IB Image

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Francis whispers in America

I had wanted to blog about the Pope while he was here in America.
I admire him much for his teachings, Love, Peace, Respect, Forgiveness, Sharing.
I struggled with how to put all that into words.

Then I read his message given from the City of Brotherly Love, from the steps of Independence Hall where the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed, standing at the very podium that Abraham Lincoln used while he delivered his Gettysburg Address.

I realized he had not only written my blog, he had spoken to me.
Please listen to the words.

"We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every form of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new American. This shows that when a country is determined to remain true to founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed."

We remember these struggles and we know that they are not over.
Racism, hated and greed remain with us, so much so that we can become frustrated as to whether we can make a difference.
But we can.
We must.

We need not be a leader of the movement to make a difference. Behind each person on the front line are tens and hundreds who are whispering "courage."
Maybe you whisper "courage" by attending a rally or a march, maybe you sign a petition, maybe you stand up in the workplace against mistreatment, maybe you walk away when someone makes a prejudicial comment or joke, instead of laughing.

Whatever you can do,
do it.
It makes a difference because many whispers together become a loud chorus.

Friday, September 25, 2015

FACTS, not fiction

In today's issue of "Hospitell," the Backus/Windham Hospital newsletter, CEO David Whitehead writes an article titled "Facts or fiction."
David states there has been a lot of misinformation about the closing of services at Windham Hospital and that we should look at the facts.
I couldn't agree more.

He notes that Windham Hospital has lost money over the last 5 years.
While this is true, he fails to mention that 6 years ago, the year before Windham was taken over by Hartford Hospital, it posted a small profit, as it had done for years before that and that Hartford Healthcare, the parent company, continues to post a profit.

He refutes what State Senator Mae Flexer said, "We cannot stand by and allow Hartford Healthcare to turn our hospital into a glorified emergency room," by listing the services that will continue to be provided.
What he fails to mention is that the Critical Care Unit will be closed.

He refutes what State Senator Cathy Osten said, "This is as close to closure of a hospital as you can get and still keep the doors open," by saying a hospital that loses millions needs to transform.
While I agree that transformation is needed, the ability to care for Critical patients is essential to the functioning of a hospital.  It is hard to predict when a Critical patient will roll though the doors or a stable patient will turn Critical.

He states that OCHA determined that Certificate of Need public hearings are not needed and while this is true, it is based on an affidavit that the hospital filed saying that services would not change.

Much has been made in the last few days of excessive hospital CEO compensation and recent Medicaid cuts and while these are issues worth deep discussion, the bottom line is and always should be this:
Will patients care and the community be adversely effected by a change of services at the hospital?

That is what matters and that is what the Office of Healthcare Access must decide.
Based on FACTS, not fiction.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I have followed the deaths of mostly young black men.
I know people of color and people of poverty are disproportionality represented in our prisons, and disproportionality effected by a poor economy and budget cuts.
I try to understand and work on solutions.
But I wonder if I can really help.

I am not unique.
I am a 60 year old white man who grew up with little exposure to people of color.
I was raised during the civil rights movement and taught that all men and women are my brother and sister, regardless of race or religion.
I live by that principle.
I now have several friends of color, I have friends of different religions, I have gay friends, and like all my friends, I am closer to some than others, but our differences do not define that closeness.
As Dr. King had dreamed, we judge each our by the content of our character.

One of my closest friends shared something with me not too long ago.  She shared that if she met me in a particular town near us after dark, that she would be pulled over by the police because of the darkness of her skin.
I was horrified.
Although I believed her sincerity, I could not comprehend what that was like and I was upset that my close friend would be treated that way.
I could not comprehend because I cannot walk in her shoes.

This week I attended a symposium that promoted Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
One of the topics discussed was the difficulty of recruiting and retaining young black teachers, especially males, into Connecticut.
It was pointed out that their are few role models for students of color standing at the front of the classroom.
We have examples for young people of color in sports and entertainment, but how many grow up seeing that in teaching or nursing?
How can we expect them to consider these professions if they are not seen as possibilities?
And so the cycle continues.
It's bad enough that teachers and nurses of any color are disrespected on a regular basis.
It's also a problem that within education and healthcare, teachers and registered nurses do not always show the respect they should to the paraprofessionals, the LPNs, the Techs, and the other healthcare workers.

I had never seen these issues as prejudice, but they are.

So what can we do?

Cesar Chavez said "If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him... the people who give you their food give you their heart."

I think that's were we start.
Those of us who are not of color and those of us who are of color cannot fully understand what it is to walk in each other shoes.  We may love our bothers and sisters without reservation, but that is not enough.
We must strive to understand them as best we can.
We must take the opportunities to come to know each other.
Maybe then, the issues that may be a result more of an unconscious prejudice than a conscious one, will begin to be solved.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A new day in Danbury/New Milford

The following article was written by Matt O'Connor, Communications Coordinator of AFT Connecticut.  It deals with a ruling from the Federal Government that Danbury/New Milford Hospital violated workers rights and broke the law.  This has not deterred the workers as they have banded together and forced a new vote. They are courageous and strong and the 30,000 AFT Connecticut members who serve in healthcare, education and public service, and our 1.6 million members nation wide, stand in solidarity with them.
Injury to one is injury to all!
Danbury - Healthcare professionals at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals are reacting to the recommendation yesterday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to invalidate the results of their June 19 union election. In her report, Hearing Officer Jo Anne Howlett cites evidence to sustain charges of unlawful interference with employees' free choice by management of the non-profit network that operates both facilities. The report is based on testimony provided in July by impacted workers who recounted illegal, anti-union conduct by managers and outside consultants retained by the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN).
IB Image"This is vindication for all who spoke out in the weeks leading up to the vote," said Elizabeth Duarte-White, a certified nursing assistant (CNA). "This recommendation means that our employer can't get away with harassment and discrimination. More importantly, it's an opportunity for us as caregivers to take charge of our future," said Duarte, who has 17 years of experience at Danbury Hospital.
Duarte-White's comments refer to attempts by WCHN to subvert the lawful activity of an organizing committee representing approximately 800 nursing assistants, service, maintenance, and environmental workers at both hospitals. Network management in June acknowledged the criminal records of outside consultants retained to conduct a "union-busting" campaign in comments to The News-Times of Danbury. A majority for the union was not established in the election held two days later, the results of which the federal government is now recommending be set aside.
"The issues that brought us together in the first place remain," said Jessica Ellul, a patient care tech unit coordinator Danbury hospital. "We're looking forward to voting union 'YES' in a new election. That's how we make the improvements that are long overdue -- and hold the network accountable to putting patients before profits," said Ellul, who has 10 years of experience at the acute care facility.
Ellul's comments refer to the NLRB hearing officer's recommendation that a new union election be held for the healthcare workers whose legal rights were suppressed by management's conduct. An organizing committee of employees in late-May at a 'town hall'-style meeting at Danbury Hospital announced their intent to form a union within AFT Connecticut. The labor federation represents the registered nurses (RNs), medical technicians, clinicians and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) at both acute care facilities.
"This recommendation is an indictment not just of this employer, but any employer who engages in this kind of conduct," said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. "It proves that there are serious consequences -- not just paying a fine or posting a notice in the break room -- for interfering with employees' free choice in deciding their future," said Hochadel.
The June election was the first in Connecticut under new regulations governing union elections adopted late last year by the federal labor board and upheld in March by President Barack Obama. When the NLRB responded to AFT Connecticut's May 28 petition to schedule a vote without delay, WCHN management quickly mounted an aggressive and unlawful campaign to taint the results.
AFT Connecticut, the largest union of acute care health professionals in the state, represents approximately 725 RNs and 260 technicians, clinicians and LPNs at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals. For more information, visit or follow the labor federation on Twitter at @AFTCT and on Facebook at

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An open letter to my Labor Family about Danbury Hospital

They were there when the survivors of Sandy Hook arrived.
They worked side by side with our AFT nurses.
They dealt with the same terrible reality of that day and the days to follow.
They felt the pain of our AFT education members of Sandy Hook School.
They became a part of our family.

Last fall, they voted to join us as AFT members, forming the Danbury and New Milford Federation of Healthcare Technical Employees, 250 dedicated, courageous LPNs and Techs.

And how is management of the hospital treating them?
With disrespect.              

Management refuses to negotiate in good faith, forcing the Techs to file charges with the federal government (NLRB).
Those charges are being investigated.
Management will not even give them the respect to agree to the non-economic articles that the Registered Nurses have in their contract, articles that have worked well for 35 years!
The LPN/Techs aren’t asking for the world, just a voice in their workplace.

I guess it is not surprising.

Danbury and New Milford Hospitals are no longer the community hospitals they once were.
They are a part of a large corporation, Western Connecticut Health Network.
So I’m reaching out to my sisters and brothers of AFT and the greater Labor Community to stand with our LPN/Techs.
I know how hard it is to go against management who is willing to violate the law, I lived that at Backus Hospital when we joined the AFT family in 2011.

These LPN/Techs are courageous and strong.

We can show our newest sisters and brothers our support by signing their petition at

Thank you as always.
In solidarity and service,

John Brady RN
Executive VP
AFT Connecticut



Sunday, September 13, 2015

Love hurts

One of my favorite songs is the Beach Boys song, Kokomo.
It's a song about escaping from the troubles of the world for a time and kicking back.

Listening to that or a Jimmy Buffett song makes me wonder what would life be like if we could just roll with the punches, just not care so much about things, about people.

Could life be one continuous Kokomo?

What if we didn't care about the fact that some kids in the richest country in the world don't have enough to eat and have little hope that the future will be any better?
What if we didn't care that across this country that too people do not make a living wage?
What if it didn't bother us that the mentally ill and addicted are jailed, not treated?
What if it didn't bother us if workers were mistreated?
What if we didn't stay up at nights worried about our kids, our parents, our loved ones?

I suppose we wouldn't be "us."

The fact is we do care.
That's why it hurts when we lose a friend, have a child going down the wrong path, or see workers mistreated.
It's also what keeps us fighting back.
It's why we organize workers and fight for social justice.

So Kokomo is an illusion, or at best, a temporary resting place.

Because we do care and tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The call never came

I was at home that morning 14 years ago. 
I watched as the tower burned. 
I watched as the second plane hit.  
I watched as brave fire, police and EMS rushed in to assist. 
I watched and I waited for the call. 

As a trauma nurse in a Connecticut hospital I waited for the call to come in to work. 
In past years I would have rushed in but we had revised our response because of experience built in other disasters. 
Now we were instructed to wait at home, try to rest, and be ready to answer the call when those on duty reached exhaustion and needed relief. 
Rest was impossible. I was glued to the TV. 
I packed a bag with extra clothes and snacks and placed it by the door. 
And I waited for the call. 

My hospital was 115 miles from the city, but we are at Trauma center, and surely with this many injured we would receive some of them.
So I waited for the call. 

In my head I ran through my training. Airway, breathing, circulation, two large bore IVs. 
I felt ready for the technical issues, I hoped I was ready for the emotional. There were children in the building, and mothers and fathers. There were so many brave fire, police and EMS. Emergency nurses feel a kinship to EMS, who rush in when others run away. They see the worst or the worst. You can see it in their eyes when they arrive. Their eyes are saying, "please don't fail with MY patient."  
My thoughts also turned to my fellow nurses, especially the young ones. 

And I waited for the call. 
Surely with this many survivors.  

But the call never came. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's about family

My phone rang early in the day.  It was my friend Carol calling to tell me her mother had died.
It was expected. Her mom was elderly and in hospice but still.  She said she had spent part of the day yesterday with her mom and when she left to get something to eat, that's when mom passed.  It so often happens that way.
Carol and I became close friends when we both became involved in the union. She was, and continues to be, my political liaison of the Backus Nurses.  She has faced death many times in her role as a nurse. It's part of what we do but it's different when it's your own family. 
All I could do was listen.
I cleared my schedule so that I could go to the funeral tomorrow.

Latter in the day, our meeting was interrupted with the news that Bruce had died.
Bruce was president of the Norwalk Teachers. He was too young. 
I came to know him about a year ago, much less time than most others in our union, and yet he found a way in that short time to find a place in my heart. 
He was a true union brother and faught fiercely for his teachers. 
One story is of him being in a group of people and the comment being made that if, in negotiations, there was a dollar on the table, Bruce would get 99 cents of it. To which Bruce matter of factly replied, "If there was a dollar on the table, I'd ask for more because if there's a dollar on the table, there's more in their pocket."
That was Bruce.

I didn't know Bruce's biological family but I know his Labor family and my thoughts turned quickly to them, especially to those who have known him longer than I.  

As an emergency room nurse I dealt with death often, even being the person giving the bad news.  It was always difficult but I guess no matter how young, or how tragic, I always tried to remember that my patient was in a better place.  
It was harder with the families.

I know hat Bruce is in heaven, probably negotiating a better deal for Carol's mom, and I know that those of us still here will carry on, it's what we do.
But we're family, and it's always toughest on the families. 

To all my brothers and sisters in AFT and all of Labor I send my prayers and my love tonight.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

On Labor Day, think of workers, unions

Today I feature a guest blog from my friend Wayne Burgess.
Wayne is a retired UAW member from Electric Boat MDA and the president of the Southeastern Connecticut Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
He is also responsible for my first becoming a union member, when he invited me to join UAW Local 1981, the National Writers Union, during the organizing drive to form AFT Local 5149, the Backus Federation of Nurses.

Wayne wrote this letter to the editor that was printed in the Norwich Bulletin and New London Day this week.
Thank you Wayne.

On Labor Day, let's do more than attend a barbecue and lament the end of summer. Let's commemorate the importance of hard work year-round and how our contributions to the economy make America strong.

This year, let's recognize all of the men and women who are working for a better life-whether they are teachers, miners, firefighters, farm workers, cashiers or electricians. From the early shift to the late shift, in big cities and small communities, we are the ones who keep this country running.

Today we honor the hard work of union members and pay tribute to all the benefits that make our lives better thanks to speaking up together, like the eight-hour workday, access to a living wage, decent benefits and job security.  None of this would be possible without the existence of unions.  Unions level the playing field and help create an economy where everyone, not just a few at the top, can work for a better life.  This Labor Day, let's celebrate unions and all of the wonderful things they've accomplished hand-in-hand with the working families they represent.

Wayne Burgess
Uncasville, CT

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I have a question

Being out of the ER for 10 weeks now, I have just one question.

How did I ever do that for 21 years?

I was in a meeting with some people from the state, from AFT national and from the Baltimore school system recently.
One of them asked me what was more stressful, my new job or working in the ER.
"Working in the ER," I answered without hesitation.
That is not to say this new job is easy or without challenges or stress.
There is incredible stress, incredibly long hours and some nights of fitful sleep, but it's not nursing and it's not working in the ER.

I give healthcare workers credit.
Life and death decisions, stress, bullying, assaults, and more are a part of daily life.
Representing teachers now, I see more than ever that they face many of the same issues.

It's hard to explain, but nurses know.
I think teachers know too.

So, I did my time. (21 years)
Now I'm representing some of the greatest, most courageous, and most dedicated people in the world, the nurses and other healthcare workers, the teachers and other education personnel, and the public servants of AFT Connecticut.

My hat's off to you.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A voice crying out in the desert

John the Baptist was one of those guys who just couldn't keep his mouth shut.
He had no "filter."  He called it as he saw it.
He even told Herod what he thought.
Eventually he was beheaded over it.

My field rep when I was president of the Backus Nurses was somewhat like John.
Now that I'm his boss it continues.

I'm sure some people wonder why I put up with it, but I look at it in a different way.
He pushes me to be better and he does it because he cares, about me and the movement.

He is a "voice crying out in the desert."

Being around people who call us out when we are wrong or not putting in the effort is uncomfortable.
But it makes us better.

I have other "voices in the desert," who speak the truth to me and push me to be better.
One of them recently told me that we are in an emotional job.
Nursing was like that too.

Nursing hurts.
Unionism hurts.
If they don't, you're doing something wrong.

When you care deeply about something, it hurts.
Caring very deeply about something is called Love, and the opposite isn't Hate, it's Apathy

I have no room for apathy.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

School days

I have posted back to school blogs for the past several years for a very simple reason.
I have an incredible amount of respect for teachers and all who work in education and I want them to know how I and many others feel.

The right wing speaks ill of teachers every chance they can, even stating that teachers as a group should be punched in the face!

Are you kidding me?

Teachers across this country dedicate their lives to one thing, the education and well being of their students.  Paraprofessionals and other school personnel do the same.  
For someone who has never stood before a classroom to criticize is insane. 

So I have been posting back to school best wishes as a Registered Nurse who highly respects educators, as president of a healthcare local and as a brother in the American Federation of Teachers. I want to thank you for opening your union to healthcare and public sector workers. You have helped us find our voice.

It is common for officers of Locals to refer to the members as "my members."
The nurses of Backus Hospital were "my members" when I served as their president.
This July I was asked at an AFT healthcare conference if I was "the healthcare VP of Connecticut," to which I responded that no, I was the VP of all "my members."
So this year I have the honor of writing this back to school message as an officer of a state federation writing to all "my members."
I am proud to say I represent you because I am proud of the dedication you have, day in and day out, in sometimes unbelievably trying situations.
I wish you a safe and successful school year.
Thank you for everything you do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Is there a teacher in the room?

For years now, we have heard about an increasing shortage of nurses.
The reasons are varied; an aging workforce that delayed retirement due to a downturn in the economy is now able to retire or decrease hours as a spouse returns to work, a de-professionalism of nursing by management, other opportunities for students entering college, increased risk of injury or assault on the job, and increased opportunities outside of nursing for those already in the field.
At least nurses retain positive feedback from the public who still value them and hold them in esteem, even as their own management does not and often actively works against them and their patients.

Now we face a growing shortage of teachers, just as the school year begins.
The reasons are many, but some of them are the same as for nurses.
There are attempts to de-professionalize the profession, violence and the risk of injury is on the increase and the improved economy has given both those in the field and those entering college other options.
Unlike nurses, the public perception is less positive of teachers, driven largely by economic interests of people who would like to blame teachers for everything under the sun in an effort to privatize education and profit from it.  Statements by presidential candidates that teacher unions need "a punch in the face" only serve to reinforce this.
In addition, the recession caused the layoff of many teachers who have since moved to other professions and legislation in some states has made collective bargaining illegal and job security nonexistent.
What other profession is asked to work without a contract?
High stakes testing and over testing has eroded the ability to find time to teach, the reason teachers enter the field.

One could say that teachers are lucky.
The skills it takes to motivate and teach students today and to deal with all the socio-economic issues they come with make teachers employable in so many other fields.


Like nurses who also possess transferable skills, teachers teach.
They want to teach.
It comes from deep within.
And our country needs them to teach.

It is time to treat teachers as the dedicated professionals they are and with the respect they deserve.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Safe Staffing Bill Signing

" I know the president is here, but were is Brady?" the Governor said, turning to his right (where I had been told to stand by his staffer) and handing me the Safe Staffing bill he had just signed.
It was an incredible honor to accept the bill on behalf of so many people who testified and supported it's passage. They had asked members of AFT, the AFL-CIO, the Connecticut Nurses Association, and others to attend the signing and unknown to me, Jan had asked if I could be the one who was handed the bill.
Just prior to the signing, Jan (AFT CT president Jan Hochadel) and I had met with the Lt Governor in her office and prior to that had lunch with the State Attorney General.
I try not to sound like a braggart or like a country bumpkin who is enthralled by the big city, but you have to remember, two months ago I was working bedside in an emergency room and being scrutinized if my charting wasn't perfect or I had punched in a minute late for work.
It's a little bit of a change.
The bill itself builds in the right direction. Some of these things need to be gained incrementally, by developing trusting relationships with legislators, by educating them, and by supporting candidates who think of patients before profits. 2 years ago we passed a bill requiring a staffing committee of 50% bedside RNs that reported to the DPH when asked. This bill calls for mandatory quarterly reporting, includes ancillary staff, includes a description of what the hospital staffing plan is, and if they are not achieving the plan, what the plan is to achieve that staffing plan. It's a major step forward.
Being able to represent the close to 30,000 members of AFT Connecticut is indeed an honor.
It means long days but I know that our nurses and other health professionals work 12 hour shifts and sometimes longer and I know the stress they work under.
I know that our teachers and other educators will be heading back to school soon and will often set up their classrooms with supplies they have purchased out of their own pockets. I know they will work late into the night planning classes and correcting papers, I know they will toss and turn at night, worried about their students.
I know our public employees go above and beyond to assist the public they serve, I've experienced their guiding hand myself in the past.
AFT calls itself a "Union of Professionals" and we are, but we are also a Union of Caregivers, whether we are Healthcare, Education, or Public Servant.  And we are joined by our sisters and brothers of other unions in these endeavors.
I'm not going to lie. 
Being handed the Staffing bill by the Governor, was a blast and an honor.
But representing our members and the people we serve is the greatest honor of all.