Friday, February 27, 2015

Jan at the U S Senate

My friend Jan Hochadel testified at the U S Senate yesterday encouraging support for career and technical education (CTE).
Jan, who is President of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, told lawmakers that "These students want to learn a trade and be employable directly out of high school. They see our system as an opportunity to become middle-class tax-paying citizens at the age of 18. We need to view these students as CTE success stories, not anomalies."
Janis Hochadel testifying

In fact, trade school students are held to the same academic standards as non trade school students, even though they split time in trade and academic classes. 
The fact that the Connecticut Technical High School System can accomplish this is a tribute to it's teachers, students, union (SVFT), and superintendent, Dr Nivea Torres.
Jan's leadership is critical in this.
In October I toured one of these schools with Jan, Ellis, and was so impressed in the work being done there.

Jan is that rare leader who combines passion with ability.
I am happy she has decided to run for AFT Connecticut President, and I am honored to run as her 1st Vice President, along side Jean Morningstar and Ed Leavy.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ICYMI: The Dilemma of the Teacher

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Dilemma of the Teacher

My last blog concerned the internal conflict that pulls at the very soul of the Healthcare worker. (The Dilemma of the Healthcare Worker)
Torn between the internal needs to both care for others and do it in a loving, professional, and thorough manner; and the demands of an industry that seems to be shifting from a philosophy that it is in the business of healthcare into one that is a business that just so happens to be in healthcare.
Many people identified with my thoughts, and not surprisingly, one of the largest group was teachers.
A Nurse is an RN, LPN, etc, but a nurse, with a small n, is anyone in any of the caring professions, healthcare, education, public service, etc., people who have a calling, not a job.
Teachers definitely fit this description.  Teaching the youth of today has to be something that only someone with a calling can do. Like healthcare, they increasingly have to do more with less, and sometimes, they have to do "what they can" not what their hearts tell them they want to do.  This tears a person's soul. Yet, to walk away is almost unthinkable.
I also have a friend who works in the state court system, as a social worker in the public defender's office.  Her calling is to try to help piece together lives of young people who have gone down a dark road, usually with the help of a substance abuse issue. 
Day after day she does this, often in failing attempt, but when successful, she literally saves lives.
My Union, AFT, calls itself a "Union of Professionals".  We include education, healthcare, and public service. My social worker friend is AFT, many teacher friends are AFT.
We ARE a union of professionals, but we are also a union of care givers, who provide that care in many settings, hospitals, schools, homes, court houses, and wherever we can make a difference.
AFT does not stand alone in this, we stand with many sister unions and non union brothers and sisters in the "caring professions," who do not have jobs but have callings, and increasingly we are asked to do more with less, and it tears at our souls.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Every member matters

This week reflected the diversity of AFT-CT, in meetings I attended.
On Monday and Friday, I met with the leadership of 3 of our smaller locals, Manchester Skilled Service and Maintenance, LPN/Tech, and Rockville RNs.
The Thursday meeting of PLANs: Partnership for Leaders & Activists for New Solutions brought together the leaders of many of our federations largest locals.
Then Saturday, AFT-CT members from every corner of the state and from all our divisions, met in Hartford for our Legislative Conference.

A couple of observations.

As diverse as we are, we are also alike in so many ways.
Education, Healthcare, Public Employees, we all "serve", be it students, patients or the public.  At the end of the day, it is not only about a paycheck.
We make a difference in people's lives.

That's why a teacher can understand a nurse can understand a social worker, etc, etc, etc.
I have seen over and over, a hospital housekeeper stop and help a patient or visitor.
We all know of  a story of a custodian who believed in students when they did not believe in themselves.
These people could have chosen another line of work, or at least, another place of work, but they know they make a difference, and it matters to them.
It should.

I'm proud to be a member of AFT.
I'm thrilled at the opportunities I have to meet so many dedicated people.
I hope to continue to fight for them for some time to come because whatever division we are in, whatever the size of our local, the individual member matters.
They make a difference.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Building a Union we can be proud of

Today I'd like to announce the launch of a new web site,
and group of leaders who are dedicated to the belief that the power of a union is in our collective voice. We are committed to ensuring that everyone's voice is heard and respected.

Our Guiding Principles and Goals:

I.     Membership First – The belief that the strength of AFT is in its members. AFT-CT’s leadership has an obligation to continually speak not only to the presidents of locals, but to their executive boards, and most importantly to the memberships.

II.   Communication & Collaboration – The belief that once the desires of the membership are understood, together we achieve more. This is only possible in a climate of respect.

III.  Transparency – The belief AFT-CT leadership has an obligation to make membership aware of the work being done. To be true to the movement, policies and practices must align.

IV. Organization – The belief that AFT-CT needs to identify the work that needs to be done should be outlined and prioritized in short-term and long-term plans.

We have assembled a slate of Officers and Executive Board Vice Presidents who believe in these principles and goals.
I am honored to be a part of this team.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


There are a lot of special people in my life, a lot of them.  They have touched my life in different ways but they have all done it with love.  Some are related, some I work with, many are union sisters and brothers, and all our friends.
To all of you I want to wish a happy Valentines Day.  Please know that I can never repay the love you show me or fully express my love for you in words.
Please also excuse me if I single out one woman from among you.

I met Michelle in high school, her long blond hair and big brown eyes enchanted me.
She was kind enough to agree to be my girlfriend and then my wife.
We have seen good times and bad together. We have celebrated births and cried together at deaths.
We have worried together about our family and I know I could not have made it through these times without her support.
She has stood with me these last several years as I became active in the union movement, as my evenings became consumed with meetings and functions and my weeks with trips, and I spent less and less time at home.
And after all that, when I approached her earlier this year with a new project, which would take even more time, she agreed, because although she wanted me at home, she put my dreams ahead of her wishes.
How do you repay that?
This summer will make 40 years we have been husband and wife. I have lived with and loved her for 2/3 of my life.
I do not know why I have been blessed so much, but I am extremely grateful.

My darling Michelle, I can never repay the love you have given me, I can never fully express what you mean to me, so let me just say,
I love you and I always will.
Happy Valentines Day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

There is no Winter in Heaven

I was thinking about my mom and dad today.
I miss them.
Dad was someone you wanted to grow up to be.
He was a basketball star in high school, who left college to join the service in WWII, as did all his brothers.
He came about as close to dying on a south pacific beach as a Marine can, only his buddies pulling him to safety saved his life. He spent a year in the hospital in San Diego and when he returned to Rhode Island, he and my mom wed and went on to have 4 boys and 2 girls.
He passed on in 1984, on the evening Ronald Reagan was re-elected. My theory is that this son of a retired democratic president of the Rhode Island state senate couldn't handle 4 more years. He was about the age I am now, which gives me something to think about. There have been many times when I wish he were still around to talk to, to share my hopes, dreams and fears with, and to seek advice from.
Mom was our caregiver, and with 6, I'm sure that was a full time position. I guess she saw the inside beauty in people, especially my dad, who returned from the war with significant scarring. That was mom, always looking for the good in people. Later in her life, when it became harder for her to get around, I would visit her on my days off.  We would go out to the store, she always had exquisite taste in clothes, and she was always looking for a deal. She became my confidant with whom I would share everything that was happening in my life.  She would patiently listen to me go on and on about my involvement in the union movement.  I'm glad we had that, it was a new development in our relationship and became special to me.
There's a lot going on in my life now.
I wish I could pick up the phone and tell them about it, but somehow, I think they know.
The reason I was thinking about them today is because I was out in the wind and blowing snow shoveling the driveway.
I remembered the way dad would look back on winter once the spring came.  He'd say, "Well, we made it through another one."
And later in life, before mom move to assisted living, she became isolated in her condo because of the fear of falling on the ice and driving in the snow.
So, yes, I miss them, but I'm happy for them too.

You see, there is no cold, no ice, no snow, in Heaven.
Because in Heaven, there is no winter.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Snow Days

The thermometer in my car tipped briefly to -13 at one point yesterday morning!
I have snow piled so high at the end of the driveway that pulling out to the street is an adventure.
The forecast for the weekend into Monday is for another 12 inches.

Oh boy!

You know, it was an easy winter until mid January, but as an old time New Englander once told me, the weather always averages out over time.  You have a lack of snow and warm temperatures and sooner or later, you'll pay for it.

We're paying for it now.

I'm always looking for a lesson in life's experiences.
So, this morning I read something Mark wrote,
He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest for awhile"

I work 32 hours/week as an emergency room RN. That doesn't sound like full time, but ask anyone who does it and they'll tell you, it feels like full time.  It is a physically, emotionally, and intellectually draining profession.  We do it because it is in our blood. We hate it and we love it and when we walk away from it we feel it pulling us back.

Then I work as a union president.
I spend at least as much time doing it as I do nursing.
I have meetings 3 or 4 evenings a week, and when we start negotiations and it really gets busy.
Then there's emails, texts, phone calls, 2 Twitter accounts, 3 Facebook accounts, and a blog.
My day starts at 5:00 and ends, hopefully, around 10:00.

And I love it.
I wouldn't trade it for the world.
I love making a difference in the lives of my patients and their families. and I love the chance to help my members, to watch them grow into leadership positions, to develop their own voice, to advocate for their union and their profession.

But Mark has a point. I recognize the need for down time, for reflection, for rest.
I recognize it, I'm just having trouble finding an open spot on my calendar to schedule it.

Maybe that's the life lesson of a snowstorm.
Roads get closed, meetings get cancelled, and our daily schedules grind to a temporary halt.
And yet, despite the disruption is our so important calendars, the world keeps on turning and the sun comes up again.

I hope someday to learn to balance work and rest, I guess for now I have Snow Days.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

We never gain anything we aren't willing to fight for

I got to know Erin Benham when we served together on an AFT national task force on small unions.
Erin is President of the Meriden Federation of Teachers.
She has a relationship with her superintendent that is based on mutual respect.
They work together to better the lives of their students in a model of solution driven unionism, of a Labor/Management team finding common ground.

It is a relationship that I both admire and wish for the Backus Federation and our hospital.
I see glimpses of it from time to time.  I believe some in management desire it.
I had hoped we could enter negotiations in this spirit.
I had hoped that management would have learned from the example of our L+M sisters and brothers of what happens to a hospital when it stands against cooperation.
But experience shows me that some days we take one step forward and two steps back.
So be it.

Erin told me that she did not always enjoy a cooperative relationship with her administration.
In fact, at one time she was know as "the enforcer" because of the way she had to stand up for her teachers.  Erin developed her current relationship because she stood up in strength.

I have been fighting the same battle since 2011.
That's OK, that's the story of the Labor Movement.
We never get anything we aren't willing to fight for.

My last blog spoke of this desire to have mutual respect.
I still desire it.
However, rereading my last blog, I was concerned that it could be misinterpreted as me asking for respect.
Let me clarify.
I don't ask for respect.
I don't demand respect.
I don't care if management respects me or not.
I will stand up for my nurses and I will stand up for my patients.
The offer remains there if management wishes for a respectful and cooperative relationship, but respect is not something you ask for, not something you earn, not something you demand, it is something you take.