Saturday, March 21, 2015

You get the movement you are willing to fight for

The nurses at my hospital have started the process of negotiating a new contract.
The process of negotiating a contract is interesting.  
People come up to me all the time and say "Make sure you get ...Fill in the blank."  
There are 400 nurses, and probably just as many things to fill in the blank with.
I tell my members,
You get the contract you are willing to fight for.

What does that mean?
Getting what you want is not a matter of coming up with a logical argument and convincing management, that works maybe 2% of the time.
We have made many common sense proposals.  Most will be rejected. 
"Can't you just convince them that it's fair?"
No, if that worked, we could just write a contract and they would sign it,
Nor will yelling, or pounding our fists on the table work.
What works is being willing to take action and making sure they know we are willing to take action.
Nothing demonstrates that better than members who are involved.  That's why we insist on open negotiations on campus.
So, I ask my members to show up or don't complain that the "union" didn't get you a what you wanted.  You are the union, and you will only demonstrate it by being there.

There is a correlation between this and building a union movement you can be proud of.
You get what your are willing to work for, what you are willing to fight for.
You can't expect "the union" or "the company" or "the government", to do ...fill in the blank.
You have to be involved, you have to be informed, you have to be active.
I understand we all have busy lives and we are involved in many things to help our communities.
That's great!  Keep it up!
It's not so much a matter of spending more time, it's a cultural shift, it's a new way of thinking. 
To recognize our responsibility as leaders, each one of us.  
Responsible for building a better Hospital, a better nursing profession, a better community, a better union and a better labor movement. 

I was recently at an AFT conference.
I spoke to many people who work in our Washington office.
They always ask about the Backus Nurses.
They are consumed with projects and global issues, but they also keep an interest in our hospital.
They aren't here for the day to day, but they keep us in mind and, when and if we ask for help, they are always ready to support us.

We need to do that with our unions, our communities and our government.
We need to be informed and involved, and when needed, we need to step up and take action.
That is how we build a union movement we can be proud of, one which is inclusive, open and transparent.
If we do this I know that not only will we build a better life for ourselves and our families, but together we can build a better world.

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