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.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hey Governor Christie, Punch My Face Too!

"At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?” CNN's Jake Tapper asked New Jersey governor Chris Christie during an interview. The question was a callback, he said, to Christie's affinity for saying during his first term that "you can either sidle up to [bullies] or you can punch them in the face."

"The national teachers union, who's already endorsed Hillary Clinton, 16, 17 months before the election," Christie replied.

Speaking of one of the two large national teachers unions the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Christie said that the AFT was “not for education for our children. They’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America.”

Russ Walsh, a New Jersey teacher and blogger observed that both Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Lily Eskelson Garcia of the National Education Association are women. Russ said, "I don’t think even a Republican candidate for president could get away with punching a woman in the face. Belittling them, yes. Berating them, yes. Taking away the choice of what they do with their bodies, yes. But not striking a woman, especially with a Hillary running on the Democratic side.
So, taking all this into consideration, he said he would like to step up and offer Christie his face to punch.

As a Registered Nurse, as a member of the organizing committee and the first president of AFT Local 5149, Backus Federation of Nurses, and now as Executive Vice President of AFT Connecticut, I stand with Russ in his defense of teachers and other education personal. AFT represents 1.6 million dedicated individuals in education, healthcare, and public service. People who have devoted their lives to educating, healing and serving their communities. 

Before I became an AFT member I had no voice. If I spoke up against poor staffing or poor practices at the hospital I would be fired. The same is true for our teachers and other education professionals and public service workers

So if Christie is willing to punch a teacher in the face, he'll have to be willing to punch a nurse in the face also.
Then he'll only have 1.6 million faces to go.
Solidarity brother Russ. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Remembering the Community in Community Hospitals

"Hartford Healthcare has forgotten that "community" is in our name."
So said one of the speakers at the community forum yesterday. 
Windham Community Memorial Hospital is a small rural community hospital in eastern Connecticut serving a large geographical area that had historically been economically depressed.
As a result it is not a rich hospital. 
About 6 years ago it was taken over by Hartford Healthcare, a large not for profit system. Until that time, the hospital struggled to balance the books but did so through good stuardship of both union and management. 
Now, the hospital is losing money. 

How can that be?

At both the round table discussion Thursday night and the forum Friday, we heard stories from staff, doctors, patients and community of profitable services being shifted from Windham to Hartford, thus diverting profit and creating the illusion that services were no longer needed due to low volume. 

What Hartford Hospital did not count on was a community that would fight back and a legislative team and a union that would stand with them. 

You can help
Please click on this link and sign our petition to save our services. 
You will be sending a message to Hartford Healthcare and all the "healthcare systems" to put Patients Before Profits. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Kicking it old school with Ed Leavy

My AFT Connecticut union brother Ed Leavy in an amazing radio interview on the importance of teaching labor history. The wisdom and perspective he brings to the table is incredibly important. He reminds us that people not only fought for labor rights, some died for them.
We are lucky to have Ed serve as AFT Connecticut Secretary Treasurer.
Please listen

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Happy aniversay Michelle

Dear Michelle,
40 years ago today, you said yes and we were married.
Why you said yes to me and why you have put up with me for so many years is one of the great mysteries of my life.
Whatever the reason, I am grateful.

It has not always been easy has it?
We have had our struggles and times when each of us wondered if we had made the right decision, but we have also had our struggles that we got through only because we were together and leaned on each other for support.
And we have have wonderful times together, times when it truly feels like a fairy tale.

I guess that’s what a life together brings.
We support each other’s dreams.
When you went back to school I was there for you and when I did the same you returned the favor. You tolerate the time I spend on union work because you share my passion for the movement and you understand it gives me fulfillment.
I guess that’s what makes us work.
First and foremost, we want each other to be happy.

I remember first noticing you in high school, standing near your locker, all 5 foot of you with your long blond hair and the big brown eyes.

It feels like yesterday.

Happy anniversary, I love you.