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.


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