Friday, July 31, 2015

Can I get a High Five?

I received an email yesterday that the Mansfield town council had passed a resolution asking Hartford Healthcare to maintain it's critical care unit at Windham Hospital.
I was thrilled!
I ran out to Anna, one of the office staff and showed her.
I know it is a result of the work done after Hartford's announcement that they would be closing services and the response of the legislators, our members and the community.
Nearly one month ago, State Senator Mea Flexer contacted me about having a press conference with legislators on this issue.
What followed was remarkable.
Within a week we participated in a press conference with several area legislators and the union presidents from the hospital.
That was soon followed by a meeting at the union office in Willimantic with area legislators and representatives from our federal legislator's offices.
We had overflow crowds of union members at both events.
On the 16th, at the monthly Willimantic street festival, hospital union members collected over a thousand signatures of support.  That petition is now online.
Shortly after all this, the hospital agreed to bargain over the changes.

Collective action works!

The reason I wanted to tell Anna is because she, and so many others in this office were critical in pulling it off.
We had discussions about what to do (stickers, robocalls, petitions, tables at the street festivals, staff coverage, etc, and then I thought, how am I going to get it all done?)
Then I realized, all I had to do was go back to my office and stay out of the way.  Occasionally one of the staff would come in and ask if this was what we were looking for on the petition, or the stickers or such, but THEY were the one's who got it done.

When I showed Anna the resolution she thought it was great but also thought, I don't know, like......
That's kinda what we do here John.

Isn't that the case so often?
The people who "actually get it done" feel like "no big deal, its what we do."
It is a big deal.

I was reminded of this in a you tube video I watched on Face Book last night.
Its a parody of a sports center show, but instead of athletes getting all the attention, its about teachers.
I remember as a nurse saying we should high five each other when we got a difficult IV start, its the same idea.

So how about it?
Can I get a high five for those who "get it done."
Maybe we can start with the teachers, who will be soon enough back in the schools, setting up their classrooms, often on their own time and often decorating out of their own pockets because.......

"Its what they do."
High Five!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's all about the lesson

In today's gospel reading, Jesus is faced with a dilemma.
5,000 plus have come to hear his teachings. 
They are hungry.
He has 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.
What's a messiah to do?

Most people concentrate on the miracle, and to be fair, multiplying bread and fish is no small feat.
But I think Jesus had something else in mind.
You see, he was first and foremost, a teacher, a rabbi.
And like all good teachers, it's about the lesson.
It's about the students and teaching them how to live.

5 loaves and 2 fish could have fed Jesus and his inner circle of disciples.
Who would have blamed them?
They were the ones taking the risks, facing persecution.

The lesson is this.
They had very little, but what they had, they shared.
In doing so, they were following the teachings of Elisha “Give it to the people to eat, for thus says the LORD: You will eat and have some left over.”   2kings 4:42
and of John “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”  Luke 3:11

All religions and philosophies are built on this truth except one, commercialism.

The people of Windham Connecticut are standing together on this truth.
Hartford Healthcare has purchased most of the hospitals in eastern Connecticut.
Some of these hospitals are profitable, some are not, all are "not for profit."
The top executives make over $2million/year and receive additional bonuses of almost $500,000.
Windham Hospital is one of their hospitals that loses money and the state legislature and governor recognize this.
That's why they allocated Windham an additional $1.4 million/year for the next 2 years.

Hartford Hospital's response?
Close the ICU and other critical departments.
Turn the hospital into a receiving hospital to feed the mother ship in Hartford, some 25 minutes away by car.
Many people in Windham have no car.

The legislators, the unions, and the community are pushing back, because it may seem an impossible task to stop a large healthcare system, but I imagine so did feeding all those people with so little.
You can help, sign our petition

Tell hospital executives to think of families before their pocketbooks
and patients before profits.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Answering the questions

I spent the last two days sitting on a hard bench in a courtroom at the National Labor Relations Board in Hartford.
I was there to support a group of courageous healthcare workers from Danbury Hospital.
They were there because the hospital broke the law and effected the outcome of their election to become a union, a vote that is by federal law is supposed to be free of management interference.

The truth of the matter is the hospital did interfere and hospitals and other corporations routinely do in organizing drives.
I won't get into the technicalities of the case, but if the workers are successful in proving their case, they will get another chance to vote.

I say "courageous" because when a corporation decides that it is willing to break the law, it also decides that it is willing to intimidate, threaten, and otherwise disrespect the workers.

It might be impossible to understand unless you have gone through it yourself.

Sitting there on the first day and listening to one of the workers tell a story of intimidation, I suddenly got a weird feeling in my gut.
It was almost like nausea, but different.

I realized that the story was bringing back feelings I had experienced in our organizing drive when I had been "spoken to."
It was an uncomfortable moment to relive those feelings but important because it brought me back to the reason we work this hard, the reason I feel a kinship to the Danbury workers, the reason Jan hung two large signs in our office.

The signs read:
What have you done to empower our members today
What have you done for the movement today

Jan tells us that if we can't answer those questions as we leave the office, then we're doing something wrong
My Danbury brothers and sisters.........
They can answer those questions.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Advocating still

Jean Morningstar asked me this week if I missed bedside nursing.
Truth be told, I've been so busy that I hadn't thought about it.

One of the best nurses I've ever worked with, Lesa Hanson, said that when she became involved in our union organizing drive she came to understand that advocating for patients meant at the bedside, but also in the boardroom and at the capital.

I've been busy advocating, just not at the bedside.
What's new is that now I'm not just advocating for patients, I'm advocating for patients, students, the public, and the dedicated people who work in healthcare, education, and public service.
It's an incredible honor.

This blog is my 500th.
My first one was on March 1, 2011.
So much has happened in that time, but so much is also the same.
The title of that first blog was remarkably, "Advocating."

In it I wrote, "One of the roles of a nurse, one of the most important roles I think, is to advocate for his patients."
There are so many dedicated people in the "caring professions."

I'm advocating for all of them now.

Maybe the day will come when I have a daja vu moment and miss the bedside.
I don't know.
I do know that right now this is the place I need to be and the role I need to fill.
I just feels right.

In this my 500 blog I would be remiss if I did not thank my editor, Ole, who has helped me find my voice.
Finding that voice has brought certain people and situations into my life that have led me to this role.
Thank you brother.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Carpenters Local #1

Jesus was an organizer.
Carpenters Local #1

His mission statement can be found in the sermon on the mount where he talks of those who hunger for righteousness and are persecuted for it's sake.
Where he says no one can serve both God and greed.

1And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2He taught them, saying:
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
4Blessed are those who mourn,
5Blessed are the meek, 
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
7Blessed are the merciful,
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
  13 "You are the salt of the earth;
14"You are the light of the world.
  24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and greed.
24 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  

His strategic plan can be found in today's gospel reading.
He sends them out in pairs, telling them to take little with them so that they must rely on those they come to meet and know.
I have heard it said that the great Labor leader Cesar Chavez would send his people out with only $5 in their pockets and he 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."

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet.”

Those who hunger and thirst and work for equality, respect, fairness, dignity,
Those who are persecuted for it's sake,
They are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.
For they have chosen the harder route but the better route.
They have chosen to enter a house, make a friend, eat with them.
They have chosen to give their hearts and receive other's hearts in return.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

If this is Wednesday, this must be DC (wait, did I say that already????)

OK, you got me, I used that blog title in June.

Yet, here it is again, Wednesday and I’m in DC.

This trip is for a planning retreat on an AFT initiative to put Patients Before Profits, with Ole and Matt, from the AFT Connecticut organizing and communications departments.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

We only need to look at our own Connecticut hospital to see how “not for profit” hospital systems are attempting to shed non profitable parts of their business, regardless of how it effects patients in the communities they are chartered to serve.

Why?  They’re “not for profit” aren’t they?

The hospitals may be, but the people running them are not. Salaries and bonuses are exurbanite, and at the expense of the most vulnerable in our communities.

Least you think healthcare has the corner on squeezing personal wealth out of the working class, let us not forget charter schools. This is not to say that charter schools are by necessarily bad.  In fact, it was former AFT president Al Shanker who first proposed the idea, but when the Walmart family gets into a business, that’s a red flag.  Link to an article.

The Connecticut legislature recognizes the danger so much that it passed a bill to protect the public’s right to accountability in charter schools, which the governor has just signed. Link

Let me close with by reminding you that both hospitals and schools are public institutions that rely on taxpayer money to provide vital services.  There is an ethical responsibility to ensure that those moneys are not profited and that those services are truly provided as intended.

We must reign in those whose ethical beliefs do not align with this.

Our students, our patients and society are at risk.



Friday, July 3, 2015

Week one in the new job

My cell phone rang Monday morning, "Mae Flexer" the caller ID said.
Mae is a friend but she's also a Connecticut State Senator.
She was looking to have a press conference about Hartford Healthcare announcing layoffs while the executives receive large salaries and bonuses and blame "the state" for their woes.
She wanted our involvement.

OK, now remember, 3 weeks ago I was working bedside in the ER and now a state senator is calling me for help.

"I'd be glad to help Mae, but you know I don't officially start until Wednesday."
She thought we had already started and in some ways we had, with all the meetings we've been having to have an orderly transition.

We were able to work it out and on Thursday had a turnout of about 60 people (many of them members) for a press conference in front of the Windham Hospital with the two Local presidents, Mae, 2 state representatives and myself.
Kudos to the AFT Connecticut for pulling it off.

So on the second "official day" of my new position I was part of a press conference.
OK then.

We had hit the ground running the ground running the day before with "issues" at one of our hospitals, a conference call with AFT national, and a state political situation that was changing from minute to minute, and required responses from us.
"Is every day going to be like this Jean?"

I need to say what a pleasure it is to be finally working in same office as Jean and Jan, and Ed when he is there (Ed is a half time officer).
To be able to walk down the hall to each other's offices, sit down, and have a conversation.
We have great chemistry and complement each other well.

I'm getting to know the office staff better too. They're a great group of people and have been real helpful in me getting comfortable with my new surroundings.
"Lindsey, I printed from my computer, where does it print out?"

It's also great to collaborate with the filed reps, the organizers, the political and press people, and everyone else in Rocky Hill.

It is an incredible honor to be part of this team, representing our 30,000 education, public service and healthcare members, and advocating for working men and women across our state.
We have a lot of work to do but what an opportunity to make a difference.