Sunday, September 27, 2015

Francis whispers in America

I had wanted to blog about the Pope while he was here in America.
I admire him much for his teachings, Love, Peace, Respect, Forgiveness, Sharing.
I struggled with how to put all that into words.

Then I read his message given from the City of Brotherly Love, from the steps of Independence Hall where the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed, standing at the very podium that Abraham Lincoln used while he delivered his Gettysburg Address.

I realized he had not only written my blog, he had spoken to me.
Please listen to the words.

"We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every form of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new American. This shows that when a country is determined to remain true to founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed."

We remember these struggles and we know that they are not over.
Racism, hated and greed remain with us, so much so that we can become frustrated as to whether we can make a difference.
But we can.
We must.

We need not be a leader of the movement to make a difference. Behind each person on the front line are tens and hundreds who are whispering "courage."
Maybe you whisper "courage" by attending a rally or a march, maybe you sign a petition, maybe you stand up in the workplace against mistreatment, maybe you walk away when someone makes a prejudicial comment or joke, instead of laughing.

Whatever you can do,
do it.
It makes a difference because many whispers together become a loud chorus.

Friday, September 25, 2015

FACTS, not fiction

In today's issue of "Hospitell," the Backus/Windham Hospital newsletter, CEO David Whitehead writes an article titled "Facts or fiction."
David states there has been a lot of misinformation about the closing of services at Windham Hospital and that we should look at the facts.
I couldn't agree more.

He notes that Windham Hospital has lost money over the last 5 years.
While this is true, he fails to mention that 6 years ago, the year before Windham was taken over by Hartford Hospital, it posted a small profit, as it had done for years before that and that Hartford Healthcare, the parent company, continues to post a profit.

He refutes what State Senator Mae Flexer said, "We cannot stand by and allow Hartford Healthcare to turn our hospital into a glorified emergency room," by listing the services that will continue to be provided.
What he fails to mention is that the Critical Care Unit will be closed.

He refutes what State Senator Cathy Osten said, "This is as close to closure of a hospital as you can get and still keep the doors open," by saying a hospital that loses millions needs to transform.
While I agree that transformation is needed, the ability to care for Critical patients is essential to the functioning of a hospital.  It is hard to predict when a Critical patient will roll though the doors or a stable patient will turn Critical.

He states that OCHA determined that Certificate of Need public hearings are not needed and while this is true, it is based on an affidavit that the hospital filed saying that services would not change.

Much has been made in the last few days of excessive hospital CEO compensation and recent Medicaid cuts and while these are issues worth deep discussion, the bottom line is and always should be this:
Will patients care and the community be adversely effected by a change of services at the hospital?

That is what matters and that is what the Office of Healthcare Access must decide.
Based on FACTS, not fiction.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I have followed the deaths of mostly young black men.
I know people of color and people of poverty are disproportionality represented in our prisons, and disproportionality effected by a poor economy and budget cuts.
I try to understand and work on solutions.
But I wonder if I can really help.

I am not unique.
I am a 60 year old white man who grew up with little exposure to people of color.
I was raised during the civil rights movement and taught that all men and women are my brother and sister, regardless of race or religion.
I live by that principle.
I now have several friends of color, I have friends of different religions, I have gay friends, and like all my friends, I am closer to some than others, but our differences do not define that closeness.
As Dr. King had dreamed, we judge each our by the content of our character.

One of my closest friends shared something with me not too long ago.  She shared that if she met me in a particular town near us after dark, that she would be pulled over by the police because of the darkness of her skin.
I was horrified.
Although I believed her sincerity, I could not comprehend what that was like and I was upset that my close friend would be treated that way.
I could not comprehend because I cannot walk in her shoes.

This week I attended a symposium that promoted Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
One of the topics discussed was the difficulty of recruiting and retaining young black teachers, especially males, into Connecticut.
It was pointed out that their are few role models for students of color standing at the front of the classroom.
We have examples for young people of color in sports and entertainment, but how many grow up seeing that in teaching or nursing?
How can we expect them to consider these professions if they are not seen as possibilities?
And so the cycle continues.
It's bad enough that teachers and nurses of any color are disrespected on a regular basis.
It's also a problem that within education and healthcare, teachers and registered nurses do not always show the respect they should to the paraprofessionals, the LPNs, the Techs, and the other healthcare workers.

I had never seen these issues as prejudice, but they are.

So what can we do?

Cesar Chavez 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."

I think that's were we start.
Those of us who are not of color and those of us who are of color cannot fully understand what it is to walk in each other shoes.  We may love our bothers and sisters without reservation, but that is not enough.
We must strive to understand them as best we can.
We must take the opportunities to come to know each other.
Maybe then, the issues that may be a result more of an unconscious prejudice than a conscious one, will begin to be solved.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A new day in Danbury/New Milford

The following article was written by Matt O'Connor, Communications Coordinator of AFT Connecticut.  It deals with a ruling from the Federal Government that Danbury/New Milford Hospital violated workers rights and broke the law.  This has not deterred the workers as they have banded together and forced a new vote. They are courageous and strong and the 30,000 AFT Connecticut members who serve in healthcare, education and public service, and our 1.6 million members nation wide, stand in solidarity with them.
Injury to one is injury to all!
Danbury - Healthcare professionals at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals are reacting to the recommendation yesterday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to invalidate the results of their June 19 union election. In her report, Hearing Officer Jo Anne Howlett cites evidence to sustain charges of unlawful interference with employees' free choice by management of the non-profit network that operates both facilities. The report is based on testimony provided in July by impacted workers who recounted illegal, anti-union conduct by managers and outside consultants retained by the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN).
IB Image"This is vindication for all who spoke out in the weeks leading up to the vote," said Elizabeth Duarte-White, a certified nursing assistant (CNA). "This recommendation means that our employer can't get away with harassment and discrimination. More importantly, it's an opportunity for us as caregivers to take charge of our future," said Duarte, who has 17 years of experience at Danbury Hospital.
Duarte-White's comments refer to attempts by WCHN to subvert the lawful activity of an organizing committee representing approximately 800 nursing assistants, service, maintenance, and environmental workers at both hospitals. Network management in June acknowledged the criminal records of outside consultants retained to conduct a "union-busting" campaign in comments to The News-Times of Danbury. A majority for the union was not established in the election held two days later, the results of which the federal government is now recommending be set aside.
"The issues that brought us together in the first place remain," said Jessica Ellul, a patient care tech unit coordinator Danbury hospital. "We're looking forward to voting union 'YES' in a new election. That's how we make the improvements that are long overdue -- and hold the network accountable to putting patients before profits," said Ellul, who has 10 years of experience at the acute care facility.
Ellul's comments refer to the NLRB hearing officer's recommendation that a new union election be held for the healthcare workers whose legal rights were suppressed by management's conduct. An organizing committee of employees in late-May at a 'town hall'-style meeting at Danbury Hospital announced their intent to form a union within AFT Connecticut. The labor federation represents the registered nurses (RNs), medical technicians, clinicians and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) at both acute care facilities.
"This recommendation is an indictment not just of this employer, but any employer who engages in this kind of conduct," said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. "It proves that there are serious consequences -- not just paying a fine or posting a notice in the break room -- for interfering with employees' free choice in deciding their future," said Hochadel.
The June election was the first in Connecticut under new regulations governing union elections adopted late last year by the federal labor board and upheld in March by President Barack Obama. When the NLRB responded to AFT Connecticut's May 28 petition to schedule a vote without delay, WCHN management quickly mounted an aggressive and unlawful campaign to taint the results.
AFT Connecticut, the largest union of acute care health professionals in the state, represents approximately 725 RNs and 260 technicians, clinicians and LPNs at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals. For more information, visit or follow the labor federation on Twitter at @AFTCT and on Facebook at

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An open letter to my Labor Family about Danbury Hospital

They were there when the survivors of Sandy Hook arrived.
They worked side by side with our AFT nurses.
They dealt with the same terrible reality of that day and the days to follow.
They felt the pain of our AFT education members of Sandy Hook School.
They became a part of our family.

Last fall, they voted to join us as AFT members, forming the Danbury and New Milford Federation of Healthcare Technical Employees, 250 dedicated, courageous LPNs and Techs.

And how is management of the hospital treating them?
With disrespect.              

Management refuses to negotiate in good faith, forcing the Techs to file charges with the federal government (NLRB).
Those charges are being investigated.
Management will not even give them the respect to agree to the non-economic articles that the Registered Nurses have in their contract, articles that have worked well for 35 years!
The LPN/Techs aren’t asking for the world, just a voice in their workplace.

I guess it is not surprising.

Danbury and New Milford Hospitals are no longer the community hospitals they once were.
They are a part of a large corporation, Western Connecticut Health Network.
So I’m reaching out to my sisters and brothers of AFT and the greater Labor Community to stand with our LPN/Techs.
I know how hard it is to go against management who is willing to violate the law, I lived that at Backus Hospital when we joined the AFT family in 2011.

These LPN/Techs are courageous and strong.

We can show our newest sisters and brothers our support by signing their petition at

Thank you as always.
In solidarity and service,

John Brady RN
Executive VP
AFT Connecticut



Sunday, September 13, 2015

Love hurts

One of my favorite songs is the Beach Boys song, Kokomo.
It's a song about escaping from the troubles of the world for a time and kicking back.

Listening to that or a Jimmy Buffett song makes me wonder what would life be like if we could just roll with the punches, just not care so much about things, about people.

Could life be one continuous Kokomo?

What if we didn't care about the fact that some kids in the richest country in the world don't have enough to eat and have little hope that the future will be any better?
What if we didn't care that across this country that too people do not make a living wage?
What if it didn't bother us that the mentally ill and addicted are jailed, not treated?
What if it didn't bother us if workers were mistreated?
What if we didn't stay up at nights worried about our kids, our parents, our loved ones?

I suppose we wouldn't be "us."

The fact is we do care.
That's why it hurts when we lose a friend, have a child going down the wrong path, or see workers mistreated.
It's also what keeps us fighting back.
It's why we organize workers and fight for social justice.

So Kokomo is an illusion, or at best, a temporary resting place.

Because we do care and tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The call never came

I was at home that morning 14 years ago. 
I watched as the tower burned. 
I watched as the second plane hit.  
I watched as brave fire, police and EMS rushed in to assist. 
I watched and I waited for the call. 

As a trauma nurse in a Connecticut hospital I waited for the call to come in to work. 
In past years I would have rushed in but we had revised our response because of experience built in other disasters. 
Now we were instructed to wait at home, try to rest, and be ready to answer the call when those on duty reached exhaustion and needed relief. 
Rest was impossible. I was glued to the TV. 
I packed a bag with extra clothes and snacks and placed it by the door. 
And I waited for the call. 

My hospital was 115 miles from the city, but we are at Trauma center, and surely with this many injured we would receive some of them.
So I waited for the call. 

In my head I ran through my training. Airway, breathing, circulation, two large bore IVs. 
I felt ready for the technical issues, I hoped I was ready for the emotional. There were children in the building, and mothers and fathers. There were so many brave fire, police and EMS. Emergency nurses feel a kinship to EMS, who rush in when others run away. They see the worst or the worst. You can see it in their eyes when they arrive. Their eyes are saying, "please don't fail with MY patient."  
My thoughts also turned to my fellow nurses, especially the young ones. 

And I waited for the call. 
Surely with this many survivors.  

But the call never came. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's about family

My phone rang early in the day.  It was my friend Carol calling to tell me her mother had died.
It was expected. Her mom was elderly and in hospice but still.  She said she had spent part of the day yesterday with her mom and when she left to get something to eat, that's when mom passed.  It so often happens that way.
Carol and I became close friends when we both became involved in the union. She was, and continues to be, my political liaison of the Backus Nurses.  She has faced death many times in her role as a nurse. It's part of what we do but it's different when it's your own family. 
All I could do was listen.
I cleared my schedule so that I could go to the funeral tomorrow.

Latter in the day, our meeting was interrupted with the news that Bruce had died.
Bruce was president of the Norwalk Teachers. He was too young. 
I came to know him about a year ago, much less time than most others in our union, and yet he found a way in that short time to find a place in my heart. 
He was a true union brother and faught fiercely for his teachers. 
One story is of him being in a group of people and the comment being made that if, in negotiations, there was a dollar on the table, Bruce would get 99 cents of it. To which Bruce matter of factly replied, "If there was a dollar on the table, I'd ask for more because if there's a dollar on the table, there's more in their pocket."
That was Bruce.

I didn't know Bruce's biological family but I know his Labor family and my thoughts turned quickly to them, especially to those who have known him longer than I.  

As an emergency room nurse I dealt with death often, even being the person giving the bad news.  It was always difficult but I guess no matter how young, or how tragic, I always tried to remember that my patient was in a better place.  
It was harder with the families.

I know hat Bruce is in heaven, probably negotiating a better deal for Carol's mom, and I know that those of us still here will carry on, it's what we do.
But we're family, and it's always toughest on the families. 

To all my brothers and sisters in AFT and all of Labor I send my prayers and my love tonight.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

On Labor Day, think of workers, unions

Today I feature a guest blog from my friend Wayne Burgess.
Wayne is a retired UAW member from Electric Boat MDA and the president of the Southeastern Connecticut Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
He is also responsible for my first becoming a union member, when he invited me to join UAW Local 1981, the National Writers Union, during the organizing drive to form AFT Local 5149, the Backus Federation of Nurses.

Wayne wrote this letter to the editor that was printed in the Norwich Bulletin and New London Day this week.
Thank you Wayne.

On Labor Day, let's do more than attend a barbecue and lament the end of summer. Let's commemorate the importance of hard work year-round and how our contributions to the economy make America strong.

This year, let's recognize all of the men and women who are working for a better life-whether they are teachers, miners, firefighters, farm workers, cashiers or electricians. From the early shift to the late shift, in big cities and small communities, we are the ones who keep this country running.

Today we honor the hard work of union members and pay tribute to all the benefits that make our lives better thanks to speaking up together, like the eight-hour workday, access to a living wage, decent benefits and job security.  None of this would be possible without the existence of unions.  Unions level the playing field and help create an economy where everyone, not just a few at the top, can work for a better life.  This Labor Day, let's celebrate unions and all of the wonderful things they've accomplished hand-in-hand with the working families they represent.

Wayne Burgess
Uncasville, CT

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I have a question

Being out of the ER for 10 weeks now, I have just one question.

How did I ever do that for 21 years?

I was in a meeting with some people from the state, from AFT national and from the Baltimore school system recently.
One of them asked me what was more stressful, my new job or working in the ER.
"Working in the ER," I answered without hesitation.
That is not to say this new job is easy or without challenges or stress.
There is incredible stress, incredibly long hours and some nights of fitful sleep, but it's not nursing and it's not working in the ER.

I give healthcare workers credit.
Life and death decisions, stress, bullying, assaults, and more are a part of daily life.
Representing teachers now, I see more than ever that they face many of the same issues.

It's hard to explain, but nurses know.
I think teachers know too.

So, I did my time. (21 years)
Now I'm representing some of the greatest, most courageous, and most dedicated people in the world, the nurses and other healthcare workers, the teachers and other education personnel, and the public servants of AFT Connecticut.

My hat's off to you.