Saturday, December 31, 2016
I will say that overall, I am glad for 2016.
I think I grew, personally and professionally.
I think I became a better listener, to others and to that voice inside me.
I want to thank all of you who walked beside me on the journey of 2016.
A good friend tells me that while she may not always agree or approve of the decisions I make, she will always be there for me.
What more can one ask?
I know that I have many friends and family who feel the same, and I know that while I must walk my own journey, I never have to walk it alone.
2017 will surly bring it's own trials.
I hope you remember as you walk your journey, that their are others who will always be there for you.
I wish you a happy and healthy 2017.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Whether you celebrate as a secular or religious holiday, I hope this time of the year can be a time of peace in an unsettled world.
I will once again celebrate the birth of Jesus the Nazarene.
Growing up I learned that he came to be born so that he could save us from our sins.
I still believe this to be true, but I think he did it more by his life, than his death.
When I think about his teachings, and those of John the Baptist, his cousin; and how they lived their lives, I see the real beauty in what he did.
He spent most of his life as a carpenter, a laborer.
He came to know the life and struggles of the ordinary people.
At age 30, he began his mission of preaching the message of love. He went to the people, roaming from village to village, recruiting fishermen and even a tax collector to help him. He did not preach from a position of authority, he had no pulpit, he held no office. Within 3 years the ruling party became concerned enough that they crucified him.
But still, his message of love of God and of our neighbor did not die with him. It spread to all corners of the world.
Without a doubt, his name and his message have been used to justify great horrors, but that does not change the fundamental truths which he taught:
That we are all neighbors.
That God (however we understand our higher power) is love.
That it is not our place to judge others.
That we have an obligation to forgive.
That we have a responsibility to share our fortunes with others.
That it is morally wrong to oppress others.
These teachings are not unique to Jesus.
Other spiritual leaders have independently preach the same, which makes it universal.
Many of my friends who do not believe in God, believe in these teachings.
So my friends, my wish for you this season is that you find moments of peace in this troubled world, that you find rest in the fact that your Higher Power is Love, that you remain strong in your convictions to these universal teachings.
Have a Blessed Holiday.
Saturday, December 17, 2016
I got emotional when she said it.
You see, that's why we organized at my hospital.
We negotiate for wages, benefits and working conditions but we organize for a voice.
Hearing her saying this reminded me of how universal it is.
This week, over 900 service and maintenance workers at Peach Health SW Hospital in Vancouver, Washington voted to have a voice.
They voted to join AFT as part of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals, as over 300 Technicians and Technologists did in a separate vote earlier this year. These two groups join the RNs, who are members of the Washington State Nurses Association, an AFT affiliate.
I am so happy for our newest sisters and brothers.
I am happy for the many people who worked to make this possible.
I am happy that I belong to a union that believes in it's growing healthcare division and believes healthcare workers need to have a voice to advocate for themselves, their families, their patients, and their communities.
When AFT reached out for help in this major project, state affiliates from across the country responded. I want to thank in a special way, Connecticut's organizing team for the incredible work they did and the sacrifice they made in being away from home for several weeks.
It was my privileged to spend a week with them in Vancouver. A privilege to work with the AFT organizing staff, all the wonderful organizers who came from across the country, the leadership of OFNHP and WSNA, and the workers in the hospital.
Whatever help I may have been pales in what I got out of the experience.
Thank you Jan for having the wisdom to send me.
The AFT started when teachers joined in union to have a voice.
It is based on a philosophy of the "organizing model" because from our earliest days we understood that to have a voice was everything, and that the only way to have a voice was to come together in unity.
Today our members work in Education, Healthcare and Public Service. We are teachers, para-educators, nurses and other healthcare workers, lawyers, social workers, judicial professionals, accountants, and so many more.
We are diverse but we share common interests.
We care for people, the students, patients, and public we serve.
We believe in the organizing model, that everyone should have a voice.
We started with a group of teachers looking for a voice.
Today we are 1.6 million voices in unity.
Today, that includes the voices of Peach Health SW Hospital.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
SEBAC, which was in the news again this week, is one of those.
SEBAC is a coalition of Connecticut state workers who bargain as a group for healthcare and retirement benefits.
It makes a lot of sense, otherwise, the state could potentially have different healthcare and retirement plans for each agency, which would not only be a nightmare to administer, but would be much more costly, since there are savings in plans with more members.
Unfortunately, the state has underfunded the retirement plan since the 1930s.
You don't have to be an accountant to understand where this would lead.
Once baby boomer state workers started coming of retirement age, we were in trouble.
Kind of like falling behind on your home improvement loan and then one day,
It's not the state workers fault.
Frankly, it's the residents of Connecticut fault, for allowing our elected leaders to do this.
Of course, the state workers are an easy scapegoat.
It's easier than admitting we are all part of the problem.
And of course, the state workers have a real interest in fixing the problem.
So twice, in 2009 and 2011, the workers gave concessions to fix a problem they did not make.
But the problem remains because of chronic under-funding and more recent market performance.
So this week, once again, the state employees agreed to changes in the plan.
The new agreement is a long-term plan to properly fund the system and to use a more conservative assumption on the expected return on investments, while at the same time, protecting the hard earned retirement of our public service workers. Instead of trying to "pay the bill" all at once, it stretches it over several years.
To me, this seems like a win-win.
The residents of the state of Connecticut get out of a retirement problem that we, and those who came before us, caused, and the state workers have their retirement protected.
I have already seen some say that the retirement benefits of state workers are too rich.
The concessions of 2009 and 2011 provided for multiple tiers, based on when a person started working for the state. New employees retirement is not as it once was. New employee retirement is in line with the private sector.
The only people getting great retirements in this day and age are the millionaires, some of whom love to drive a wedge between private and public sector workers, so we are distracted from their imminence wealth and refusal to pay their fair share of taxes, while they laugh all the way to the bank. (which is probably in the Cayman Islands)
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Thank You Everyone for ALL of Your Love and Support for a True Hero!!!
I get that.
I'm kind of like that myself at times.
I know I don't have to be the expert or the best at doing everything, I just have to surround myself with those types of people and support them.
So let me comment of my concerns about the choices the President-Elect is making in the people he is surrounding himself with.
In particular, let me comment on two of those recent choices, Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services.
They have something in common.
They both believe in privatization.
Good, you might say.
Private enterprise is what made this country great.
It's the American way.
That's what Capitalism is about.
Our schools and our healthcare system need a shakeup.
There is some truth to this.
Many of our schools are in need of improvement.
Our healthcare system is expensive and out of the reach of some.
We should reform them.
But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
DeVois is a proponent of charter schools. Charter schools were designed to be incubators of new ideas that could then be brought into all public schools so that all would benefit. They have evolved into private schools who are funded with taxpayer dollars and can often hand select students who will not require extra help due to learning disabilities. It's like a sports team being given all the best players in the league and then winning the championship.
Except in this case, they often do not even win the championship. Often, they do not outperform the local public schools, even though the playing field is not level.
Why is that?
Price believes we should privatize healthcare.
To be sure, there are issues with the ACA, with Medicare, with Medicaid, with the VA healthcare system, with social security, that need addressing.
But let me ask a few questions.
Does anyone believe that our seniors or our disabled should have to decide between food and medical care? Do we believe that nurses should be told to turn away patients if they lack insurance and the ability to pay? Do we think that large insurance companies and large healthcare corporations have our interests first, our their own interests first?
We should reform our healthcare system.
We should provide care for all.
We should provide financial security for our seniors.
These are not "entitlements." We have been paying into these programs our entire working lives.
At the same time, we need to control costs, we need to protect access, we need to put small business owners on a level paying field with big business, and big business in this country on a level playing field with big business oversees.
As is education, there is need for reform.
But again, let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
There is a reason some people want to privatize education and healthcare.
Let's be honest here.
There is money to be made.
If there were not, private companies would not want to own schools, hospitals, insurance companies, and drug companies.
But what's wrong with that?
Isn't that capitalism, isn't that what makes this country great?
Except that those who want to privatize our education and healthcare system want to do it with my money.
And your money.
They want your tax money, your social security contributions, your insurance premiums.
We should tell them, keep your hands off my money.
The Price (and DeVos) is not right.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
In a 3 way vote between AFT /OFNHP, another union, and no union, AFT received 46%.
The other union and the hospital (no union) ended in a virtual tie with 26% each.
After a recount, the NLRB will determine who came in second, and there will be a runoff between AFT/OFNHP and that entity.
If the presidential election has taught us anything, it is that nothing is certain, but it appears that the overwhelming majority of health care workers at PeaceHealth SW will stand together as AFT sisters and brothers and members of OFNHP and WSNA.
In the pacific Northwest, as is happening across this country, communities are losing local control of their community hospitals. As hospital systems become larger and larger, they gobble up smaller community hospitals and local control is lost.
This is the very battle we are fighting in New London, in Windham, and at the state capitol, here in Connecticut.
As hospital systems get larger, insurance companies follow suit, in an effort to maintain bargaining power in negotiations over prices. Add to this the continued growth of large pharmaceutical companies and you can see the effects of a lack of competition driving up healthcare costs.
That leads to excessive profits that are distributed as excessive salary compensation at the top, while the bedside caregiver is squeezed by having to see more and more patients in less and less time, with less and less staff.
This causes an ethical dilemma for the caregivers, who entered their profession to make a difference, but find themselves having to choose between doing the minimum for each patient or not being able to help some patients at all.
That's why caregivers, form service and maintenance workers to doctors, are organizing.
They realize that if they do not stand up to the large health care systems, the mega insurance companies, and Big Pharma; no one else will be able to.
And they realize that to stand up,
They must stand together.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Soon I will be boarding a plane, headed for Vancouver, Washington.
There are a group of healthcare workers out there trying to claim their voice by organizing as an AFT local.
My goal is to help out if I can, by sharing my experience.
It wasn't all that long ago that we at Backus Hospital were in the same spot.
We had lost our ability to advocate for our patients, our families and ourselves, because of changes at the hospital.
But we stood up and stood together and AFT Local 5149, Backus Federation of Nurses, was formed.
It wasn't easy, but we had help from other AFT locals, from Connecticut and beyond.
That is why I'm going to Vancouver.
It's time to pay it forward.
I want to thank AFT for this opportunity, Jan for understanding the importance and asking me to go, and Michelle for her continued understanding.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
It will be over soon
This campaign has been tiring.
All the negative campaigning has led people to believe that all politicians are crooked and only out for themselves.
The truth is, many are hard working, honest public servants, doing what they feel is the best for others.
There are some who only care about themselves or those like them, and because they cannot campaign on their strengths, they try to pull their opponent down, hoping that this levels the playing field and voters think everyone is crooked so what's the use.
Don't buy it.
Don't be deceived.
There are good candidates.
Seek them out and support them.
One of them will be leader of the free world in January.
Others will represent us in congress and the statehouses.
We can agree to disagree about the appropriate role of government.
That's why we have 2 major parties.
But we must not let party loyalty blind us into voting for someone who will work against our interests, someone who would be harmful for our state or country.
There are two candidates with a chance to be president.
One is qualified and one is not.
One insults women, blacks, Muslims, Latinos, the disabled and others. He thinks more countries having nuclear weapons would be a good thing. He thinks not paying taxes for years makes him smart. He thinks cheating small business owners and their workers by declaring bankruptcy is being a good businessman.
Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, U S Senator, and Secretary of State. She has worked for the welfare of working class Americans her whole life.
She has what it takes to be President of the United States, Commander in Chief, leader of the free world.
It will be all over Tuesday night.
This isn't reality TV, it's real life.
What kind of state and country do we want to wake up to on Wednesday morning?
Friday, November 4, 2016
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Sunday, October 23, 2016
To summarize, this ER physician, speaking at a conference of nurses and doctors about burnout, said "It's just a job."
I think his purpose in this statement was to say that if you get so consumed by your work, burnout is the likely result.
He was met with more than a little hostility.
You see, truth be told, those of us "in the field" feel a bit special.
We often look at our "profession' as more than a job, as a "vocation."
I have written about this often.
I feel it too.
The truth is that I also feel the same passion about my work as a unionist.
I feel fighting for "the little guy," "the working class." has dignity and brings more fulfillment than "just a job.".
As I have come to know union members in education and public service, I have come to believe that they also feel that their "work" is also their "vocation," and I can see and totally agree that it is.
I'll be honest, I have had jobs earlier in my life that have felt like "just jobs."
Nothing wrong with that, they provided for my family.
When I found nursing though, I felt fulfilled, and I continue with that fulfilled feeling in my union work.
But looking back, I have always felt a certain sense of pride in any job well done, whether I was working in a textile mill, a lumberyard, or elsewhere.
When I built airplanes, I knew my knowledge, my skill, and my caring, literally made a difference in people's safety.
And certainly, the person picking vegetables in the hot sun is providing just as valuable service to society as the nurse and doctor.
On the other hand. I have known people in nursing and unionism who "mailed it in."
Perhaps all "jobs" can be "vocations."
Perhaps., as the old saying goes.....
All work has dignity.
Perhaps, it is how we approach our work that matters.
Maybe that's what defines if "it's just a job."
And perhaps, those of us who feel "special" because of what we do, should get over it and realize that it is both a "vocation" and "just a job" at the same time.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Sunday, October 9, 2016
Friday, October 7, 2016
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Having gelato in Venice is pretty cool!
Let's face it, just being in Venice is pretty cool.
We took a walking tour of Venice on day 2, including St Mark's Square. Our guide was a native, and as such, had lots of local insights to share.
One thing she pointed out was an area of water in the square. Without her explanation, I would have taken it to be rainwater but she explained it was seawater seeping up from below at high tide. This is becoming a more frequent problem over the last few years she stated.
As we were walking back to catch the shuttle boat that would take us back to our ship, we ducked into a small shop and found our gelato!
Now we say goodbye Italy for a few days. On to Croatia.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Monday, October 3, 2016
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Thursday, September 22, 2016
I will paraphrase to protect privacy.
"I just came from a sympathy call to a friend whose 96-year-old mother died this week in Willimantic. Her mother was twice transferred by helicopter to Hartford Hospital because no intensive care was available at Windham Hospital.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Saturday, September 3, 2016
I'll be honest, there was a time early in my nursing career and the careers of my colleagues, where we felt we could do so.
But times change.
It had gotten to the point where speaking up and advocating had become dangerous. Increasingly, advocating for our patients would bring retaliation.
Faced with this difficulty in doing what were had been taught we must, we stood together in solidarity and strength and regained our voice.
So I became part of the Labor Movement, but I soon realized that The Movement had been a part of me my whole life and the life of my family.
I had grown up with and been taught the principles of the movement without knowing it.
My family were not members of a union, but we were taught that we held a responsibility for our neighbor's well being. We were taught that everyone, regardless of sex, color, race, or religion, was our neighbor.
We were taught as John the Baptist cried out in the desert, "That the man who has two coats should give one to he who has none."
These principles are in stark contrast to the "I'll get mine, screw you" mentality of the greed that is often practiced by those with the financial power.
These principles of caring for neighbor were a part of my family and thankfully, are a part of most of us.
It is like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus never directly answers the question, he lets the man asking the question answer it himself, because the man already knows the answer:
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Nothing fancy, picture of the twins born this week to one of our organizers, updates on negotiations, school budget fights, etc.
A note that someone is looking for a mini fridge in case someone has one they aren't using.
That kind of stuff.
The reason we started it is because with everyone going in different directions, and yet everyone's work having an impact on everyone else, it's easy to assume that communications is fine and yet.....not always.
I find it a struggle sometimes when deciding who should be at Meeting A or Meeting B. You want all the principles involved to be there, yet you don't want everyone tied up in every meeting all day long, or you'd end up all talk and no action.
It's a balance, and the best you can hope for is to try to get it right.
In this age of social media, I know more of what my friends and cousins are up to than I ever did, yet if I spend all my time on FB, when do I have time to sit and talk face to face?
Miscommunication is a problem sometimes too. I have fallen victim of bad texting, have you?
I've sent a text to a friend meaning one thing, and they have read it in a completely different light, because the tone of one's voice and our facial expressions make a world of difference to meaning, and that doesn't always come through in a text or phone call.
As a general rule, I prefer communication in person, if not possible then by phone, and if that's not possible, then by text or email.
Another part of effective communication (and I struggle with this) is the ability to stop talking and to just listen. Like many, I'm guilty of trying to think of a response while the other person is still speaking.
Written communication, is of particular interest to me. The ability to convey the information I want is a part of it. That's the science.
The challenge is to convey emotion. That's the art.
Good writers and painters can to that.
I great piece of writing, artwork, photograph, play or movie can bring tears to our eyes.
We are social beings. Communication in all it's forms is a part of who we are, a part of what makes us "us.".
Friday, August 19, 2016
Saturday, August 13, 2016
It's something that we had wanted to do for a bit and we finally found the time.
Developing a personal strategic plan in itself was very self reflective and helpful to me.
We get caught up in the day to day and need to force ourselves to step back and look at our lives as though we were looking at someone else's life and be objective about it. That way we are less likely to wake up one day and say, "how did I get here?"
My president is a master at this, with her guidance we have developed with our executive board strategic plans for our organization, we have asked our employees to do the same for themselves, we have asked our divisional councils to do so, and we are beginning to work with our Locals to do the same.
They are fluid, living documents. Statements of where we would like to be in the future with benchmarks of time and units of measure to evaluate our progress. They are meant to be evaluated on a regular schedule and adjusted as needed.
The personal strategic plan I developed and discussed with Jan is a combination of personal and professional evaluations and goals.
I'll not share it but I will share that my overall goal is to be as valuable as possible to the organization.
I have sub goals that I believe will lead me to that objective and then a clear dilatation of my specific areas of responsibility within the organization, with more specific steps that will hopefully allow me to achieve my sub goals and overall goal.
The idea is to use this as a tool to evaluate regularly to see, have I been pulled off course as I deal with day to day responsibilities? Do I need to adjust my plan because the situation on the ground has changed?
So, where am I, one year into this new position?
Let's look at the past month.
I attended the AFT Convention for the first time as the state VP, with 30,000 members in education, healthcare and public service. Previously, I had attended as a president of 370 Registered Nurses who had formed their own union.
Yeah, it's a different role.
While I am adjusting to a role of representing a much larger and more diverse group, I am also adjusting to a transition from being a charter president to a vice president. I think I've done well, but I'm not perfect, and I continue to learn.
The following week I attended the Democratic National Convention as a delegate. Besides being very exciting and interesting to be there and be a part of history, it was an opportunity to spend a lot of time with a lot of influential people. Having the opportunity to have conversations about the hopes and dreams of our diverse membership is a two way street. I want to tell legislators and they want to listen, because, frankly, representing 30,000 active members/state residents is a big responsibility and honor for me but also for the legislators.
Then it was back to the office and this week, and through a series of travel commitments and illness, I found myself the officer seeing to the day to day back here in Connecticut. (Of course, Jan, Jean and Ed were a phone call away, and I used those calls)
I got to chair my first Executive Committee meeting this week.
I won't lie, I was a bit nervous before, but it went well.
So, where am I, one year into this new position?
I hope I can always say that. I think if I ever get to the point where I "know it all," it will be time for me to leave.
I'm comfortable in my new role. I have incredible support form those around me and I hope I am a source of support for them.
I think I'm doing good work.
I keep in my mind the incredible work our members do, in education, in healthcare, and in public service, and that pushes me to do the best I can.
I'm looking back to see, am I on track? Am I making progress? Have I remembered my goals?
Add I'm looking ahead.
I've been given a gift and I understand that, and I want to make the best use of the opportunity to be as valuable to the organization, our members and the movement as I can be.