Sunday, November 27, 2016

PeaceHealthSW caregivers standing together

The caregivers of PeaceHealth SW in Vancouver, Washington have spoken.
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

The Guardian Angels of the Labor Movement

have spent,the past 7 days working 16 hour days and coming to know and bond with a wonderful group of people, professional organizers from around the country and worker organizers at PeaceHealth SW in Vancouver, Washington.
The healthcare workers (service and maintenance) are fighting for a voice by joining the AFT RNs and Techs in the AFT Union.

Sometimes in organizing it can feel like your running uphill in sand.
Your work real hard to climb the hill but with every step to take upward, you also slide a little backwards.
You set up meetings and the worker has a child get sick and they have to hurry home.
You have a nice conversation, and then the boss comes along and puts lies and fear into the worker.
Yet you push onward.

Then, when you least expect it you make contact with a worker and they tell you that their entire department has been meeting together and they are all solid in their commitment to join together into the AFT family.

And that's why you do it.

That's why you travel so far, that's why you live in hotel rooms, that's why you work such long days.

These healthcare workers do good work.  They clean hospitals, they prepare food, they assist nurses and techs. 
They deserve respect and they deserve a voice.

Organizers help them find that voice.

If healthcare workers are "angels,"
Then organizers are their "guardian angels."

It was an honor to work side by side with them this week.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

You get what your willing to fight for

What a week!

I'm still in a bit of shock over the outcome of the election. I think many are.
I've listened to the experts and I've heard that the republicans voted in the same numbers as 4 years ago but democrats did not.
I've heard some say for months that they were disappointed that out of the whole country, these were the two best candidates that the parties could come up with.
I buy the reasoning.
I don't buy the excuse.

Once agin, half the eligible voters of this country didn't vote.

Don't blame "the party," don't blame the "establishment."
If you didn't vote.....blame yourself.

I'm working an organizing drive of healthcare workers this week.
It's hard for workers to find the courage to stand up for their rights.
It's hard for them to find the time and energy to do it.
But guess what.
We have a saying in the labor movement.
"You get what you are willing to fight for."

The same is true about politics.

I made a new friend this year. Her name is Angie and she is an AFT teacher in Connecticut.
She has never been involved in politics or the labor movement before now.
Bernie energized her and she became an activist and worked hard for him.
She has a delegate at the national convention for him, I was a delegate for Hillary.
I encouraged her to stay active, to continue that passion.
She joined our state union political action committee. 
I emailed her after the election to see how she was doing and if she intended to remain involved.
She responded, "Don't worry about me. I'm ready to,spring into action....again. Hope you are too."

I needed that.
That's what we all need.
That's what the workers of this hospital need.
We must be willing to take responsibility for the way things are and to work to make them better.
If not, we need to be willing to be ruled by the elite and privileged. 
It's hard work, so role up your sleeves and let's get started.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The day after

What does a progressive, who campaigned for and even had the privilege of being a delegate for the candidate who lost the election, do the day after?

Hillary said in her gracious speech, "Never stop believing that fighting for what is right is worth it."

We get to work.

The healthcare workers of PeaceHealth Southwest, in Vancouver, Washington will vote on becoming a union in 12 days.
It's good to be able to play a small role in the process.
The nurses of this hospital are a AFT affiliate Union, part of the Washington Nurses Association. The techs recently unionized with AFT and are negotiating their first contract, and now the healthcare workers are working for their voice.

We have a great team of organizers and a great organizing committee of workers working on this campaign and I'm having the opportunity to speak with workers in the office and in the hospital. 
I hope what I bring to the conversation is the experience of having worked at the bedside and gone through my own organizing and first contract campaign.

It's rewarding work, fighting for healthcare workers to gain a voice. 
The changes in health care are coming fast and furious, whether we're talking east coast or west. Often, it is the workers who are left behind. Unless they have a voice.

But you know what?
The workers are as concerned about the effects of the changes to their patients as they are the effects on themselves.
That's just the way healthcare workers are.

On this day after...
I still believe.
The fight is always worth it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Paying it forward

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

Wednesday Morning

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.

Why vote?

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. 

I disagree. 

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

Voting for a voice

I want to thank Dennis O'Brian for inviting me onto his radio show today.
It gave me the opportunity to correct some inactuate campaign mailings and phone calls about some wonderful state legislators.
It seems that all the negative campaigning and lies coming from the Trump camp have made it acceptable to do the same on the state level.
The truth of the matter is that Windham Connecticut and the surrounding area is blessed to be represented by 5 legislators who stand up for working class people every day, and any campaign claims that they do not are just a smokescreen to divert us from the incredible lack of integrity and knowledge of their opponents.

I proudly join AFT Connecticut to endorse Mea Flexer, Cathy Osten, Susan Johnson, Linda Orange, and Greg Haddard and strongly encourage our members and others to support them with your vote this Tuesday. 

I will join my fellow AFT officers today and tomorrow to go door to door to encourage union members to support all of organized labor's endorsed candidates on Tuesday. Many AFT Connecticut members have contributed untold hours of their own time working for pro-worker candidates and against those who would take from the poor and working class and give to the rich.
I'm proud to be a small part of the effort.

After I vote Tuesday morning, I will drive to the airport and travel to Vancouver, Washington, where a group of hospital workers have found the courage to stand up and stand together, to advocate for their patients, their families, and themselves, and form a union.
I will trade going door to door in Connecticut for the election to going door to door in Washington for another election, an election of the greatest importance, an election of workers to gain a voice in the workplace.
It wasn't too, too long ago, that I was doing this at my own hospital.

I thank Jan for sending me, for the opportunity to help, as others have helped me.
She would have preferred to go herself but such are the many responsibilities of the president that sometimes she must send her VP.
She would have preferred to go herself for the same reason she has spent so much time knocking doors in this election.  She understands the consequences of action (or inaction.)

Tuesday, you face that same truth.
Get out and vote.
It's how we get our place at the table and you know what they say, " If we're not at the table, we're on the menue."