Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thank you Connecticut State Employees

It's a typical morning in Connecticut.
As the sun peaks over the hills to the east, and sleepy New England town squares come alive, a nurse begins her shift, checking the IV fluids and receiving report from the evening nurse. Across town a teacher enters his classroom, flipping the switches to power the equipment in his shop class, checking all the safety devises that will keep his students safe. Downtown a social worker enters her courthouse, her mind on the young man she will try to get to drug treatment and his family she will help.

The nurse, teacher, and social worker all have something in common.
They are all State of Connecticut employees.
In fact, the are all AFT Connecticut members.

As a caring society, we have determined that there are certain services we should offer to all residents. This is rooted in our Judeo/Christian/Muslin beliefs.
Among them are safe roads and bridges, fire and police protection, education of our youth, care for our sick, and a judicial system based on a chance for a fair trial and rehabilitation.
Dedicated Public Employees provide these services.

I get upset when so called "think tanks" like The Yankee Institute spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to convince Connecticut's middle class taxpayers and small business owners that State Employees are "the problem."
These "think tanks" are funded by people who control large corporations and could not care in the least about middle class tax payers or small business owners.
They care about one thing.
Having power and keeping it.

It's time we woke up and recognized State Employees for what they are. Our neighbors, people like ourselves, who provide the services WE have determined we as a caring society that WE should provide.
I've never been a Public Employee but I've often benefited from their dedicate service.
Thank you.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Inspiration from Local 33

There was a sitcom in the early 60's that was followed by a movie of the same name in the 90's, featuring 2 lovable NYC cops, Toody and Muldoon.
The Theme song spoke of everything going wrong at the same time:

There's a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights;
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights;
There's a Scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev's due at Idlewild ...
Car 54, Where Are You??

Sometimes, as a Labor leader, the world feels like the NYC depicted in that song.

We have a new Supreme Court Justice who tips the court in the favor of large corporate interests and away from the interests of working families.
We have an administration and House of Representatives who need a "victory" so bad they they have passed a healthcare bill that will strip 24 million Americans of coverage, and devastate state, local and hospital budgets.
We have a Secretary of Education who doesn't believe in public education.
In spite of record low unemployment, we have a budget crisis in many states, including Connecticut, the richest state in the richest country in the world, because we lack the courage to stand up to corporations and ask the top 1% to pay their fair share to a society from which they have received the most.
As we speak, many of our state employee members are receiving layoff notices, while their leadership works to try to find a way to protect their jobs and their hard earned benefits. 
And there's more.

Sometimes, in the mist of dealing with all this, you have to take a deep breath, and return to your roots for strength.

Last Saturday at the AFT Connecticut convention, we invited speakers from Unite Here Local 33 to share with us their fight.
I was moved.
I have been following this but to hear it from them was powerful.
The grad students at Yale University have been fighting for the right to form a union for 23 years.
23 years!
Recently, they were successful in gaining the right to have a vote in which they voted yes and are now a union.
Yale refuses to to negotiate, probably hoping the Trump Administration will change the makeup of the NLRB, which regulates private sector unions, and reverse their right to vote yes.
The grad students have entered into a period of actions, including a month long fast in which 8 grad students are consuming nothing but water, to try to force Yale to the table.
As someone who faced strong opposition and intimidation in the organizing of my hospital, such dedication is personal and very moving to me.

On Tuesday, the leadership of the Connecticut AFL-CIO visited the fasters.  Unable to join them, I visited yesterday. 
Being a nurse, they put me to work doing a wellness check. The fasters are closely monitored by a physician team and daily wellness checks are performed, including vital signs and blood sugar checks, by nurses and other healthcare professionals.

As Jan described her visit on Tuesday, "It's powerful."
I agree.

This is the "why" of our advocacy. It's about finding a voice for working men and women. 
This is returning to our roots.
This is the inspiration and strength that allows us to fight the multiple simultaneous "crisis's."

Monday morning, the Labor Movement will stand with our grad students at the Yale Commencement and demand the University treat them with repsect.
I hope you can join us.

For more inf see Local 33 web site and FB page.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the members of AFT Connecticut.

It has been my privilege to serve as your Executive Vice President for the past two years and an honor to be re-elected for another term yesterday. It is an honor to serve under the leadership Jan, and alongside, Jean, Ed, and the VPs and Local presidents that represent you.

We are 30,000 strong; teachers, paraprofessionals and other school related personnel, nurses and other healthcare professionals, and public service workers.
We are a diverse group belonging to over 90 autonomous Locals, but we are united in our work of service to others, our solidarity as sisters and brothers, and our commitment to a society that places students, patients, and the community we serve ahead of corporate greed.

We face enormous challenges in the next two years, but we also have tremendous opportunities.
As our president Jan says, our challenge is not from the right to work for less movement, but from the danger that our members may not understand the benefit of standing in union with their sisters and brothers.
This is our opportunity.
If we engage our members, if we have the thousands of one on one conversations needed to reach our members, then we will survive any challenge from the top 1% who covet power and greed at the expense of others.
We will be strong because we are always strong when we stand together.

So, we have much work to do.
We will do it together.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Healthcare is a right

Not going to lie.

 Like most healthcare professionals I'm not a good patient.

 When I started with blurred vision in my left eye about a week ago, I tried to ignore it. When I went to the doctor on Tuesday I was told I had a tear in my left retina and that fluid had seeped in and it was separating the retina from the back of the eyeball. Had I waited much longer that separation could have spread and I could've lost my vision completely.  Surgery was performed on Wednesday and at my follow up appointment on Thursday the doctor said everything looks good.

 This is a tribute to the wonderful advances in medicine and dedicated and  professional talents of the doctors nurses and other healthcare professionals who cared for me. It is also a testimony  on the nature of the American people, prioritizing healthcare so that these advancements are possible.

 That is why the repeal of the ACA,  just one day after my surgery is so sad. In a country where we except the right of free speech and the right to bear arms, we do not yet except that healthcare, a living wage, adequate housing  and nutrition are a right of every citizen.

 My delay of a few days in seeing the doctor had to do with my fear of what I would find out, but I had no fear over the cost of the care, because I am lucky enough  to have adequate insurance. Repeal of the a ACA will remove that certainty from 24 million Americans.  What will be the result if they delay their care?

 It is time we answered these questions;
 When I was hungry did you feed me?
 When I was sick did you care for me?
When I was naked did you cloth me?

 In this, the richest country in the world, healthcare , a living wage, adequate housing and nutrition  are a right of every citizen.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

In the House!

"Right to work for less" will not be the death of the labor movement, but members not knowing the value of union membership could be."
So said Jan at the recent UHP convention (University health Professionals, the fine men and women of  the University of Connecticut Health Center)
Day in and day out, Jan reminds us that the strength of the union is in our members and their engagement and ownership of their union and their community.
That is why it is so important to understand the value of the union.  Only by standing together can we advocate for ourselves and our communities.

This past Tuesday we stood together in Hartford and we were successful.  Joshua Hall, the VP of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, was elected Connecticut State Representative!
Joshua is a democrat.  In fact, he was state party treasurer until he resigned to be able to run.  He sought the Democratic nomination and was denied, even though he make it clear that we would run on another line if he had to.

Apparently, they didn't believe him.

Apparently they were wrong.

Joshua sought the endorsement of the Connecticut Working Families Party, the Hartford Federation of Teachers, and AFT Connecticut.  When he received all those endorsements, other unions came to his side and endorsed him.  Union sisters and brothers canvassed the North End knocking on doors and making house calls.

Three reasons drove our decision to back him (Any one alone would have been reason enough):
We believe in Joshua.
We believe in Connecticut Working Families Party.
We believe in the Labor Movement.

For too long Labor in Connecticut has felt that the two major political parties have looked at us and said, "Where they gonna go, we're the only game in town."
On Tuesday we told them where we will go. (Perhaps we told them where to go?)
We will go to the people, to the movement, to our roots.

We took a chance.  Failure would have strengthened the argument that the two parties were correct. But we were taking a chance on Josh, on WFP, and on our union sisters and brothers.
My friend Jesse from the CTU says that sometimes you have to fight a battle because it's the right thing to do, even if you're not sure what the outcome will be.
Jan is correct. Our strength is in our collective action.

Josh was sworn in on Friday.  It was a privilege to be there.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Joshua Hall

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

Today I would like to ask your help.
My friend and union brother, Joshua Hall is running for Connecticut State Representative in the 7th district in Hartford, in a special election on Tuesday due to an open seat.

I'd like you to consider supporting him and if you live in the neighborhood, getting out with your family and friends and voting for him this Tuesday, April 26th..

He is a democrat who is running on the Connecticut Working Families Party line (row C)
There is another democrat running and I'm sure he's a nice enough guy, but he's not Josh.

I've know Joshua for about 6 years.  I've sat beside him at AFT Trustee meetings (where I was a guest and he is a trustee) and seen the depth of his knowledge on pensions and investments and how he has advocated as a great steward of member's money.
I've walked beside him and heard him speak at rallies for healthcare workers fighting for first contracts.
I've heard from my own family members who teach in Hartford of his school visits with members.
He is always prepared, always knowledgeable, always articulate, always respectful of others, and always humble.

Joshua grew up in this neighborhood in the north end of Hartford.
He understands this community and loves it.
That's why after college, he stayed in the community, buying a home 4 doors down the street from his mom, is raising a family there, has taught for 12 years at Weaver High in Hartford, and serves as the 1st Vice President of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, our AFT Local.

In my opinion, we could not ask for a better representative of working families than Joshua.

The election will be this Tuesday, April 25.
Please get out and vote if you are in the district and if you can help in any way please do so.
There is more info on Joshua and the campaign on the Connecticut Working Families Face Book Page.

Thank you.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jesus was an immigrant

 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him"...... For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  So writes Matthew, describing the migration of Joseph the Carpenter and his family to Egypt and about how we will be judged, not on our accomplishment but on how we live our lives and how we treat one another.
It seems fitting in this Holy Week of Passover and Easter that my thoughts turn to the spiritual.
I entered the Union Movement in 2010, but I was raised with certain beliefs that our consistent with the way that Jesus of Nazareth lived His life. Growing up I understood them to be Christian beliefs, but I now understand that they are the beliefs shared by all major religions and philosophies. 
Today, some criticize them as a "progressive or liberal agenda," but caring for the hungry, the sick, the immigrant, etc is not liberal or conservative, it is central to these core beliefs. Allowing people to go hungry, go without healthcare, be denied the opportunity to better their lives in a new land, are not a conservative agenda, they are an Anti-Christian, Anti-Jewish, Anti-Muslim, Anti-everyone agenda.
This week we remember that Jesus entered Jerusalem a hero, celebrated Passover with his friends, was arrested, tried, crucified, and rose from the dead. He was and continues to be a great gift to us. 
His life and his teachings are an example for us to emulate: Feed the hungry, care for the sick, welcome in strangers, everyone is my brother, serve others.
My favorite moment in the passion of Holy Week occurs at the Last Super, when Jesus moves around the table, bending to a knee before each disciple, washing their feet in an example of love, of service, and of leadership.
May you have a blessed Easter and Passover.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

"Is this a union issue?"

"We are involved in educational issues because we are educators, political issues because we are State workers, and labor issues because we are union members......We rarely ask in the office anymore, "Is this a union issue?"  The SVFT is your union, so you should have a voice and decide which issues should be addressed."
These are the words of my good friend, SVFT President, and AFT CT Secretary Treasurer, Ed Leavy, in his most recent edition of Vocational Instructor, the monthly newsletter of The State Vocational Federation of Teachers.

As he often does in his writings, Ed hits at the core of what being part of the union means. His words speak specifically to his members, but with just a word or two change, they could equally apply to the members of all 90 AFT CT locals, regardless if they are educators, healthcare, or public service. They could also apply to our sisters and brothers involved in community advocacy groups.

Ed speaks in this article about how belonging to a union cannot be just about the contract, as important as this is.
Belonging to a union must be about using our collective voice on issues of importance to us, be they work related, professional, or social.
He speaks with rightful pride of how engaged his members are in the legislative and election realm but he also says that "engaging in issues cannot only be about politics. We must also engage members by addressing issues that effect their work."

In speaking about the union he says, "It must be a voice in the classroom, a voice in the principal's office, a voice in Central Office, a voice in the legislature, and a voice in our communities."
He reminded me of something another good friend, Lesa Hanson, said when we were organizing our hospital. She said, "I once thought my work was at the bedside. Now I realize it means advocating at the bedside, in the boardroom, and in the Capitol."

The confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is likely to lead to an erosion of worker's rights.
We will never outspend the top 1%, many of whom do not believe in a society that lifts all boats.

But our strength is in our members.
If we stand in unity, if we engage our members on issues that are important to them, if our members truly believe they are the union, there is a path forward.
Collective Bargaining is an important right, but Collective Bargaining without member engagement and Collective Action is not a union, and it will not lead to a society in which we see each other as sisters and brothers and see lifting all boats as our life's work.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

And they whispered "courage"

This week we celebrated the birthday of Cesar Chavez, a leader in the movement for farm workers in California and the Southwest.
Tuesday we remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, while he was in Memphis supporting sanitation workers striking for living wages and safer working conditions.
Two great leaders who led with different styles.

It made me think of what my organizer at Backus told me one time of our role in the movement.
He said that not everyone gets to stand out front, in the public eye, but the role of those "behind the scenes" is just as important.

He told me of a protest in which the leadership took the front line and they were confronted by the authorities.
It got tense.
It was the strength of the people standing behind the front line leaders who made it successful.
You see, as they faced off, the people behind started whispering in unison, "courage, courage, courage."

It's an important lesson to remember.
There are many roles in the movement.
Many of us will play all of these roles at one time or another.
It's hard to be on the front line, it takes skill and courage.
It's also hard to be behind, in a support role, whispering "courage."
But each role is equally important and the movement falls apart if we each do not fill our role, whatever that might be at the time.

As we remember Chavez and King this week, lets also remember those who whispered "courage."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

We are one

Trumpcare is dead.
At least for now.

The AHCA, which would have replaced the ACA, was pulled from the floor of the House of Representatives moments before a vote.
We came very close to replacing a healthcare system which is in need of repair with one that would have been devastating.
It would have given a tax break to the top 1% of Americans while eliminating Healthcare coverage for 24 million Americans.

The pushback from Nurses and other Healthcare Professionals was predictable, although the level of pushback surprised even me and gave me a deep sense of pride. 
What I am also proud of is how other groups also pushed back.  In particular, members of my union AFT who work in education and public service, who joined in unity with their healthcare sisters and brothers in this fight.
I had seen this earlier in the year when Betsey Davos was nominated for Secretary of Education. It wasn't just Educators that objected, we all did.
I saw it again yesterday at the Connecticut State Capitol, when 96 anti public sector bills were heard in the Appropriations Committee, and members from healthcare and education joined public service members to speak at press conferences, a rally, and in testimony before the committee.

My sisters and brothers understand.

An attack on healthcare, on education, or on public services, is the same thing.
They are inter-related.

We are lucky in AFT Connecticut to have members from all the divisions of AFT:
K-12 Teachers
PSRP (Paraprofessionals and school related personnel)
Public Services
Nurses and other Healthcare Professions
Higher Education

I have always said that of our 30,000 members, a certain number are teachers, a certain number are healthcare, etc., but today I do not feel that way.
Although I have never stood at the front of a classroom or worked in state public service and although others have never stood at the bedside, today I paraphrase Jack Kennedy in 1963 when he said in Berlin, "Ich bin ein Berliner."

AFT Connecticut is a diverse union of 30,000 members.
AFT is a diverse union of 1.6 million members.
And each of us is an educator, and a healer, and a public servant.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

"No Irish Need Apply" is a call to action

Deciding what to write about this week was not easy.
This is going to be a full week.
My president, Jan, is away on international travel, representing AFT as a representative of North America to Public Services International.
Monday, at our state capitol, there are hearings in the Public Health and the Education committee, so many of us will be busy writing and presenting testimony.
Wednesday is a Day of Action for healthcare at the state capitol.
Thursday is the anniversary of the ACA, and a day that The House of Representatives may repeal it and begin the process that will strip 24 million Americans of their healthcare coverage and devastate state and local budgets.
On Friday, the Appropriations Committee will hear nearly 95 bills attacking worker's rights at the state capitol, and workers are planning to fight back with a Day of Action on Worker's Rights.
Saturday brings a bus trip to Fairfield County to call attention to the fact that although Connecticut is the richest state in the nation, it is also among the poorest (and it need not be that way) because the top 1% use tax loopholes to pay a smaller percentage in taxes than the middle class.
Add to that several workshops planned at AFT CT this week and you end up with a very full week.

Each of these events deserves a blog, a blog that I do not have time to write and you do not have time to read, but I found a clip of Rep Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts speaking this week that I think sums it up for me and for many of us.
He speaks of an immigrant family that came to this country because they believed in an America of fairness and opportunity, and although they faced discrimination because of their accents and religion, and customs, they worked hard, they organized, and they continue to believe in that vision of America.
He was speking of his own family and of being proud of his immigrant roots.
He spoke of his grandmother sitting with his father and showing newspaper help wanted ads that read "no Irish need apply."
Every Irish-American has stories like these. Like Joe, they were passed from my father to me, and from me to my sons, because we must never forget that like the immigrants that now flee poverty and war and oppressive governments and come to America in search of a better life for their families, our families did the same.
Whether we came from Ireland, or Italy, our France, or Poland, or any other country, our ancestors came here because they believed that America was different, was better, was fairer.

I still believe this is true.
I hope you do too.

So, our week is packed with work and events, and through them all, is this theme.
America is the land of opportunity, a land that welcomes the oppressed, the poor, the downtrodden.
It is a land that believes we have a moral obligation to each other to care for the sick, clothe the naked, feed the poor, educate all.
Immigrants have faced discrimination in this country before and they continue to face it today. It is not something our country should take pride in but it is something we must accept as true.
More than that, we must do what we have always done, we must stand together and say, "not here, not in my country."
We must organize.

I'll close with a call to action written thousands of years ago:
'When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I hope you can join us in the fight this week.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Caring for the sick

Donald Trump recently said that healthcare is complicated.
He is correct.
He is also wrong.

It's complicated in that changing one part of any healthcare plan changes many other parts.
It's almost like the gears on an old fashioned watch.
You move one and they all move.

But it's incredible simple in this regard.
Ask almost any doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider and they will tell you.
We have an ethical responsibility to care for the sick and to do what we can to help the well stay well.
I really don't care if you agree with me that healthcare is a "right."
To myself and others in the field, it is a responsibility.
Show up for care at an ER and we will not turn you away.

Nor should we.

The current plan being rushed through congress as a "repeal and replace" is nothing more than a tax cut for the rich and a tax increase on the middle class.
It provides tax shelters and repeals several taxes on the upper 1%, that were enacted to help pay for the care of middle and lower income workers, and it shifts costs to the middle class in the forms of cuts to states, increased costs to older Americans, increased costs to those with increased medical problems or who live in areas of the country where the cost of living is higher.
While it technically retains the ability to get insurance with pre-existing conditions, in increases the cost to the point that people may not be able to afford it and while it eliminates the "mandate" to have insurance, it imposes a penalty if one drops insurance and then at a later date re-acquires insurance.

Many experts predict that it will increase the deficit and strip healthcare insurance from millions of Americans.
The AMA, ANA, AARP, hospital groups, unions, community organizations and others have raised concerns and spoken against it.
Congress is now trying to rush passage of the bill before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office can evaluate it's cost and impact.

We can stop that.
Please contact your representatives and senators and express your concerns.
Please sign petitions, make phone calls, send emails, and attend rallies.
Obamacare isn't perfect, but lets not make it worse.
"Primum non nocere" is a Latin phase taught in med school. It translates to "First do no harm."

The ethical responsibility to care for the sick is not just held by healthcare professionals.
It is something we all are held to.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chasing the shiny object

I've been thinking a lot lately about distractions.
We all have certain things that are most important to us, be they in our personal life, our work life, our just in "life."
We work on them because of their importance.
Then, and sometimes it seems too often, something else comes up that grabs our attention and energy.
Only latter, after it has passed, do we realize that this "something else" was not as important as we thought at the time but it had pulled our attention and energy away from what we normally feel is a priority.
Some people refer it this phenomenon as "chasing the shinny object."

It's non-productive.  Worse, the distraction sucks up our time and energy.
I'll start a day knowing I have a few priority items to accomplish and if not careful, someone will come to me with an "issue" and I'll find myself chasing distractions. If I'm not careful, I'll find myself at the end of the day where I find my priorities not yet addressed.
It happens with groups of people too.
Some issue comes up and one party wants to avoid discussing it so they bring up another issue and voilĂ , distraction.

Right now, we face a multitude of priority issues; attacks on the rights of workers to stand together in unity, attacks on our healthcare system, attacks on our public school system, attacks on environmental protection; questions that threaten our sovereignty, and more.
No matter where you stand on these issues, I think everyone agrees resolving them would be a priority.
The last thing we need are distractions.
The last thing we need is to divert our time and energy whenever there is a new comment, tweet, or post about something not related to our priorities.

We need to stay focused and on track.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Owning our Democracy

There is a lot going on in the country and in the individual states that worry people. 
Evidence of that is seen at the "town halls" and rallies held by congressional legislators around the country this week.
I attended two such town halls this week in my congressional district.  In the first, Congressman Joe Courtney answered questions about the attacks on healthcare. (repeal of the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare) The second town hall was open to all topics and many of the expressed concerns were about protecting healthcare and public education.  There were numerous other town halls and rallies across Connecticut this week.
People wanted to know what they could do to push back, seeing how our Congressional Delegation is progressive on these issues and already "gets it."
Joe said a couple of times, we have to "own our democracy" on all levels, including town, state, and nationally.

In Connecticut, there are an unprecedented number of anti-worker, anti-middle class bills being proposed.  It's almost like those proposing them feel emboldened, like this is their moment to push this right wing agenda.  And it's happening in other states too. These movements have the financial backing of the Koch brothers and their allies.  The commonality in every one of their proposals is that they result in a shift of money from the middle class to the people at the top.

It is easy to think that the rich have all the money and power and "what can I do alone?"
This is true. One person alone can do little.
And yet, one person alone can do everything.
When one person alone decides to get involved, to "own their democracy" they encourage others to join them and together we can to anything.

This past week was a week of town halls and rallies and on Tuesday, 4,000 workers filled the legislative office building in Hartford and said to lawmakers, "I WILL own my democracy," in a pushback on multiple anti-workers bills.
We must continue.

Yesterday, nearly 200 AFT Connecticut members met at the capitol in our yearly legislative conference to discuss concerns with lawmakers and to learn from each other how to push back.

In the next 6 weeks, AFT Connecticut will hold legislative breakfasts in a different town each Saturday morning.  Information is available at
They are an opportunity to come out and speak to your area state senator and representative, an opportunity to own your democracy.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A moral obligation

We are taught in nursing school that being a Registered Nurse is both an honor and an obligation.
We were told that our biggest obligation is to be a voice of advocacy for our patients and their families.
I believe that all the disciplines of healthcare are taught the same.
It is this obligation that leads nurses and other healthcare professionals to stand in unity, organize and collectively bargain.
It is the same obligation that drives our sisters and brothers in education and public service.

Our greatest obligation is to be an advocate to those we serve.

Central to fulfilling that obligation is the ability to speak freely, without fear of retaliation.
Otherwise, how can we advocate?

Let me speak from personnel experience.
When I started as a tech at my hospital, I felt I could speak to the president of the hospital, the head of nursing, and my boss, freely about my concerns, without fear of retaliation.
They would not always agree with me, or they might agree and be unable to act due to budget concerns, but we could have an open conversation and my obligation as an advocate was fulfilled.
With the "corporatization" of healthcare, the hospital became a business, and the top priority of the hospital shifted from caring for the patient to balancing the bottom line.
Balancing the bottom line is an important responsibility of a manager.
Certainly my members would be justifiably upset if leadership did not do so at AFT Connecticut.
But balancing the bottom line and caring for the needs of our patients are not mutually exclusive.
This shift in top priorities and the unwillingness to listen to alternative ideas is in direct opposition of the obligation to advocate for those we serve.
At this point, instead of being met with a conversation, we were met with closed ears and retaliation.

It was the loss of ability to advocate and the retaliation for doing so, that led us to organize and later led to a contract and labor/management meetings where we sit across the table as equals and discuss solutions.
It has restored the ability for us to advocate and that is all we wanted.

There is a wave of legislation, both nationally and in Connecticut, that threatens this obligation to advocate.
It is cloaked in the term "right to work."
Ironically, it is a movement that purports to protect the right to free speech. 
What it really does is weaken the bond between workers who wish to stand in unity. It is that ability to stand in unity that guarantees our ability to fulfill our obligation to advocate.
As such, so called "right to work" legislation is an affront to every profession that carries the solemn obligation to advocate for those they serve.

It is morally offensive.

Current "right to work" legislation is aimed at public sector employees.
In Connecticut, this would effect our healthcare members at The UConn Health Center.
But those in the private sector should not rest easy.
If those who put financial gain before caring for patients and families in the private sector are successful, you can be sure they are coming after us.

I urge all my sisters and brothers in nursing and other healthcare professions, private or public sector, to stand together in unity.
Only in this way can we guard our obligation to advocate.

This Tuesday, a bill is being heard before the Connecticut Legislature on this subject. Please take a few minutes to listen to Jan's message. She speaks about this bill and the different ways you can get involved to protect your ability to advocate.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


The new president has banned an entire religion from entering and in some cases, reentering, our country. People who have been properly vetted and is many cases, lived here for years.
His Secretary of Education wants to take public education funds (taxes) and give them to owners of private schools.
His HHS Secretary wants to take health insurance away from 28,000 Americans, and make it impossible for the rest of us to get insurance if we have a preexisting condition, kick us off our parents plan at age 18, not cover preventative care, and re-institute lifetime maximums on coverage.
His Attorney General wants to restrict voting rights.
His EPA Secretary has spent his political career trying to dismantle the very agency he now leads.

Need I go on?

Apparently I must, because now, he wants to roll back Dodd-Frank!

Dodd-Frank is the set of regulations enacted after the financial crisis of 2008.  It was part of the "bail-out" of banks deemed too big to fail.
Banks and financial institutions had made so many risky loans, while maintaining too little reserve, and when the economy started to decline, individuals and companies could not pay back the loans.

We can debate whether the bail-out should have occurred, but the fact is it did, and should too large to fail banks fail again, it would likely be repeated.  
Dodd-Frank better regulates large banks and Wall Street financial companies to decrease the likely-hood of another meltdown.
A total meltdown would have caused a worldwide depression, much worse than the multi-year recession in which many have not fully recovered.

But now our president, who campaigned as a man of the people, who is willing to take away healthcare coverage, public education, freedom of religion, the right to vote, environmental protection and more, is willing to risk another financial meltdown and bailout because:

“We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine that had nice businesses, they can’t borrow money,” Mr. Trump said in the State Dining Room during his meeting with business leaders. “They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow it because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank.”

The reason they cannot borrow the money is because those kinds of loans led to the problem last time and frankly, the people the president said he would represent and help, are sick of bailing out the fat cats.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Plan the work, Work the plan

Three times a year, leadership from around the country of the Nurses and other Professional division of AFT meet in policy and planning meetings.
This week, Jean Morningstar, Jo Ann Chapin and I attended from Connecticut.
For two days we met in a windowless room to discuss and strategize, guided by what we have heard from our members.
While the battles and concerns in each state differ, there are many that are the same.

As we sat there last Sunday, we were but 9 days into the Trump administration, yet the world had changed.
Let me be clear.
The right of workers to stand together in unity is under attack.
Our public education system is under attack.
Our access to quality, affordable healthcare is under attack.
The defense of our environment is under attack.
Our rights to due process are under attack.
Our economic stability is under attack.

In what has been now 15 days, the new president, through executive orders and selections for cabinet positions, has reshaped our country.
Far from making America great again, in which the common citizen's voice is heard and respected, he is making America great for the wealthy, at the expense of the rest of us.

This is the new reality we are faced with and the atmosphere in which our discussions took place.
But the AFT is a union of 1.6 million members in 5 divisions.  Our task was not to tackle all our challenges, our task was to look at healthcare.

So we got to work.
Large group discussions, followed by breakouts into small groups.
Flip charts and magic markers.
The flow of ideas.
White sheets lining the walls by the time we were done.

Back in the large group we shared the ideas each individual group had developed.
Some were common to most groups, some unique.
Then discussion on these ideas.

All of this will be summarized by staff and shared with the entire group for comments.
From that will come a strategy direction for the executive board to combine with similar planning from the other divisions.

The challenges to healthcare start with the selection of Tom Price as Secretary of HHS.
As a U S Representative, he was a leading voice on repealing the ACA.
He also supports cuts and block grants to Medicaid and privatization of Medicare.
His stance on all of these issues is problematic.
Additionally, we face problems with decreased choice due to consolidation and corporatization of hospitals, price gouging on pharmaceuticals, surprise billing, and medical debt.
These issues will effect the healthcare and pocketbook of all Americans.
State, local and personal budgets will be effected.

Repeal of the ACA without a replacement will result in 28 million Americans losing health insurance, will mean parent's insurance for children up to age 26 will end, will mean those with pre-existing conditions like cancer will be unable to get coverage, will mean those with a serious illness will hit their lifetime maximum coverage and lose insurance, and will eliminate preventative care coverage which in the long run saves money.

We have a lot of work to do.
But we have 1.6 million intelligent and dedicated members and we are part of a larger movement of concerned citizens from labor and community.
But more than that....
As healthcare professionals, we have an ethical responsibility to act to protect our patients, just as educators have to protect their students and public servants to protect those they serve.
The AFT is a union of professionals who carry with them, as a result of their career choices, extra ethical responsibilities and commitment.

We will defend our values, and we will do so with a plan.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Standing room only

We had set up chairs for 75 people, hoping we wouldn't be embarrassed by an empty room at the Norwich Senior Center on Wednesday night.
Our Eastern Connecticut Healthcare Coalition was holding a public forum with our congressman, Joe Courtney.
That worry was unfounded as people filed in, and filed in, and filed in.
But the time we started, we had filled every available spot with extra chairs and still people had to line the outside of the room standing.
Joe spoke of the threats to healthcare in this country that are coming from the Trump administration; the repeal of the ACA, block grants for Medicaid, privatization of Medicare. Local community and labor leaders echoed his concerns that 18 million Americans could  lose healthcare coverage. They also spoke of concerns over the further consolidation of hospitals into Mega Healthcare corporations who fail to put patients before profits.

But we weren't there just to lament over the destruction of healthcare, we were there as a call to action. Like the hundreds of thousands who gathered in Washington last weekend for the Women's March and the 10,000 who gathered in Hartford the same day, we were there because it's time to act.
That's why the room was full.
AFT Director of Nurses and Healthcare Professional's Kelly Trautner, and Local presidents Harry Rodriquez and Lisa D'Abrosca spoke of efforts underway to push back and called the concerned citizens to action.
The next morning, I was asked to stand in for AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel at a press conference while she spoke at a rally.
Like the night before, the hearing room for the press conference was packed with citizens speaking in support of a bill that would correct an injustice that denies undocumented Connecticut students the ability to apply for financial aid, financial aid that their tuition funds.
At the press conference State Senator Mae Flexor said Connecticut will reject the agenda of the Trump administration. At the Rally, Jan issued a call to action to protect higher education for all.

I believe we will.
These are dark times.
Some see others who may look different than us, maybe due to darker skin, a foreign accent, a different way to pray, or to love, as a threat.
But there are many who continue to see them as our sisters and brothers.
The packed Mall in Washington and the standing room only crowds in Connecticut show that.
At the forum on Wednesday night, CCAG's Ann Pratt reminded us that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Well, we're standing now, lets lace up those shoes, we've got marching to do.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

What now?

Yesterday, Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States.

What now?

Some people think that democrats should oppose everything he and the republican congress proposes, others think they should try to find common ground.
Most remain unsure what Trump believes in and stands for.

He ran on a populist campaign, promising to make America great again by putting American workers first in every decision. He spoke to that in his address yesterday.

But his actions don't match his words.

Many of his cabinet picks have histories that show they do not put middle class workers first.
His picks for Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Attorney General are particularly disturbing.
I have nothing against private schools but I do not think taking middle class taxes and paying for private schools is a middle class value, as DeVos advocates.
I have nothing against improving the Affordable Healthcare Act but I do not think a plan that would strip insurance from 18 million Americans, tax the value of employer provided health insurance as income, and come with lifetime maximums on benefits which mean if your child is born with a bad heart or develops leukemia, you would quickly run out of insurance, incur high medical debt, and maybe lose your house, is a middle class value, as Price proposed as a member of congress.

Recently Trump has started to promise that his healthcare plan would provide insurance for everyone.
Great, that's a middle class value!
Then why was his first executive order, signed only hours after becoming president, to repeal the ACA? His administration has marching orders to do everything they can under the law to circumvent the ACA until congress passes a full repeal.

So far, his actions don't match his words. They do not show he supports middle class values.

So what do we do to protect middle class workers and the students, patients and public we serve?

Let me tell you what I did yesterday.

With the other offices of AFT Connecticut, we visited with the members of UHP, the healthcare professionals of John Dempsey Hospital, 2,600 AFT nurses and other healthcare members who work for the state of Connecticut.  Bill Garrity, their president, had invited Jan Hochadel, AFT Connecticut president, there to lead a discussion about the challenges facing our state and country and how it will effect their hospital and patients.  For an hour she answered question after thoughtful question, and listened to their concerns.

That's what we do now. As always, the answer is simple. We talk to our members, we talk to our patients, we talk to our students and their parents, we talk to our legislators and we talk to our neighbors.
But, more than talk....
we listen.
We organize, we engage, we mobilize.
We stand together for the values we believe in. We stand with those who support our values and we oppose those who seek to destroy them.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Caring for those who care for us

In one study from 2014, 80% of nurses reported being attacked while on the job in the previous 12 months.
Think about that a minute.

Nurses, other healthcare professionals and social workers are attacked and injured on a daily basis and at alarming frequency.
These people who have dedicated their lives to the idea that Mark spoke of, "For when I was sick, you cared for me."

It is our duty as a society to care for those who care for us.

That presents us with 2 responsibilities.
First, we must do everything in our power to keep them safe and second we must support them in their life calling.
All workers who care for us need and deserve to be safe.
All workers who care for us deserve our support in their life mission and our agreement with them that healthcare is a fundamental right.

This past Tuesday, Helene Andrews from Danbury Hospital, I, and our brothers and sisters from across the country convened for a hearing in Washington DC on an OSHA standard on workplace violence. It's protection that workers have been advocating for and we had filed a petition asking that the process to develop such protection be started. Helene told her story of how she had been injured at work, not once, but twice. Each time required surgery. I participated in a panel discussion on what would be needed in a standard on workplace violence.
OSHA has excepted our petition and agreed to proceed with the multi-year process.

This Sunday, across the country, people will gather for a day of action for healthcare. We will meet at the Connecticut State Capital at 1:00 pm, with community, labor, and legislative leaders. information here
I hope you can join us.

It is an opportunity to affirm our belief that healthcare for all is a right.
It is an opportunity to show those who care for us that we will care for them.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

It's (Not) Just Business

How often do we see it?
Two large corporations merge, the CEO of the smaller corporation get a big payday and rides into the sunset.
The stockholders get a small bump in the price of their stock.
Everyone's happy.

Sometimes this is a good thing.
The CEO of a startup invests his capital and talent, develops a new idea, and is rewarded.
The acquiring corporation incorporates the new idea and improves their product.

Sometimes it's good for the CEOs and the stockholders, but not so much for consumers.
A corporation buys out a competitor, closes some locations, and now can charge whatever they wish for that cup of latte.

This week, Bruce Cummings, the CEO of L&M hospital, announced his retirement. He sighted the work he did shepherding in the merger of his community hospital and Yale Healthcare.
Now he's gone.
The question is, what are we left with in his wake?
Yale now has control of Healthcare along the entire coast of Connecticut.
Has Yale acquired some new ideas to incorporate on how to perform surgeries, or have they just positioned themselves better to demand what they want for the cost of doing those surgeries?

Not long ago, Hartford Healthcare acquired two other Eastern Connecticut community hospitals and Prospect Healthcare acquired yet two more.
The CEO of Manchester and Rockville Hospitals, now part of Prospect Healthcare, is now retired.
The CEO of Backus and Windham Hospitals, now part of Hartford Healthcare, is now a top executive of Hartford Healthcare.

Across this country, the mergers of big Hospital Corporations, Pharmaceutical Corporations, and Insurance Corporations is accelerating at breakneck speed in an "arms race" for the incredible amount of money that we spend on healthcare.

It would be one thing if these were coffee shops, and the concern was a higher priced Latte.
But they are not.
The concern is a closing of services at community hospitals and a decrease in competition has been shown to lead to increased costs of medical care.

Right now in Connecticut, the Governor's Certificate of Need Task Force, the very process that regulates such mergers, is nearing it's final recommendations.
They have an historic opportunity to deliver a set of recommendations that can protect the cost, access and quality of the healthcare of the citizens of Connecticut.
I pray they will.