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.