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State Employees and State Enter Contract Negotiations Tomorrow

SEIU 1984 Logo

SEIU 1984 LogoConcord, NH, October 22, 2014 – The State Employees’ Association/SEIU Local 1984, which represents 11 thousand state employees, announced that negotiations for the 2015-2017 employment contract between the employees and the state will officially begin tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning, the employees’ bargaining team will meet with the State’s team for the first time to begin the process of negotiating an employment contract that both sides find reasonable and fair.  Typically, the first meeting is focused on establishing “ground rules,” such as dates, times, frequency, location of meetings; the structure of sessions; the bargaining environment; among other things.

“We are pleased to begin negotiations in October, which is really when we are supposed to begin by statute,” said the workers’ Bargaining Chairman, James Nall.  “It is encouraging that Governor Hassan has agreed to engage in the process before the remainder of the budget process.  We are appreciative of her willingness to begin earlier this time.”

Over the last few cycles, contract negotiations were not complete until late in the budget process; leaving both the workers and the state vulnerable to the ramifications of the legislature trying to fit funding into a nearly completed budget.  “It is great to feel that we are not an afterthought, this time,” said Nall.

The price tag of the current contract accounts for just 18% of the state’s annual expenditures.  “People are quick to assume that this is the line item to slash when balancing the state’s budget,” said Rich Gulla, SEA/SEIU 1984 president.  “In reality, far more is paid to private contractors, who carry out functions that may have previously been performed by state workers.  Interestingly, many of those contractors are from out of state, so when they receive payment from our tax dollars, that money is not spent here; it isn’t placed back into New Hampshire’s economy.  This ultimately hurts our state.”

“Before we begin the bargaining process each time, we send out a survey to all the employees in the unit,” said Nall. “It was not surprising that when responding to what one thing they would change about their job it was not their wages or benefits.  It was to provide high quality service to our citizens.  They want to have the resources to do their job. Our employees strive to provide the services to those in need – whether that’s someone who’s driving on state roads or someone needing assistance with child support.  That’s commitment and dedication.”

“Many state employees are now doing the jobs of two to three employees,” said Gulla.  “This is the result of repeated budget cuts and the elimination of over 1200 positions over the last decade.  Agencies are underfunded year after year.  Management is avoiding more layoffs by not filling vacant positions.  The amount of work to be done doesn’t decrease, though, it increases.  So services for the citizens of this great state are being negatively impacted.  That’s a problem.”

Changes related to workplace safety and wages will likely be included in this round of negotiations.

AFL-CIO Worker’s Voice PAC To Air Ads In Seven Key States

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With high stakes elections coming down to the wire across the country, the labor movement is going up on radio and TV in support of working family candidates.  The ads will build on the effective grassroots campaign that labor has been running for several months including door knocking, worksite leaflets and phone banking.

Workers’ Voice has just launched full 60 second radio ads designed to educate working families about the stakes on November 4th and promote the candidates who will work for their economic interests:

  • Senator Mark Begich (Alaska)
  • Senator Mark Udall (Colorado)
  • Congressman Bruce Braley (running for Senate in Iowa)
  • Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (running for Senate in Kentucky)
  • Congressman Mike Michaud (running for Governor in Maine)
  • Mary Burke (running for Governor in Wisconsin)

Each ad will run through Election Day in multiple markets across each state.

In addition, a 30 second television ad in Michigan launches today and will air through Election Day.

Each of these ads focus on economic issues and aim to clarify for voters which candidate will fight for a secure and growing middle class.

The Iowa radio ad is an example: By including Senate candidate Jodi Ernst’s own words in support of Social Security privatization, the ad steps above the din on an issue (retirement security) of deep-seated concern to working people in Iowa.

To listen to any of the radio ads, click below:

Alaska US Senate, Radio

Colorado US Senate, Radio

Iowa, US Senate Radio

Kentucky US Senate, Radio

Maine Governor Radio

Wisconsin Governor, Radio

And the Michigan Governor TV ad can be found here

Mass Nurses Alert Public Of Deteriorating Care At Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Nurses Make a Difference

Brigham & Women’s Hospital Nurses Hold Press Conference To Alert the Public About  Deteriorating Patient Care For the Most Critically Ill Patients

Partners HealthCare has increased patient assignments for nurses in the hospital’s ICUs in direct violation of a new state law requiring one-on-one attention to ensure patient safety

In conjunction with the press conference, nurses launched an effort to leaflet patients and families entering the hospital to warn them about the impact on their care, and the need to contact the hospital CEO to demand BWH follow the law

BOSTON, Mass. — The Registered Nurses at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, held a press conference today to alert the public about deteriorating patient care conditions and illegal practices by hospital management that are compromising the nurses’ ability to provide safe care and close monitoring for the most critically ill patients at this Level One trauma and transplant center. The press conference coincides with the launch of an effort by nurses to leaflet patients and families entering the hospital to warn them about the conditions and the impact on their care.

“The public needs to know that the health and safety of their loved ones is being placed in jeopardy here at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and it is being done in direct violation of a state law that is designed to ensure their safety,” said Patricia Powers, RN, an operating room nurse at the facility and chair of the nurses MNA/NNU local bargaining unit of more than 3,200 RNs at the facility.  “We want patients and families to know that they have a legal right to a safe standard of care at this hospital, and that they should not accept substandard care.”

The patient safety crisis at the Brigham comes at a time when Brigham & Women’s Hospital takes care of the state’s most critically ill patients, as evidenced by the high number of specialized intensive care units in the facility designed to provide minute-by-minute monitoring and cutting edge treatments for unstable, critically ill patients who are recovering from serious traumatic injuries, cardiac and thoracic surgery, acute medical conditions, premature and vulnerable infants, and patients recovering from heart, lung and kidney transplants. These patients demand one-one-one attention from BWH’s highly skilled nurses to help them recover.

To ensure the safety of critically ill patients, a new state law went into effect this month that mandates intensive care unit nurses can only be assigned one patient at a time. A nurse may care for a second patient only if the nurses on the unit have assessed that it is safe for both patients.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the law’s passage and its call for closer monitoring of ICU patients, the administration at BWH decided in August to cut the number of ICU beds and staff at the facility, eliminating five beds from the burn/trauma surgical intensive care unit and three beds from the thoracic intensive care unit. In addition, nurses in many of the hospital’s intensive care units have seen managers force them to take a second and even a third patient in direct violation of the law and the hospital’s own past practices.

“When nurses have too many patients, medical errors, complications, and even patient deaths are more likely, particularly for the highly vulnerable patients our ICU nurses take care of,” Powers said. “Now critically ill patients, who should have one-on-one attention, are being forced to share their nurse with another unstable critically ill patient, despite the strong objections by the nurses responsible for their care and safety.”

Since the hospital has implemented the cuts to ICU beds and increased nurses’ patient assignments, nurses have filed a number of official reports where their patient care assignments jeopardized the safety of their patients.

“To understand how serious this issue is for our patients, you need to understand how sick these patients are and what it takes to keep them safe,” Powers explained.  “We are talking about patients who may have just come out of major surgery, they may be intubated and connected to a ventilator to help them breathe, they may have numerous intravenous lines delivering highly sensitive medications into their bodies, they may be on dialysis, and connected to several monitoring devices to track their heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, brain function, etc.  And nurses are there to monitor and manage all of it, to interpret what the monitors are showing, to adjust the dosage of medications, to observe the patients skin coloring, pupil dilation, urine flow, all manner of signs and symptoms that show how well the patient is recovering; and depending on what the nurses see, they are there to take immediate action that could prevent a patient from going into crisis, and in many cases, it can mean the difference between life and death.  For years, our hospital has recognized the need for one nurse to be totally devoted to the care of these patients.  Now they want to divert nurses’ attention away from these patients, and hold them responsible for dividing their time among two of these very sick patients. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Recently, nurses on the thoracic intensive care unit, which cares for patients undergoing lung transplants, reported being forced to care for two patients, including highly vulnerable lung transplant patients, who should never share their nurse with another patient.  One nurse reported a potentially dangerous delay in responding to an alarm connected to a ventilator to breath for the patient because the nurse was in another room caring for another critically ill patient.

At a recent meeting with management where nurses reviewed these reports and informed the hospital of their obligation to follow the new law, management flatly refused to heed the nurses’ concerns or to follow the dictates of the new law.  Because the regulations regarding compliance with the law are still in development, the nurses have decided to go public with their concerns to pressure management to provide the care patients deserve.

ICU Care Cuts Part of Broader Effort by Partners to Cut Costs at the Expense of Patient Safety

The reduction of ICU beds and the increase in patient assignments in the ICU is having a ripple effect throughout the institution impacting the care and safety for patients in a number of other areas.  With fewer ICU beds and staff to care for them, critically ill patients who should be in an ICU bed cared for by a single nurse are now being held for hours in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) waiting for an ICU bed to open. Other ICU-ready patients are being held in the emergency department, where their nurse has two or three other patients under their care. Last week, the hospital was so busy, administration called a “Code Amber” which meant there were no beds available and patients had to be diverted to other hospitals. In the past, a Code Amber was called only when there was an external or internal disaster, such as when Hurricane Sandy hit, or the Marathon Bombing.  This Code Amber was called because there weren’t enough ICU beds and staff to care for the patients entering the hospital that day.

In addition to cutting care in the ICU the hospital has also decreased staff on its “code” team, eliminating a nurse from a group of specially trained staff who are on hand to respond to patient care emergencies. With the cuts in ICU staffing, it is more likely there will be situations where the code team is needed to revive a patient in crisis, yet with fewer code nurses, it will take longer to respond to those emergencies. When the nurses questioned the decision, management stated that cuts to the code team could save the hospital up to half a million dollars.  Coincidently, B&W CEO Betsy Nabel has recently received a 26 percent raise of just that amount – $500,000.

“As nurses, we provide 90 percent of the clinical care our patients receive. We have always been proud to be Brigham nurses because we could provide the high quality nursing care our patients needed,” Powers concluded.  “But now we are appalled that the leadership of Partners HealthCare, an organization that posted more than $600 million in profits last year and is spending millions of dollars in legal fees to win approval to expand their empire, has chosen to cut care to our patients and violate the law at the expense of our patients’ safety. We cannot and will not stand for these dangerous practices and we will be out here to educate the public that depends on this hospital to work with us to ensure they receive the care they deserve.”

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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses’ union in the United States with more than 170,000 members from coast to coast.

AFT and National Nurses United Praise New CDC Ebola Guidelines For Healthcare Workers

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CDC-logo-4inch

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new Ebola guidance for U.S. healthcare workers.  AFT and National Nurses United have been pushing for more restrictive guidance to protect the millions of healthcare providers in the US.

After the news broke AFT President Randi Weingarten released the following statement:

“At hospitals throughout our nation, nurses and healthcare professionals are doing everything they can to be ready to care for whoever comes through their doors. The CDC’s new guidance for healthcare workers and the positive actions taken by the Obama administration fall directly in line with what our members called for last week: infection-control protocols and worker-preparedness plans; dedicated, specially trained teams of willing staff; and the proper equipment for nurses and healthcare professionals working in America’s hospitals.

As the second-largest nurses union in the United States, the AFT is working to keep our communities safe and healthy. That is why we are calling on the CDC to issue additional Ebola guidance for non-hospital healthcare settings and expanded guidance to guarantee wages and benefits for quarantined healthcare workers—so workers won’t have to choose between safety and living expenses. And we renew our call for hospitals to incorporate the voices of nurses and healthcare workers in the development and implementation of Ebola protocols.

We look forward to being a partner with the CDC to expand and improve guidance on Ebola or any other health issues facing America.”

The National Nurses United released the following:

National Nurses United today welcomed the call in the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for “rigorous and repeated training” for nurses and other health workers responding to the Ebola virus as NNU has been urging for two months, but said some substantial questions and concerns remain.

“It is clear from the abrupt change in position of the CDC in some areas that the registered nurses have moved the country and the CDC as the nurses champion protection for their patients and articulate the vulnerabilities for themselves. Nevertheless, the optimal standards should be in place tomorrow and, regrettably, they will not be,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.

With still significant questions regarding the most effective personal protective equipment, and the ongoing lack of any mandate on the hospitals to comply with the highest standards and protocols, “it is clear that nurses are going to have to continue to fight every step of the way to demand that every patient, every nurse, every frontline healthcare worker has the protection they need,” DeMoro said.

“The governing theme must be the precautionary principle, the highest safety standards in the face of this virulent disease, so that no nurses, other frontline health workers, or patients have to put their lives in jeopardy,” DeMoro said.

DeMoro noted that the call for continuous training, especially in group sessions with everyone practicing putting on and taking off the protective equipment, echoes a key demand of nurses.

“Most hospitals continue to fall far short of that standard,” she said. A national NNU survey, which now has nearly 3,000 responses from nurses in over 1,000 facilities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that 84 percent of nurses say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for nurses to interact and ask questions.

Second, DeMoro called the guideline that any protective equipment leave ‘no skin exposed,’ a “direct testament to the courage of Briana Aguirre,”  the Texas Presbyterian Hospital RN who “made the incredibly brave decision” to publicly disclose that the suits at her Dallas hospital left exposed the necks and other skin of nurses who cared for Ebola-infected patients.

“Briana will be remembered as the Karen Silkwood of our time,” DeMoro said.  The gap in the suits was also revealed in a statement from Aguirre and other Dallas RNs released by NNU last week.

However, the CDC guidelines remain unclear on the most effective protective equipment, and, significantly, have their own gaping hole in the option offered to hospitals to select which protective equipment to use “based on availability” and other factors.

DeMoro called that loophole “an open invitation for hospitals to choose the cheapest protective equipment that will continue to put nurses and other health workers at considerable risk. Years of experience with our private hospital industry have demonstrated that far too many hospitals routinely put their budget goals and profit margins ahead of public safety, including in access to protective equipment.”

“We are contacting the CDC for specifics on the proper protective equipment and whether it meets the precautionary principle and the highest standard, in particular, full body coverage that prevents any blood or viral penetration,” DeMoro said.

Finally, she noted, “CDC readily admits it is not a regulatory agency. It has no authority to compel hospitals to comply with any guidelines.

“That is why we will continue to insist that Congress and the White House should mandate all hospitals meet the optimal uniform, national standards and protocols in order to safely protect patients, all healthcare workers and the public,” DeMoro said.

The public is invited to join that call by signing an NNU petition online at:

http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/page/s/national-nurses-united-urges-you-to-take-action-now?utm_source=nnu&utm_medium=btn&utm_campaign=petition

Strike Against FairPoint Continues as Nor’easter Approaches

FairPoint Communications

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner

Strikers fear replacement workers can’t handle complications of looming storm

Manchester, NH—Tuesday marks the fifth day of a strike against FairPoint Communications by nearly 2,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The strike began last Friday after FairPoint walked out of negotiations and unilaterally imposed contract terms that cut retiree health care, froze pensions, and increased health care costs.

Hundreds of FairPoint employees continue to picket 12 hours a day at dozens of sites across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. They have been joined by supporters from other unions in the region and by elected leaders, including New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan.

With the arrival of the season’s first nor’easter this week, experienced technicians are expressing concern that FairPoint’s replacement workers will be unable to handle the challenges that come with high winds and heavy rain.

Steve Soule, a Manchester, New Hampshire, service technician who has been on the job for 17 years, explains, “Normally, with a storm like this, me and my fellow techs would be preparing generators and staging our materials to respond to weather-related outages. We would be preparing for possible flooding which can knock out systems that provide 911 and other essential communications. I’m concerned that FairPoint doesn’t have enough staff with the expertise to deal with a widespread service interruption.”

Soule went on to talk about the local knowledge that’s vital to keeping people connected and the public safe. “Because many of us have been working in these communities for decades, we know where the vulnerabilities are. We know where back-up batteries might be weak and where phone and DSL lines are most likely to go down,” said Soule. “Some inexperienced replacement worker from out-of-state couldn’t possibly anticipate those problems. I worry that if this storm is as bad as some of the nor’easters we’ve experienced in the recent past, our communities could see lengthy service interruptions made longer because of this replacement workforce. It’s not just about convenience, it’s about public safety.”

Workers on the picket lines stress that they are on the same side as their customers. They want Northern New England to have the best possible phone and Internet service. To provide 21st-century technology to businesses, schools, and families requires well-trained, experienced, local workers who know the system.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.fairnessatfairpoint.com.

UnionJobs.Com List of Open Communications Positions (10-16-14)

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OCTOBER 16, 2014 WEEKLY SUMMARY OF COMMUNICATIONS POSITIONS POSTED AT UNIONJOBS.COM

AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations)
Development Manager, Digital Strategies Department  District of Columbia
Digital Strategies Fellow, Digital Strategies Department  District of Columbia
Strategic Campaigns Coordinator, Organizing Department  District of Columbia
Safety and Health Fellow, AFL-CIO Safety and Health Department  District of Columbia
Corporate Research Analyst, Office of Investment  District of Columbia
Campaign Coordinator, Campaigns Department Ohio


AFSCME
(Council 3)
Database Analyst and IT Coordinator, Baltimore  Maryland


AFT
(American Federation of Teachers)
Communications Director, Local 400, PFT (Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers)  Pennsylvania
Human/Civil Rights Advocacy Director, Human Rights and Community Relations Department District of Columbia
Senior Associate/Writer, Communications Department District of Columbia


California Labor Federation

Communications Specialist  California


CNA/NNU
(California Nurses Association (CNA) / National Nurses United (NNU) AFL-CIO)
Web Editor, Oakland  California


CPD
(Center for Popular Democracy)
Fair Workweek Campaign Coordinator, New York City,  New York


FEA
(Florida Education Association)
Director of Information Technology, Tallahassee, Florida  (National Posting)


LIUNA
(Laborers International Union of North America)
Media Outreach Manager, Washington D.C.  District of Columbia


NNU
(National Nurses United)
Video Specialist, Oakland  California
Educator – Immediate Opening, San Francisco Bay area  California
Communications Specialist, Oakland California


NTEU
(National Treasury Employees Union)
Media Specialist (Posted: 9/24/2014) District of Columbia


NYHTC
(New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council)
Video Communications SupervisorNew York


PASO
(Project for International Accompaniment and Solidarity)
2014-2015 Fellow  Bogota, Colombia


PASO
(El Proyecto de Acompañamiento y Solidaridad Internacional)
Becario 2014-2015, (español) Bogota, Colombia


Public Citizen – Global Trade Watch

Communications Officer  District of Columbia
National Field Director  District of Columbia


SAG-AFTRA
(Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists)
Video Specialist – Communications & Marketing Department, Los Angeles  California


SEIU
(1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East)
Communications Specialist, Boston  Massachusetts
Web-Graphic Designer, Baltimore  Maryland


SEIU
(Local 32BJ)
Communications Specialist: Mid-Atlantic Region, Philadelphia based Pennsylvania
Regional Communications Manager: New York  New York


SEIU
(Local 284)
Communications Director, Minneapolis Minnesota


SEIU
(Local 721)
Communications Specialist  California


SEIU
(SEIU Healthcare 775NW)
Communications Specialist, Seattle  Washington


UFCW
(United Food and Commercial Workers International Union)
Senior Strategic Targeting Coordinator, Washington D.C.  District of Columbia


UFT
(United Federation of Teachers)
Digital Content Specialist, New York  New York


United NY

New Media Associate, Manhattan New York


Working America
(a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO)
Health Care Outreach Associates, Albuquerque, NM; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; Greensboro, NC; Houston, TX; Miami, FL; New York, NY; Orange County, CA; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Washington, DC  (National Posting)

AFT Announces Winners of 2014 Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism

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WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers announced today the winners of its second annual Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism, a competition among AFT state and local affiliates to shine a light on innovative, inspiring and collaborative solutions to tough problems.

Two first-place prizes were awarded: Milwaukee Area Technical Federation, AFT Local 212, won for its solution to lagging graduation and course completion rates, while the other prize will be shared by the United University Professions and the New York State Public Employees Federation for their successful campaign to save Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., from privatization and to promote investment in the facility and actually expand healthcare in Brooklyn. The AFT’s Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism—which was created in partnership with the Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT Innovation Fund—comes with $25,000 for each of the two winners.

“These unions thought outside the box and worked with community partners to come up with innovative, and ultimately successful, solutions to seemingly intractable problems,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Solution-driven unionism is about fighting for ideas that help the people we serve and that help our communities thrive.”

AFT Local 212 and Milwaukee Area Technical College:
Working Together to Enhance District and Community Engagement

Milwaukee Area Technical College’s graduation rate had been under 50 percent, and its course completion rate at about 65 percent, when members of the Milwaukee Area Technical Federation, Local 212, developed a program to enhance student and teacher engagement in the learning process as a means to improve student completion. Among other successful solutions over the past several years, the program created more ways for students to engage with faculty and community. The Center for Engaged and Service Learning, for example, provides many opportunities for students to do service work in the community.

From 2008-2011, MATC had an increase of 378 graduates, to 2,394 students, and is on schedule to graduate 3,900 by the year 2020. The overall course completion rate (defined as the percent of students completing a course with a C or better) rose between 2009 and 2012, with the most significant improvement for courses in the 200-level transfer courses.

MATC President Vicki Martin praised union-management collaboration, noting the expansion and impact of engaged and service learning as a way to enhance student success. “Results show that this work is a shining example of how great things can be achieved when we work together for the common good of students and the community that we serve,” Martin said.

The Campaign to Save Downstate Medical Center

For more than two years, members of the United University Professions and the New York State Public Employees Federation worked to keep the State University of New York’s University Hospital at Downstate Medical Center from being privatized. University Hospital is the state-run teaching hospital connected to Downstate’s medical school and treats nearly 400,000 patients each year, regardless of patients’ ability to pay. Privatization threatened the healthcare safety net for an extremely poor and diverse population, along with the jobs of 3,000 people represented by the United University Professions.

UUP and PEF realized that the fight to solve the problem of healthcare in Brooklyn required a strong alliance with patients, medical students, parents, alumni, faith and business groups, and other unions and community allies. As a result, they created the Coalition of Faith, Labor and Community Leaders, which organized mass rallies, legislative meetings, community forums and a media campaign.

The unions also devised the “Brooklyn Hospitals Safety Net Plan,” which called for developing decentralized, comprehensive ambulatory care centers staffed by retrained personnel from the inpatient services of Downstate and 14 other Brooklyn hospitals. These outpatient centers would serve about a half-million underserved, underinsured or uninsured Brooklyn residents and are intended to be a national model for training medical residents in comprehensive ambulatory care. Funding could well be secured from a Medicaid waiver, and the unions will be helping to oversee the plan’s implementation.

Downstate Medical Center remains a public, full-service hospital for the residents of central Brooklyn. SUNY Downstate, including the medical school, remains viable. While approximately 65 positions were cut, the campaign was successful in preventing even greater job losses and maintaining access to healthcare for all who need it.

“UUP and PEF were instrumental in creating a community effort to ensure that those who have the least continue to have access to high-quality healthcare in their neighborhood. This was a monumental, but ultimately successful, effort by the unions and their indefatigable community partners,” Weingarten said.

This is the AFT’s second annual Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism. The 2013 winners were the New York Performance Standards Consortium—39 diverse New York state public high schools that received waivers from four of the state’s five standardized exams to emphasize project-based instruction—and AFT Connecticut, for its cost-saving Health Enhancement Program.

FairPoint Workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont On Strike

FairPoint Communications

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner

Unions Say Company Refuses to Compromise
to Preserve Reliable Service and Good Jobs

Augusta, ME—At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, October 17th, nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications (FRP) in northern New England will go on strike.  Early Friday morning they will establish picket lines at hundreds of work sites across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

“The company’s actions have brought us to this place,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2327 in Maine. “We did not want to take this step. Our members want to work; they want to take care of their customers. However, our bargaining team worked as hard as we could to reach a fair agreement that would preserve good jobs and help the company prosper. We’ve offered significant concessions to this company that would save them hundreds of millions of dollars. But they absolutely refuse to compromise on any significant issue.”

Negotiations began on April 25th, when the company came to the table with proposals that would cost workers more than $700 million. The company sought to freeze pensions, raise health care costs, cut retiree health care, and institute a two-tier wage system that would pay new hires as little as minimum wage. In addition, the company sought to end job security and outsource union members’ work to out-of-state and foreign contractors.

After dozens of bargaining sessions during which the company rejected every significant union proposal, the company declared an impasse on August 27th and imposed the terms and conditions of their proposals on the workers. The unions have charged the company with violating federal labor law and are seeking injunctive relief from the National Labor Relations Board.

Employees say the North Carolina-based company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, wants to slash labor costs in order to either sell the business or satisfy shareholders with dividends. “This company is largely owned by a small number of Wall Street hedge funds like Angelo, Gordon & Co.,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400. “Their priority is to squeeze as much money as possible out of the workers who’ve kept this company going, not to provide the 21st-century telecommunications system that northern New Englanders need and deserve.”

Union leaders say the company hired a notorious “union avoidance” law firm, Seyfarth Shaw, to lead the negotiations with the goal of forcing draconian terms on the workers. “It is clear that this company never intended to reach a negotiated agreement with our members,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire. “They put their outrageous proposals on the table on April 25th and never budged. That is not good faith. That is not compromise and cooperation. It is disrespect, pure and simple. Our members refuse to work under these conditions any longer.”

Members of IBEW and CWA as well as supporters from other unions and community organizations will picket at work sites in order to bring public awareness to their situation and to deter replacement workers from crossing their picket lines. They will ask customers and service providers not to cross the lines to do business or make deliveries to FairPoint locations.

“This fight is about keeping good middle-class jobs in our region and making sure that customers get the service they deserve from well-trained, experienced workers, not low-wage temps from out-of-state or overseas,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont. “Our members have been organizing and educating the public for well over a year. While they would much rather continue to work and take care of our customers, they are absolutely united and ready to strike for as long as it takes to win a fair agreement.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.fairnessatfairpoint.com.

Ebola Outbreak Shows Need for Stronger Protection for Health Care Workers, Says National Safety Group

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With OSHA unable to inspect all hospitals, workers must have a voice in addressing workplace hazards

NY Committee for Occupational Safety and Health
Has Fact Sheets for workers facing Ebola risks 

Longmeadow, MA:  Reports that a second Dallas hospital worker has been infected with the Ebola virus show the need for stronger and more comprehensive on-the-job protections for health care workers, says the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Nina Pham, Amber Vinson and their families,” said National COSH executive director Mary Vogel.  “We’re also thinking of all the health care workers across America who are exposed, every day, to serious risks to their own health and safety.”

“The Ebola virus can be fatal – and so can many other hazards faced by health care workers,” said Vogel.  To ensure a safe working environment, “health care employers must implement comprehensive workplace health and safety programs.”

That means workers receive adequate training, access to the right protective equipment – and most important, a voice in developing workplace standards so hazards can be prevented before workers are harmed.  Workers must also be protected from retaliation, Vogel said, when reporting hazardous conditions and violations of safety standards.

The New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), an affiliate of National COSH, has a fact sheet available for any workers at risk of exposure to the Ebola virus, and a specific fact sheet for aircraft cabin cleaners and cargo handlers.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the health care and social assistance industry reported more than 653,900 on-the-job injuries and illnesses in 2010, the highest for any private sector industry in the United States. By comparison, workers in the manufacturing sector reported slightly over 500,000 injuries and illnesses that same year – 152,000 fewer than health care workers.

“It’s a common assumption that a hospital or clinic must be a safe place to work, but the fact is that health care is a hazardous occupation,” said Vogel. “Every day, while taking care of others, health care workers face serious risks to their own health and safety.”  Just a few of the many problems they face, said Vogel, include contamination from infectious disease; exposure to radiation and hazardous chemicals; sticks from needles and other sharp objects; repetitive strain injuries from heavy lifting; and the threat of workplace violence.

Despite the known hazards associated with working in health care, U.S. OSHA inspected just 138 out of thousands of U.S. hospitals in FY 2011.  State safety agencies inspected an additional 233 hospitals.

“OSHA has just one inspector for every 66,000 covered employees in seven million workplaces,” said Vogel.  “Certainly, the agency needs more person power and stronger enforcement authority.  But in health care and other settings, the surest way to limit workplace hazards is for workers themselves to have a strong voice in setting – and enforcing – workplace standards.”

  

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.

To learn more about the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, visit: http://www.coshnetwork.org

Students Protest Canceling SRC Teachers Contracts, SRC Chairwomen Simms Tells Students “You Belong In Jail”

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This is a special cross post from Sean Kitchen of the Raging Chicken Press who have been covering the anti-union activities surrounding in the Philadelphia school district.

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Mother of Student Protester, “I am appalled and ashamed at the behavior of Sylvia Simms”

By Sean Kitchen

Yesterday evening, SCR Chairwoman Sylvia Simms hosted a screening of the controversial movie Won’t Back Down, an anti-union file that promotes the right-wing stereotypes of public school teachers.  At the screening, students from the Philadelphia Student Union staged a protest chanting “We wont back down, Philly is a union town.”  This is the same organization that planned last week’s student strikes at Science Leadership Academy and the Creative and Performing Arts in South Philadelphia.  At the meeting, Simms is reported yelling “You must go to a failing school…you belong in jail,” to the student protesters, but some of these students attend Philadelphia School District’s magnet school, Science Leadership Academy.  The Raging Chicken Press was able to reach out to Suzanne Anderson the mother of a SLA student striker who participated in last night’s protest.

When asked about her feelings on the School Reform Commission’s decision to cancel the teachers’ contract, she wrote:

I think canceling the teacher’s contract (essentially eviscerating the union) was illegal, immoral and clearly an effort to intentionally undercut and sabotage public education. I know it’s been done over and over again over the last 25 years, but it boggles my mind that an employer takes the position that the workers bear the responsibility to personally finance a bail out of their “company” to save their jobs. It’s profoundly manipulative because teachers aren’t just employees. They are fully invested in the mission of their work and have, sadly, internalized the propaganda of  self-sacrifice to mitigate damaging the students they are dedicated to serve. It’s perverse and unsustainable.

There has been a clear dismantling of Public Works in my lifetime. parks, utilities, transportation, education. All are things that formed the bedrock of the US middle class.  Public education seems to now be expendable. A privilege saved for those who can afford it. Teachers are villainized as lazy, incompetent and greedy. The press keeps minimizing this contract breach as “greedy teachers who don’t want to pay their fair share toward their healthcare benefits.” “It’s only $70 a paycheck.” But it’s much more than that for families that now see less coverage and a $6000 a year pay-cut with exponentially more work to do, crippling micro-management by legislators and the self-serving toxic standardized testing machine. The teacher have absolutely no recourse, under specter of losing their  livelihood with the threat of losing their teaching credentials if they strike.

Then when asked about Sylvia Simms losing her cool on public school students, she went on to say:

schoolsI am appalled and ashamed at the behavior of Sylvia Simms, and some of the other adults, at this gathering. They shamefully menaced the same school children they are sworn to protect and serve,  insulted and shamed them because they dared to challenge the authority of the SRC. They specifically denigrated and belittled my kid, who is incredibly successful, by anyone’s measure.

Both my daughters attend Science Leadership Academy, where independent, critical thinking is taught, valued and lived.  It seems like the people in charge this evening wanted the kids to walk in lock-step and went completely berserk when the kids thought for themselves, stood up for themselves. There’s a scene in that stupid movie they screened tonight where the evil UNION “tenurized” teacher engaged in very similar behavior to that of Sylvia Simms and her ilk towards my daughter and her colleagues, betraying their true character and beliefs. A teacher would lose their job for treating a student like that.  I only hope the videos taken this evening are located and released, so the truth doesn’t get twisted and distorted by the SRC and their henchmen.

Originally posted at Raging Chicken Press.

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