Justice for Healthcare Workers
Declaration of Democracy, Dignity and Respect7/6/2006
July 4, 2006
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for workers to create a workers union and, therefore, to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which state, national and international law, religious principles and plain common sense entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of co-workers, patients and our community- the true owners of Eastern Maine Medical Center- compels us to declare the reasons for our workerís union.
We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all healthcare workers are created equal and that each of us plays a critical role in the functioning of EMMC. As such, we are endowed with certain inalienable rights that among these are fairness, respect and a voice at work. That to secure these rights, Unions are instituted among workers, deriving their just powers from the consent of the workers- whenever any form of union becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the workers to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new union, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Common sense tells us that we donít make rash decisions based on selfish or simplistic reasons. Often times, people are predisposed to suffer abuse in silence convinced they have no say and no right to speak out.
Our union is first and foremost pro-worker, pro-patients, pro-hospital and pro-healthcare- not anti-management- as we all have important roles to play in our healthcare system. Further, most problems occur more through improper checks and balances, where one personís concern is heard more loudly than others. Experience shows that real ownership and job satisfaction occurs when workers have a democratic voice at work, so that relations are mature, healthy and natural among equals, as opposed to a parent and child, or master and servant. Not to lay blame, but rather to illustrate the results of an unhealthy, top-down relationship common without a union, we give the following examples:
∑ Some in management have told us that if we donít like something about our jobs, we should find a job elsewhere, as if we had no stake in our job, had not put years of time and sacrifice into it.
∑ Some in management seek to promote an ultra positive, lock-step atmosphere, where alternative ideas or positive criticism are viewed as threats, as opposed to embracing a diversity of opinion as a key ingredient to progress.
∑ Some in management have taken our organizing as a personal attack, when in fact our union is about gaining a voice and becoming part of the solution to problems at our hospital.
∑ Some in management have retaliated against workers for bringing forth problems that need to be addressed by giving workers bad schedules, denying over-time pay and threatening and engaging in discipline for insubordination.
∑ In order to gain quality new-hires, which we agree is a concern, some in management have given higher pay, up to $3.00 more an hour, to do the exact same work as workers who have been here for years.
∑ To add insult to injury, some of us take on the added responsibility to train these new-hires who receive more pay than us and we donít even receive training pay.
∑ Some in management have engaged in favoritism regarding raises, work schedules and work loads.
∑ Some in management have disciplined workers in an arbitrary and inconsistent manner.
∑ Some in management claim to want workers to show ownership of the institution, yet they treat workers like children, behaving in a paternalistic manner toward us.
∑ At times it appears that they have engaged in a divide-and-rule management style, sowing strife and discontent among workers in order to secure the ends they wish to achieve.
∑ At times it appears that they have managed our community-owned, nonprofit hospital in manner that makes it less of a health care system and more of a health care industry.
∑ At times they have not listened to our voice at work and have shown little faith in our ability and ideas to improve the delivery of care.
∑ They tried to use $150 million to build a 4th hospital in Waterville, without any consultation with the workers.
∑ They have adopted attendance policies, which penalize us for being sick or caring for our loved ones, at times even violating federal laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act.
∑ They have enacted overly rigid time clock policies.
∑ They tell us not to work off the clock, but it is widely expected of us to do it nevertheless.
∑ They have spent time and money on expensive anti-union attorneys who specialize in misinformation and create division about unionization-all of which ultimately hurts patient care.
∑ They have conducted mandatory meetings where they seek convince us that everything is fine and there is no need for a union.
We have spoken to management individual and as groups numerous times about fixing the problems at work. We have filled out surveys with little or no response. We have been told repeatedly and in writing that we are ďat willĒ employees with no just cause rights, no due process rights, subject to the whims of management.
We recognize that only through a union can we become citizens as opposed to servants. Our union is a self-affirmation of our rights as humans and as workers to have a respected, protected, democratic voice at work. We have faith in the democratic process. We have faith in ourselves to advocate for issues that will better employee relations, patient care and ultimately our hospital as a whole.
We therefore declare before our co-workers and the greater community by our authority as the ones, who do the work, that we have a free and democratic union. As a free and democratic union, we have the power to advocate for better jobs and better healthcare, elect representatives, negotiate with management concerning wages, hours and working conditions and do all the acts and things that independent and democratic unions may do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of all that is good, we mutually pledge to each other our full solidarity.
Debby J. Cleary