Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Contract Negotiations 2016, Session 4: Staffing & Leaves of Absence


SHARE and UMass Memorial had their fourth contract negotiations session on Wednesday, August 24. This week, we focused on:

  • Staffing. This is an issue that SHARE brought to the table. Front-line employees on our negotiating team explained the trend toward working with fewer hands in each department, and the frustrations and hazards of working with a thin crew. We discussed with management a range of possibilities for addressing that problem, as described in more detail below.
  • Leaves of Absence (LOAs). This is an issue that management brought to the table. Managers described how many SHARE members take LOAs, and how difficult it is to staff a department when people are out. Of particular interest to management is that our hospital provides job protections beyond those mandated by the law, including protections for SHARE members who work less than 1250 hours each year. SHARE expressed a number of interests, including that we have always believed that part-time members--many of whom have family obligations or can't get full-time work in the hospital--should have full access to medical leaves and other benefits.

Read on for more detail . . .


If you’re reading this, you probably already know the answer. You’re working on the front lines yourself, and you know what your co-workers are saying. We presented to management facts from the most recent anonymous SHARE surveys, including:

  • 41% of SHARE members disagree that staffing levels are adequate in their departments. That's 660 SHARE members.
  • In all, SHARE members wrote nearly 500 comments in the survey expressing concern about their workload or staffing levels in their department. The SHARE Negotiating Team read aloud a couple dozen of these comments so that the management negotiating team could hear what SHARE members have to say. (We made sure all comments were anonymous, leaving out department details.)

Of course, SHARE recognizes that more staff cost money. We want our hospitals to be financially stable, and we don't want to go back to the days of substantial layoffs nearly every year. We also know that sometimes the problem isn't just the number of staff -- if you spend a bunch of your shift looking for linen, that's a system problem that needs to be fixed.

That said, many SHARE members who have been here for any length of time are now operating in departments that have seen significant decreases in staffing levels, and are now feeling the effects as the resulting stresses build up. Many people leave their shifts exhausted, and worried about what they might have missed because they were running so fast all day. 

SHARE members don't know how the decisions are made about how many staff a department has, and we aren't part of those decisions. When decisions are made without us, they're made without all the information, which isn't good for us or the hospital.


The management side listed the kinds of LOAs that a SHARE member might potentially take. They say that intermittent leaves create particular problems for department staffing, particularly when those leaves are taken unexpectedly. SHARE has made a number of data requests to better understand how often these leaves are being taken, and how changing any policies would actually affect staffing. The kinds of LOAs break down into two broad categories:

Members of the management team highlighted they’re focused on the systematic problems that result from these leaves. They recognize their legal obligations to protect jobs. They said that this discussion isn’t about calling into question the legitimacy of leave requests, but about addressing the staffing issues that result from leaves of absence.

SHARE pointed out that the issues of LOAs and staffing are linked. When departments are staffing with just enough staff, it's tough to run the department when people are out sick.

We’ll continue working on these issues through joint working groups, and be back at the table for negotiations next week. Stay tuned for more . . .

Friday, August 19, 2016

Documenting Department Policies -- Getting Rid of the Gray

SHARE members sometimes become frustrated by what they see as "gray areas" in the contract. In an attempt to fix some of these issues, SHARE has made a proposal in contract negotiations to systematize several department-level decisions in black-and-white.

Why the Gray?

SHARE represents almost two hundred job titles, in departments ranging from the tiny variety with two secretaries who work day shift, to enormous departments such as the Emergency Room, which has seventy-four SHARE members, in a variety of jobs, working shifts 24/7. That range leads to some complex challenges. For example, how do you write a vacation policy that would serve all those departments well, especially since they all start off with different ways of handling vacations?

SHARE's answer to that question is to emphasize the input of SHARE members in the department. The SHARE contract has always said that the way vacations are scheduled should be decided in the department, in discussions between the local SHARE members and the local managers. Our position has been that department policies will be different, and differences between departments are ok, as long as the SHARE members in each department have a say.

Most often, where SHARE encounters problems, it's not because of differences between departments, it's because of confusion. In some departments, the vacation policy is very clear because it's written down clearly. If a new manager or a group of SHARE members wants to change the policy because things have changed, they can involve everyone in that discussion. All good.

In other departments, however, the vacation policy isn't written down, and SHARE members get surprised by how it happens each year, or because changes get made without involving staff.

Developing a System for Clarifying and Including SHARE Member Input

SHARE is proposing that every department make sure they have a written policy for the parts of the contract that are left up to SHARE members and their managers to work out in the department. We'd avoid a lot of confusion and problems. SHARE and HR would provide help for any department having a tough time reaching a consensus agreement. We are working toward an agreement that would create deadlines and accountability in order to make sure these policies get documented.

(We also discussed absenteeism and the Massachusetts Earned Sick law at negotiations this week.)

Partnership Day at FMCS Chicago

While some SHARE staff organizers were in for the long-haul at the FMCS Conference this week, other SHARE leaders made a quick hop out to Chicago and back for the kickoff event: Partnership Day. (It made for a long day . . . but some SHARE folks had to be back for contract negotiations early the next morning.)
A strong union is necessary for
a strong partnership, says
Tom Kochan of MIT

Partnership Day showcased six union-management partnerships that have survived and even thrived for more than a decade. Two groups talked about partnerships in healthcare: Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of KP Unions, and LA County Health Agency and the Service Employees International Union. (Click here for the full list and agenda.)  

The keynote speaker for the event was former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.

"Over and over, each group talked about how hard it is work in partnership. It's easier to go the traditional way, and be adversarial. But they also said the results are better in partnership: better for the employees, the patients, and for management," said SHARE Organizer, Janet Wilder.

SHARE Organizer Will Erickson's take-away idea was that any Labor-Management partnership--however well-developed, strategically planned, and strong it may seem--is always fragile.

Both SHARE and UMass Memorial management learned
about union-management partnerships in Chicago:
Kati Korenda, Senior Director,
Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence,
and Bobbi-Jo Lewis, SHARE Co-President
Kati Korenda of the Heart and Vascular Center told us that she was struck by the story of International Paper, which, in its long history, had its share of labor-management strife, including strikes and lockouts; at a critical moment, however, they turned around the direction of their relationship, and their partnership has led the company to new vibrancy and success.

Each time SHARE talks with union folks from Kaiser Permanente, we learn more about how we might work in partnership at UMass Memorial, and what we might get out of it. Denise Duncan, President of UNAC/AFSCME, which represents RNs in Southern California told us over dinner, 
"I was against this at first. But now I'm convinced that partnership is the way to go. We have UNAC members who work at Kaiser Permanente and at other more traditional employers, so I see the difference every day. Our members at Kaiser have better contracts, and a better experience day-to-day at work."

Partnership Day panel, with the Kaiser group on the left,
Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld,
and the LA County group on the far right.

Future @ Work: SHARE at the FMCS Conference 2016

SHARE leaders have travelled to Chicago this week to attend the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services Conference. The event brings together an all-star cast of labor and industry leaders, as well as academics and facilitators.

SHARE/UMass Memorial
Interest-Based Bargaining Facilitator, 
Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld,
moderating the Partnership Day discussion
In past years, SHARE has presented at the conference, describing our unique kind of union, as well as our successes with UMass Memorial to engage our members in improving patient experiences.

This year, the theme is “Future @ Work.” SHARE has focused its attention on the various models of union-management partnership to better understand how we can better cultivate our own union for the future. Participants at this year’s conference have been invited to:

  • Learn from distinguished labor, management, and new economy thought leaders
  • Problem Solve at workshops focused on actual situations and practical solutions
  • Network with labor relations and workplace professionals from around the country and the world
  • Prepare your organization for the future with advice from experts who are forging paths to partnership and organizational success

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich,
delivering the keynote address
at FMCS 2016 Partnership Day
The FMCS is an independent agency within the Federal Government whose mission is “to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation.” Their staff provides mediation and conflict and resolution services to business, government, and community groups around the country. Speakers at this year’s conference  include national labor-management and economy leaders, such as Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO; Bill Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Company; and Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor.

We’re looking forward to hearing reports from the various panels, presentations, and workshops that our friends are attending. More to come . . .

Friday, August 12, 2016

Contract Negotiations 2016: Session #2


SHARE and UMass Memorial had our second contract negotiations session on Wednesday, August 10. As we reported last week, these negotiations continue to feel different from past negotiations. One key difference is the use of “co-facilitation,” a new process involving one union and one management leader to steer each discussion. This week we continued our focus on issues from the previous session:

  • Interactions between SHARE members and supervisors and managers, which SHARE brought to the table. This week, Tod Wiesman (AVP, Performance, Learning, and Education) addressed the negotiators; he described the ideas that the hospital’s executive leadership is developing to train and cultivate hospital leaders.

  • Increasing flexibility for cross-campus floating, which management brought to the table. This week, five front-line managers were brought in to describe their interests in floating SHARE employees. We also established an additional side table to drill down further on the issue of floating.

We started with 2 difficult issues, where managers and union leaders start from very different places. We are working to understand each other, and to try to find common ground.

For more info, read on...


Of course, every round of negotiations will feel different. In the three or so years between contracts, things change. Each negotiations, SHARE welcomes a few new members to its team, and misses a few from before. That said, our team remains relatively constant: a majority of our team members have negotiated before. On the flip side, UMass Memorial has an entirely new Executive Leadership team since our previous negotiations, and the leadership of the hospital’s Labor Relations department has completely turned over since our last negotiations. This results in a new management negotiating team. While many of the members of their team bring significant experience to the table, the leaders of their team are experiencing Interest Based Bargaining for the first time.

The teams at the main table are also bigger than we’ve had in the past. This has the advantage of people bringing experiences from a wide range of departments to the discussion. Management's team is a combination of Human Resources people, and front-line and middle managers. 

Though we are trying to use Interest Based Bargaining, we can't leave history behind entirely, and it’s easy to fall into old habits of traditional bargaining. We’re all working to establish good foundations for ongoing relationships, as we tackle some of the most ambitious subjects SHARE has addressed in negotiations.

A New Experiment: Co-Facilitation

One part of these negotiations that is new to everyone involved is “co-facilitation.” Our early training sessions and initial bargaining session were led by a facilitator, Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld. He trained two individuals from each side to act as neutrals, guiding the discussions about particular topics. The facilitators are:

  • Myra Shah, UMMMC Human Resources
  • Jeff Mogan, UMMMC Labor Relations
  • Will Erickson, SHARE
  • Elisabeth Szanto, SHARE  

Although the facilitators each come from within the teams of negotiators, when they’re in the role of co-facilitator, they put on a different hat. Their job is to make sure that the conversation is flowing, and that we’re driving toward conclusions efficiently. They also help to make sure that notes are being captured accurately. (One other unique aspect of this negotiations is that notes are being taken and displayed, in real time, on an overhead projector.)


We’ll keep the updates coming on the blog. To learn more, and weigh in about either of the topics we’ve discussed, and about what topics are coming up, please join us at an upcoming SHARE Information Meeting about Contract Negotiations.

Monday, August 8, 2016

SHARE Information meetings about Contract Negotiations

Contract negotiations have started. We are trying to finish by October 1st. Join us to discuss what's happening in negotiations!

SHARE’s priorities come from the SHARE members who filled out the SHARE survey last fall, and from SHARE info meetings and conversations since then. The survey results are summarized here.  The SHARE priorities are here as well as on the statement that many SHARE members signed onto in the last couple of months.

Info Meetings for SHARE Members’ Input about Proposals

The specific proposals of how to make progress on those priorities are being discussed at negotiations during August and September. SHARE Info Meetings are a chance for you to hear what we are talking about and give your opinions. Please join us at a meeting near you.

University: Thurs, August 11      11:30-1:30     Room S2-309B (2nd floor of the Medical School)

Memorial: Fri, August 12            11:30-1:30     Nursing conference room (toward the ED from the cafeteria)

Hahnemann: Mon, August 22    11:30-1:30     2nd floor conference room

67 Millbrook: Thurs, August 25  11:30-1:30     Thom McAn conference room

306 Belmont: Fri, September 9    11:30-1:30     Conference room D

Tri-River: Fri, September 23       11:30-1:30      Community Room

These meetings are “rolling” meetings – come for whatever part of the meeting is your lunch break. Feel free to bring your lunch, your thoughts and questions, and a friend!

If you’d like to set up a meeting at a time and place that works for you and your co-workers, call the SHARE office (508-929-4020, extension 10) and leave a message.

Contract Negotiations 2016: Our First Session

SHARE and UMass Memorial had their first contract negotiations session last Wednesday. For those of us on the SHARE Negotiating Team who have negotiated several contracts before this, this session seemed really different. Our training on Interest Based Bargaining, and our choice to have a facilitator to run negotiations, are positive changes.

Here’s what we accomplished at our first session:
  • Set up side tables to negotiations to work on specific issues.
  • Mapped out a schedule of when each issue will be discussed. We’ve never done this before, and we think it will help make sure we are moving forward quickly.
  • Began discussions about 2 issues:
    • Interactions between SHARE members and supervisors and managers, which SHARE brought to the table.
    • Increasing flexibility for cross-campus floating, which management brought to the table.
  • We worked hard to understand each other’s interests in bringing this issue forward, and to begin brainstorm solutions that everyone might be able to agree to. No agreements were made on either issue yet.

For more info about either of these 2 topics and about what topics are being discussed at negotiations, or to put in your opinion, please join us at SHARE Information Meetings about Contract Negotiations.

Contract Negotiations Side Tables

 SHARE and UMass Memorial are trying something new in our negotiations this time. As you may remember from our last round of negotiations, SHARE and UMass Memorial management had a side table to discuss changes to the pension, before we started negotiations about the rest of the issues. The Pension Table brought together people from both union and management to focus in-depth on the pension, which worked quite well.

This time, we are building on that success. Multiple side tables will meet in the afternoons after the Main Table meets. These smaller groups can focus on their issue and bring recommendations to the Main Table.
  •  Teams & Culture Side Table– This side table (who might change their name once they get started) is looking at examples of team-based work systems in other places to see what we want to try here at UMass Memorial. At Kaiser Permanente, unit based teams help groups do process improvement to make the work easier, and train everyone on how to work together as a team.  SHARE believes a team structure also could improve how SHARE members and supervisors and managers work together, which was a big priority coming out of the SHARE member survey last fall (link to SHARE letter and survey results). 
  • Career Development Side Table – SHARE wants to increase ways for SHARE members to learn and grow in their jobs and to build careers at UMass Memorial. A group will also discuss how internal applications and transfers are working.
  • In-patient PCA Staffing Side Table – This side table will look at how the patient care model is working on the inpatient floors. SHARE hopes to address PCAs’ concerns about how many patients they have to provide care for. (Staffing is a big concern for many SHARE members – we will be discussing staffing for other areas at the Main Table.)
  • Call-Back and Sleep Time Side Table – This side table is tackling issues for SHARE members who take call.
  • In addition, mini side table groups will discuss salary scales for peer-slotted titles in SHARE, the pension floor to protect lower paid SHARE members, and 401K auto-enrollment for new employees.

 Our hope is that side tables will help us get more done quickly in negotiations, and bring more new ideas into the negotiations. We’ll keep you posted.

Contract Negotiations: Negotiating about How to Negotiate

 Joel told the packed classroom, “There are three keys to a successful negotiation: preparing, preparing, preparing.” We were there--almost forty of us, both members of the SHARE and UMass Memorial management Negotatiating Teams and leaders, in a series of three half-day training sessions--to learn about different ways of negotiating.

In past Contract Negotiations, SHARE has used a model of bargaining that begins with open conversation about interests – what each side cared about. We’ve worked toward “expanding the pie”, rather than fighting over who’s getting the bigger piece of pie. When we try to focus on our common ground, we are more likely to find “win-win” solutions.

In these negotiations, SHARE is focusing on the day-to-day experience of coming to work for SHARE members. Taking on this huge issue makes it even more important that SHARE and management be able to negotiate productively. SHARE and UMass Memorial management have agreed to use Interest Based Bargaining to try to craft solutions for a better way of working at UMass Memorial.

Our teacher and facilitator for these trainings was Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld. He’s a professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He has studied labor-management partnership in the Kaiser Permanente hospital network. He also helped Ford and the United Auto Workers Union to form a Labor Management Partnership. That partnership helped Ford so much they were the only major US automaker that didn’t require federal funding during the recent industry bailout. More important to us than all his academic accomplishments: Joel’s been a huge to both union and management in guiding us forward.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Respect and What SHARE Members Think Makes a Good Supervisor or Manager

In the SHARE survey, 70% of SHARE members rank respect and how department leaders treat people as a high priority for improving their day-to-day experience at work, higher than any other item on the list. In our survey, SHARE members had a lot to say about what makes managers and supervisors helpful in making their department run better, as well as what their managers could do better.

Here are some of the ideas the SHARE Negotiating Team brought to the table in the discussion about how to improve supervisor and manager interactions with SHARE members.

How some managers show respect and help the department run better:
  • Involve staff in decisions, ask our opinions
  • Share information often & with everyone
  • Pitch in when we are short-staffed
  • Good listener, and available
  • Open to new ideas
  • Treat everyone fairly
  • Help us fix problems
  • Give recognition for hard work

What other managers do that does not help the department run better:
  • Micro-manage – not trust staff to do their jobs
  • Favoritism: Treat some people better than others
  • Criticize someone in front of co- workers or patients
  • Think s/he knows best
  • Not understanding the work we do
  • “Run hot and cold” or add drama to the workplace

 In SHARE’s opinion, UMass Memorial has had a culture of a “command and control” style of managing over the years. Not every manager for sure, but in general. In contract negotiations we are talking with management about how we can together move UMass Memorial toward a new more supportive and collaborative model of managing. We don’t know exactly how to do that, but we’re working on it!