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Empowering Members “to Speak Out and Win”

The registered nurses at the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich in early June ratified a new two-year contract that followed months of unprecedented membership engagement. Negotiating sessions were “standing-room-only” in the weeks leading up to the vote, in which an overwhelming majority approved the tentative agreement their bargaining team reached with management.
Click here for photos of Backus Federation of Nurses members casting their ballots.
Union leaders credited both the participation of rank-and-file members in the effort as well as an overall focus on protecting patient care through improved retention of nurses.
“Our new agreement wasn’t just a victory for members, but for the community, too,” said Sherri Calixte, RN, who works in the acute care facility’s emergency department. “New professional ladders means we’ll see pay raises — but we’ll also see less turnover and safer staffing ratios. It’s the kind of gain that shows how our union empowers us to speak out and win,” added Calixte, who serves as our local’s president.
Calixte’s comments refer to a major proposal accepted by their employer creating a first-ever wage scale with annual “step” movement for the facility’s registered nurses. The change ends a system that kept some of the hospital’s most experienced caregivers “stuck in their lane” and calculated base pay on when they graduated from nursing school.
Click here for press reporting on the ratification that also included new contracts won by members at L+M Hospital in New London.
Paraeducators in Vernon Public Schools in late June overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year contract, retroactive to last summer, that includes significant gains. Their vote came after intensive efforts earlier this year to move district officials to roll-back a scheme that threatened more than 20 members’ jobs.
For local leadership, the workplace solidarity and community support built during that fight-back helped create the momentum needed to successfully conclude collective bargaining talks.
“As a union, we stayed strong and united through some tough times,” said Dorothy Tedeschi (right in photo above), a one-to-one predicator at the district’s Center Road School. “Fighting for and ultimately keeping so many positions targeted for layoff definitely put some wind at our backs. It also demonstrated our power to the school board, so they took our proposals more seriously,” added Tedeschi, who serves as president of our Vernon Federation of Paraprofessionals.
Click here for press reporting on members’ efforts to save the paraeducators’ jobs and preserve students’ services.
Among the gains Tedeschi and the bargaining team won at the table were two percent annual wage increases for the contract’s second and third years. They additionally secured movement for all members to the next step and a six percent boost in the top level for the first year. District officials also agreed to maintain health insurance benefits at their current level without any increase to employees’ share of premium costs. 
Click here for photos of members voting for their new contract.
As this latest report was finalized, members of several additional locals are at the bargaining table working toward successful conclusion of negotiations with their employers for new or extended contracts. Be sure to follow our social media channels — particularly our Twitter feed — for updates and announcements of developments in their efforts.
Click here to follow AFT Connecticut on Twitter.

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