Tidbit Time: Week of February 8, 2016

Happy Heart Month! As in, happy Valentine’s. And, more importantly, Heart Health Awareness Month. Here’s our latest roundup of tidbits from our community and the worlds of academia, healthcare, and unions . . .


One former SHARE member, Nancy Whalen, the President of Healing Heart Hospitality House, has just let us know about an upcoming dinner with real heart. And you’re invited! “Our mission is to help families of patients traveling more than 30 miles to be with their loved ones hospitalized in the Worcester area by providing a suite of services that offers emotional and spiritual support and comfort,” Nancy writes. “Just recently a very generous person has offered to buy us a house. After 10 years of working towards this goal, we are excited beyond words. Pub 99 is sponsoring our fundraiser by donating 15% of food purchased on Tuesday, February 9th when anyone presents the voucher from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.”

Healing Heart Voucher.jpg
You can print your own voucher by right-clicking the above image. Save it to your computer, and you can print it from there.


Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.  Fortunately, we can change that because 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action. On Friday, February 5th, many SHARE members participated in National Wear Red Day, wearing red and working to raise research funds and awareness about women's heart health. 
Go Red Raffle in the University Cafeteria

The American Heart Association provides this guide to Well-Woman Visits so that you can schedule, prepare for, and understand the kinds of physician visits that will help you protect your own heart health, and encourage other women to do the same.


The number of union members in the US held steady from 2014 to 2015, according to the annual Department of Labor report on the subject.  Studies show that increased union membership strengthens the middle class.


Did you know that the blue whale has the largest heart, weighing in at 1,500 pounds? Or that your heart will beat about 100,000 times today? That will add up to over a million barrels of blood during an average lifetime.


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Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and that things are off to a very good start for you this week. See you here next time . . .

Tidbit Time: Week of January 25, 2016

Welcome back! These tidbits are starting to add up. Speaking of adding up . . .


“Many hands make light work” has become a fairly well-known aphorism. The phrase can be attributed to the English playwright John Heywood, who wrote during the sixteenth century. The idea can also be found in many other languages around the world. A related Tanzanian proverb says, “Two ants do not fail to pull one grasshopper.”


Here, Chade-Meng Tan explains how cooperation can change the world, in describing a project undertaken by Tibetan students in India that is doing just that.


The Blood Donor Center at UMass Memorial accepts the important gift of blood year-round, and January is a great time to resolve to give. Blood is required for a number of medical conditions, including, of course, transplants, cancers, and traumatic injuries. UMass Memorial uses about 31,000 blood products each year to meet the needs of patients. The Blood Donor Center is located on the University Campus, downstairs from the Emergency Department. Walk-ins are welcome for whole-blood donations, or to schedule an appointment, please call 508-421-1950. To find other locations to give, visit the Red Cross website 


In his book Outliers, writer Malcolm Gladwell develops the idea that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Many critics and studies have worked to debunk this theory. Author and podcaster Tim Ferriss aspires to teach readers how to be world-class performers in a fraction of that time. But how long does it take to lose a skill? HopesandDreams recently spoke with several leading experts to find out the answer.


A tidbit is, as Merrium-Webster tells us, “a choice or interesting bit (as of information),” or “a small piece of news or information.” Outside of the US and Canada, the preferred spelling is “titbit.” Obviously the word also often refers to a select little piece of food, and grammarist.com tells us that “the first syllable likely comes from the archaic colloquialism tid, meaning tender.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and that things are off to a very good start for you this week. See you here next time . . .

Tidbit Time: Week of January 18th, 2016

Good morning! And happy Martin Luther King Day! In 2016, we’re making some changes to our weekly blogging experiment, formerly “Five Tidbit Friday.” We’ll continue to collect an array of news items, but we’ll be posting them, in various quantities, at the beginning of the week. This week, we’ve got a nice batch, beginning with . . .

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is," asserted Dr. Martin Luther King, "'What are you doing for others?'" On this MLK Day holiday, we remember Dr. King, and renew our thinking on this persistent and urgent question.

All members of the UMass community have been invited to this year's tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, where Rev. Liz Walker, pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church and the first black woman to co-anchor a newscast in Boston, will be delivering the keynote address on the subject of service.  RSVP or email DIO@umassmed.edu to register for the event, taking place on Wednesday, Jan. 20, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Faculty Conference Room on the University campus, with lunch available at 11:30 a.m.


Near the end of last year, and “across the pond,” as they say, hospital workers and community members responded with real inspiration to a political decision that would have shut down Lewisham and Greenwich Hospital in southeast London. Members of the National Health Service choir there recorded and released "A Bridge over You," a mashup of "Bridge over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel, and Coldplay’s “Fix You.” The song became the centerpiece of a campaign to save the hospital.

As a result, the English came out in support of their healthcare workers. “A Bridge over You” reached number one on the UK singles chart at Christmas 2015, selling more than 127,000 copies. (Justin Bieber, whose song “Love Yourself” was expected to be number one on the charts during the spike in record sales at Christmas, even tweeted his support for the cause.)  

The song, the singers, and the video of these caregivers with their patients is quite an inspiration. Give it a listen?


The civil rights leader we celebrate today was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son. And did you know that the young Martin Luther Jr. entered college at age fifteen?


There’s more interesting work-related news from the UK this week.  Buzzfeed recently reported that, “The Daily Telegraph has installed devices to monitor whether journalists are at their desks.” These small boxes were mounted beneath the employees’ desks, and detected heat and motion. A follow-up in the Huffington Post stated that outcry about the devices led the company to remove them the same day they were installed. That article, entitled “Why Bosses Should Snoop on Employees Less,”  goes on to explain:

. . . increasing surveillance to boost productivity is much different from increasing surveillance to prevent theft, and it's unclear if it does much beyond stressing employees out. Workplace stress can cost companies a few thousand dollars per worker every year through a combination in absenteeism and disability claims, multiple studies have found -- and that doesn't even cover any declines in productivity. And it's pretty clear employees find surveillance stressful.

Although SHARE has never come across warmth-detectors, UMass Memorial does use some technology to keep track of productivity. We are keeping an eye on this trend. Let us know if something new comes up in your area.
And while we’re on the subject, we encourage SHARE members to be cautious. Here in the US, an employer is entitled to monitor any communication activity on a company-owned system. And they can legally discipline you for anything you send that is illegal or out-of-line with their policies.


In the most recent SHARE Hospital contract negotiations, we implemented new language, designed to allow laid-off SHARE members to retain their pay rate if they cannot find another SHARE job that pays as well, if they must instead take a job in a lower pay grade. Although the language hasn’t worked as an automatic fix, it has helped SHARE members retain their standard of living. According to Politico, it appears that President Obama has been developing a similar idea, “In Tuesday's State of the Union address President Barack Obama offered a policy fix for workers who lose their jobs and end up in worse-paying ones: wage insurance. If an American worker takes a job that pays less than the one that vanished, ‘there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills,’ the president said.”

To those of you who have the holiday off this year, have a wonderful and meaningful day. To those of you who will be clocked-in, thank you for the work you will be doing on this day in service of the missions of our hospital and university. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and that things are off to a very good start for you this week. See you here next time . . .

Five-Tidbit Friday: December 18th, 2015


When you’re shopping, do you want to buy products that are union made? Don’t use slave labor?  Fair trade? Cruelty free? Environmentally responsible? You can now use your phone to scan labels and make purchases that line up with your own personal ethics. Check out http://www.buycott.com/ for details.


Please, shop responsibly

If you want to browse for ideas, Made-in-America by union employees, check out the AFL-CIO gift guide.

One must go to great lengths to make the Extra Mile . . .

Or, use the Labor 411 website for another thorough listing of union-made products. The list even includes union breweries and distilleries.

After all, if you're looking to mix up a classy drink at New Year's (say, an Extra Mile?) shouldn't you use a reputable union-made rye, such as Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve?


Do you know your rights as a renter? This story on WGBH explains how the law is on your side, and gives advice for dealing with Winter issues. And everybody should remember to check their smoke and carbon detectors, of course.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its Employment Situation Summary, and Dan Diamond of the Advisory Board Company highlights that one in every nine jobs is in healthcare. Over on Twitter, Bob Herman (@MHbherman) notes that, in particular, "Hospital Hiring is relentless. Up 13,400 in November. 23,800 jobs added last month overall."

190 Mustaches?


The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Mustaches Outnumber Women Among Medical-School Leaders.

Although SHARE more blog posts are coming, this column is taking a break until 2016, which, really, isn't all that far off. In the meanwhile, happy holidays! See you here next year . . .  

Five-Tidbit Friday: December 11, 2015


It looks like we’re doing a decent job washing our hands. Under guidelines in effect for the past two years as part of the Affordable Care Act, the UMass Memorial Hospital campuses have fared well. Congratulations to SHARE members for their work in helping keep patients safe and saving our hospital money.

Based on the numbers from 2015, modernhealthcare.com reports that, “758 hospitals . . . will see their Medicare payments reduced by 1% for ranking in the bottom quartile.” Due to its performance, UMass Memorial will avoid this penalty. For a full list of hospital scores nationally, see the Medicare HAC Reduction Program website.

This success builds on a positive national trend; according to Healthcare Finance News, “From 2010 to 2014, there’s been 2.1 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions and $19.8 billion in costs have been averted.” We look forward to making those numbers trend further in the right direction.


Occasionally the SHARE staff receives questions about union offers and catalogs that are mailed directly to your homes. These mailings come automatically from SHARE’s parent union, AFSCME, and so SHARE doesn't have much more information about them. One particular offer that has come through recently is called “AFSCME Advantage,” which allows users to shop and then pay for items directly from their paychecks over the course of a year. Unlike credit card purchases, these purchases involve no interest and no fees. You can find more details about this program here


The AFSCME Advantage program registration requires applicants to include their AFSCME Member ID number. While the SHARE office receives no record of your AFSCME ID, you can find that number on the address label of any mailing sent to your home from AFSCME. It looks something like this:


Legislators have proposed a two-year delay on the implementation of the healthcare “Cadillac Tax” provisions under the Affordable Care Act. Employers, including UMass Memorial, have been preparing to have to deal with the "cadillac tax" if and when it gets implemented.

The Cadillac Tax is currently slated to go into effect in 2018, and would require employers to pay a 40% tax on the value of any healthcare coverage that exceeds $10,200 for single coverage or $27,500 for families in premium costs starting in 2018.

The Wall Street Journal explains that, “A delay would punt the fate of the tax . . . to the next president, who is likely to be more open to striking it down. Republican presidential candidates have supported a repeal, as has Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.” According to healthcaredive.com, “If the tax is repealed or indefinitely delayed, the government will lose the estimated $91 billion in revenue the tax would bring during the next decade.”


Another program that might be helpful to you during holiday shopping is Union Plus, which is administered by the AFL-CIO non-profit called Union Privilege. The program is designed to use “collective negotiating strength of more than 13 million union member to negotiate solid values for consumers available from nationally known providers.” This provides discounts on items and services ranging from entertainment to heating oil. For a full list of features available to SHARE members, click here.

See you here next Friday. Hope you have a very decent weekend . . .

Five-Tidbit Friday: November 20, 2015


The traditional Thanksgiving meal 
Thanksgiving may only come once a year, but there's mounting scientific evidence about the benefits of developing thankful habits. Researcher Glenn Fox at the University of Southern California has been researching how gratitude alters the brain. “A lot of people conflate gratitude with the simple emotion of receiving a nice thing. What we found was something a little more interesting,” says Fox. “The pattern of [brain] activity we see shows that gratitude is a complex social emotion that is really built around how others seek to benefit us.” As you gear up for the big feast, here is some advice to help you and your family be truly thankful at Thanksgiving.


Although popularized more recently, and copyrighted by celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme in 1986, there's a longer story behind the Turducken. This kind of “Russian Doll Roast” traces its roots back to at least medieval times, when animals might be stuffed within other animals for the sake of spectacle. (See also,  “illusion foods,” or “incredible foods.”)

Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany includes this example of a Russian Doll Roast involving way too many birds: “stuff a large OLIVE with CAPERS and a CLOVE,” and so on, it says. The directions continue stuffing birds, including a bec-figue, ortolan, lark, thrush, quail, plover, lapwing, partridge, woodcock, teal, fowl, duck, chicken, pheasant, goose, and turkey, until ultimately we’re told to “place the TURKEY inside an enormous BUSTARD.”


According to Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Food, at Sea and Ashore, in the Nineteenth Century, Thanksgiving used to be a bigger deal. For roughly the first half of our nation’s history, Thanksgiving reigned as the premier holiday among the Europeans who came to America, and their descendents. (Celebrating Christmas was too “churchy” for the Puritans.) For a fascinating tour of Thanksgiving meals through the ages, including the "Turducken," be sure to check out foodtimeline.org.


Did you know that Jingle Bells was originally written as a song to celebrate Thanksgiving Day? James Lord Pierpont wrote it, quite possibly right here in Massachusetts, some time in the 1850’s, almost certainly at a time when one might expect the heavy snows to begin as early as November.
Placard Commemorating the composition of  "Jingle Bells" in Medford, Massachusetts


Probably all of us have driven along Route 9 in Shrewsbury, past the Worcester County Food Bank. On their website, you can quickly identify the nearest food pantry, learn where to donate funds and food for the hungry, volunteer to help with the distribution process, and learn how to advocate for the hungry in your community.

See you here in two weeks. Hope you have a decent weekend, and a very wonderful Thanksgiving!

Five-Tidbit Friday: November 13th, 2015

Röntgen and his beard
It’s Movember! Both the “No Shave November” and “Movember” movements encourage men to abstain from the razor for thirty days in order to raise men’s health and cancer awareness. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to tell which hair is charitable, and which is just garden-variety facial fluff.  
On November 8th, 1895, German physicist William Conrad Röntgen discovered X-rays. National Radiologic Technology Week is celebrated each year during the week of the anniversary of this discovery. Röntgen’s own unruly chin-growth predated the UK’s Decembeard event.
According to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts State Legislature’s Labor and Workforce Development Committee has put forward a bill to increase the minimum wage to fifteen dollars per hour. The introduction of the bill coincided with Fight for $15 demonstrations in over 270 cities, involving thousands of workers across the country. The bill still requires approval by the House, Senate, and Governor Charlie Baker.

Veterans’ Day was observed this week in Worcester and around the country. President Obama’s Veteran’s Day speech focused on jobs, as Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post writes:

“We’re in the midst of a new wave of American veterans,” said Obama, referring to a generation of men and women who have weathered the longest stretch of war in U.S. history. Those veterans have struggled in recent years to get care from an overwhelmed Department of Veterans Affairs. They’ve faced a higher unemployment rate than their civilian peers and an increase in suicides.
Here in Central Massachusetts, many work continually to honor the service of our Veterans, and to help them find ways to serve their country at home. The Worcester Veterans’ Services Division aims to supply local veterans with immediate financial aid, medical assistance, and referral services on issues such as housing, employment opportunities, health, and education. Notably, four of our area colleges and universities--Worcester State University, Fitchburg, Nichols College, and Mount Wachusett Community College--have been designated “military friendly” institutions.  


Describing one particularly personal commemoration of our country’s veterans, former SHARE-UMMS president and UMMS Library Assistant Paul Julian writes: “On July 9, while on a walk, I stopped to read a Veteran's monument on Upsala Street in Worcester. I had read others on my walks, but this was special, because Richard Leo Jandron , for whom the memorial was erected, died from his wounds sustained in Cherbourg, France exactly 71 years before. I said a prayer for Gunner Mate Jandron, and it occurred to me that I should do this for every veteran who is so honored here in Worcester. Working with two lists, I learned that there were 237 such monuments here in Worcester. I decided to seek them out so that I could pray and reflect on the sacrifices these brave veterans made. I aimed to walk to all 237 monuments. Today, the day before Veterans Day, I journeyed to the last one on my list for Lt. Paul Adams, which is located on Sunderland Road here in Worcester. I have found this to be both a moving and illuminating experience. We owe so much to our veterans. May their sacrifices always be appreciated by us.”

See you here next Friday. Hope you have a very decent weekend . . .

5 Tidbit Friday: November 6, 3015


We’ve gotten some helpful feedback about the SHARE blog recently. We apologize that the “Sign-Up by Email” feature is not available on all web browsers. If you’d like to receive updates in your inbox, and don’t see the sign-up box in the upper-right corner of your screen, please send an email to kirk.davis@theshareunion.org  



During lunchtime last Friday, UMass Memorial’s Central Billing Office opened its doors for the costumed children of employees to trick-or-treat among the cubicles . . . and receive candy from the jesters and bakers and witches and pirates who work there. What a way to transform the workday! What a fun family event! So many adorable minions! Nice work, CBO.


More details have been requested about the recent tidbit touting free online classes through edX.org.

  • The project was founded by Harvard University and MIT, and a number of colleges and universities have since joined in.
  • New courses are continually being offered.
  • The program does not adhere to a traditional academic calendar.
  • At any given moment, a few million students are enrolled in the courses, and the website promotes a variety of ways of interacting with other students in your class, wherever in the world they may be.
  • EdX offers certificates of successful completion, but does not offer course credit. Whether or not a college or university offers credit for an edX course is within the sole discretion of that school.

Signing up for a class is just about as simple as registering for the edX site and clicking on the course(s) you want to take. The EdX site has a useful video explaining how it works. (A couple of years back, I signed up for Harvard’s “Food and Science” course. Signing up was fairly simple and straightforward. Keeping up with the course-load after work, however, was trickier. But when else can you use your kitchen as a laboratory?)


This week, the Pew Research Center released a report about work-family balance in households that include a mother and a father. This prompted the Huffington Post to wonder why so many government policies and employers are stuck in “Leave It to Beaver” mode--notably highlighting that the US is the only developed country that does not offer paid family leave to new mothers. (Additionally, the article points out that “Almost 40 percent of kids in the U.S. live in a home with a single parent or no parent at all (for example, a grandparent's in charge), according to a different Pew study.”)


. . . keeping an eye on the labor-management partnership at Kaiser Permanente. In his address at the recent White House Summit on Worker Voice, President Obama stated, “Kaiser Permanente works with 28 different unions to provide good pay and benefits, but also educational programs, and avenues for employees to help improve quality and care throughout the company — which is why they’re considered one of the premier health organizations in the country.”

See you here next Friday! Hope you have a great weekend . . .

Five-Tidbit Frightday: October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween! And, too, happy Respiratory Care Week!


Halloween candy is bad for you. Vegetables, on the other hand, are good for you. Beyond these generally accepted facts, there’s a lot of conflicting dietary information out there. This week, the World Health Organization released a report saying definitively that processed meats cause cancer, and that, probably, red meat does, too. Related reports argue that you don’t need to give up those meats altogether. Fortunately, when you’re trying to figure out how to make sense of the varying and contradictory information, the Harvard School of Public Health offers this guide to deciphering media stories about diet.


You know those stories about random, unsuspecting trick-or-treaters being poisoned (or worse) by tainted Halloween goodies? They’re all urban legends, every single one. Or so contends Dr. Joel Best, the world's leading expert on Halloween hostility, in this podcast.  


Need ideas for getting creative to make your kids visible to car traffic? Also, if you plan to offer candies that are free of allergens and cross-contamination, don’t forget to review this year’s list of allergen-friendly candies, especially if you’re participating in the Teal-Pumpkin Project.


This irreverent video guide to trading Halloween candy sums up the Halloween barter system pretty nicely.


And, finally, after you’ve applied the “Mom and Dad Tax” to the kids’ candy stash, and they’re tucked away in bed, you can consult this infographic for pairing candy and wine. (There are still a few studies that hold to the idea that the resveratrol in wine might be good for you, after all.)

See you here next Friday! Hope you have a great weekend.

Five-Tidbit Friday: October 23, 2015

. . .  during the coming week
  • University Campus – October 27 (Tuesday)
  • Worcester Business Center – October 28 (Wednesday)
  • Memorial Campus – October 29 (Thursday)

Do you have out-of-towners coming for a visit? Check out Massachusetts InstaFoliage for streaming foliage footage.


SHARE members, like many hospital employees, tend to be savvier about healthcare than most people. Still, if you’re considering changing health care plans this year, and would like to make sure you’re covering your bases before arriving at the benefits fair with your specific questions, here’s some useful online advice.
In this article, Consumer Reports directs people to begin by focusing on three big questions:
  • What does the plan cover?
  • How much does the plan cost? (for SHARE members, the plan costs are roughly the same, with the exception of the PPO plan, which costs more.)
  • Which doctors and hospitals are in the plan?
Nerdwallet provides a sensible and more detailed process for evaluating options.


Among other things, American Unions can rightly claim credit for the weekend and the eight-hour workday. This piece in Forbes magazine makes an argument that we should push for more. (Or less, depending on how you look at it.)


October is Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month. SHARE is happy to recognize our Ultrasound Technologists.

See you here next Friday! Hope you have a great weekend.

Five-Tidbit Friday: October 16, 2015


During the period that SHARE and the hospital were negotiating the current contract, new-hires to SHARE positions were mistakenly credited with one year less credit than they should have been. After a too-long period working have the error corrected, those SHARE employees are finally getting their pay righted. Each one will receive a small raise to correct the miscalculation, plus all of the retro back to January 1, 2012.


Did you know that yesterday was Global Handwashing Day, “an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap and water at critical times?” Did you know that one trillion germs can live in one gram of poop?


Today is National Mammography Day, and we’d like to appreciate SHARE members in the Mammography departments at UMass Memorial. You can learn more about breast cancer, and about how to create your own early detection program, through the National Breast Cancer Foundation.


One running theme on this blog has been about the concept of happiness: how we can make work more enjoyable, strategies for reducing stress, etc. In the interest of addressing the subject more thoroughly, here’s William Davies cautioning an audience to be wary of what he calls “the happiness agenda.”


SHARE members with student-loan debt are not alone in their uphill efforts to pay off schooling costs. If you’re currently considering further education, it can be hard to make sense of all of your options, but it will be worth your while to minimize the problem of debt by making informed borrowing decisions from the outset, including from your college’s advisors (or, for a free online alternative, check out collegepoint.info).

One of the most frustrating realities of the situation is that many debt-relief funds go unspent because those who need them don’t know how to find them. Many graduates don’t realize, for example, that some jobs could make them more likely to qualify for federal loan forgiveness than others, particularly community service jobs such as those in hospitals and schools.  Until college is free, we’ll keep reporting out information about education funds for SHARE members.

See you here next Friday! Don't forget to wash your hands. Hope you have a great weekend. 

Five-Tidbit Friday: October 9, 2015

FREE CLASSES Did you know you could take free online courses, many of them for credit, from other leading universities such as MIT, Harvard, BU, Columbia, Berkeley, and Berklee at edx.org?

WATCH THIS In this video, Margaret Heffernan makes a compelling case for getting rid of the pecking order, ditching “the superchicken model,” and helping one another at work.

JANET SAYS HI This weekend, SHARE organizer Janet Wilder joins UMass Memorial system leaders in Appleton, Wisconsin to look under the hood at Thedacare, a hospital network that claims “employees [of Thedacare] created a hospital department from the ground up – not only changing how rooms were designed, but also how care is delivered at the bedside. Janet will have a full report when she gets back.

WORKPLACE DEMOCRACY Earlier this week, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced The Workplace Democracy Act, an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act designed to undo “Right-to-Work” laws and other barriers to unions. Meanwhile, the White House hosted the Summit on Worker Voice.


See you here next Friday! Hope you have a great weekend.

Five-Tidbit Friday: October 2, 2015

This is the seventh installment of Five Tidbit Friday, and this week we’ve got news items ranging from near to far and back again.

  • CANCER WALK Congratulations to participants of this year’s cancer walk! The roughly thirteen thousand participants this year have raised nearly $400,000 for cancer research and care. 20150927_093855.jpg

  • OTHER UNIONS, OTHER HOSPITALS The Kaiser Permanente Union Coalition has recently ratified a new contract agreement. The coalition represents over 100,000 healthcare employees, primarily in states along the west coast. This group of unions coordinates the largest Labor Management Partnership in the country. SHARE has been watching Kaiser Permanente closely, and in particular their “Unit-Based Teams” approach, which is designed to put employees directly in charge of important work-design decisions. Among other things, the new KP agreement includes:
    • Increased funds for employee training programs and for members’ tuition reimbursement,  
    • Increased training and accountability for frontline managers, and
    • New tools and support to increase the effectiveness of the Unit Based Teams
You can find even more highlights from the Kaiser Permanante agreement online, and read more about the effectiveness of the Labor Management Partnership in this report out of MIT.

  • INNOVATIONS in HEALTHCARE The Legal Services Corporation recently announced that Community Legal Aid in Worcester, Massachusetts will receive a 24-month $209,524 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant to develop a partnership with UMass Memorial Medical Center. The model will address legal needs that can negatively impact the health of low-income and minority communities and interfere with healthcare providers’ ability to improve the health of these patients.

  • FREE SPEECH at WORK In national news, an NLRB complaint against Quicken Loans could redefine the rules of free speech in the workplace, reports the Detroit Free Press. The case is likely to have implications for social media. The ruling is expected to uphold current standards, including that "employees have a ... right to discuss wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment with fellow employees, as well as with non-employees, such as union representatives." Meanwhile, the US Department of Labor has continued its emphasis on employee rights with a Worker Voice Summit, which will underscore the value of worker organizing and collective bargaining, as a new #starttheconvo initiative invites frontline voices from around the country into that conversation.

  • happymoose.jpegMOOSE! SHARE members are now using ICD-10 coding guidelines in our hospital. The new codes allow for far greater precision, including for those patients receiving care as a result of “Burn due to water-skis on fire, initial encounter (V91.07XA),” or even less-likely conditions. At the time of this publication, our research team has not yet uncovered a code for “Incident with urban moose in Worcester County,” although we hear that a moose has been recently seen on our local streets. Drive safe.

See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.

Five-Tidbit Friday: September 25, 2015

Welcome to Fall! For SHARE-UMMS, Summer closed out in a lovely way. Altogether, over a thousand members of our community participated in last week’s Chocolate Day, including SHARE members, other hospital and university employees, medical students, senior administrators, and even a few children. But now, it is time for another Tidbit roundup. Here are five notable and timely items:

  • This week, UMMHC and UMMS have been screening The Connection, a film about the science of mindfulness. UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness has long been at the forefront of this research. The CFM provides an eight week stress-reduction program, which several SHARE members have attended. SHARE-UMMS Treasurer Kathy Bateman says she loved the program, and would attend again. “I learned ways to relieve stress right at my desk. I’d recommend it to anyone,” she says.
  • Employers are starting to catch up with the value of the research being done at UMMS. Internet-search giant Google (considered by some to be the best employer in the country) has even developed its own in-house emotional intelligence training program called “Search Inside Yourself” (Get it? It’s Google, after all.)
  • Any list of Tidbits would be insufficient to tackle an issue as serious as mental health.  That said, please know that there are many free and low-cost mental health tools available. We recently came across this useful (if somewhat glib) resource list. The list begins with a series of apps, most of which are designed to help build grit and brain muscles, and moves through to a valuable collection of hotlines and support groups. For more local services, please see this list of mental health providers in Worcester.
  • Mindfulness and self-care are only part of the equation toward improving what we do, of course. Right now, the work confronting almost every SHARE member is unnecessarily complicated, difficult, and frustrating. We want to eliminate needless headaches. We know that frontline employees need to be the ones to design work-systems. Too often our work requires heroic effort to do a good job, and there are too many pitfalls along the way. Our union is working to enable SHARE members to develop structures that minimize the likelihood of error, and make it easier at the end of the day to see more good outcomes coming from our hard work. One way you can improve work processes in your own area is to submit an idea to your department’s Idea Board. If you have questions about how to do this, or concerns about the effectiveness of your area’s Idea Board system, please contact Will Erickson in the SHARE office.
  • On a lighter note, you might, given its popularity, have already seen this related talk by researcher Shawn Achor. But in case you’ve missed it, here’s a link to “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” It’s funny and smart, and only a little over twelve minutes long.

The weather report looks beautiful for the next few days. Good time to get outside and move around.  It’s not too late to register for The UMass Medicine Cancer Walk, which has been an effective fundraiser for cancer research at UMass, and a meaningful event for cancer patients, their friends, and their families, including many SHARE members. See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.  

Five Tidbit Friday: September 18, 2015

Happy Chocolate Day! If you're on the University Campus today, please stop by to enjoy some tasty treats and good fun hosted by our sister SHARE union at UMass Medical School. The festivities will run from 11:30-2:00 in the Faculty Conference Room adjoining the main UMMS lobby. Everyone is welcome.

This Labor Day yielded a bumper crop of media pieces about work and unions. This week’s Five Tidbit Friday rounds up some recent worthwhile reads (and a video) about wage inequality, the minimum wage, the decline of the middle class, and what we can do about these things.

  • In this video, economist and former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains why Americans need stronger unions.

  • In “America Doesn’t Need a Raise, We Need a New National Norm for Wage Growth”  MIT Professor of Work and Employment Research and Engineering Systems, Thomas Kochan, makes a call to “reverse three decades of wage stagnation and rising income inequality,” pointing out that “analysts have begun to recognize that the long-term decline in unions and worker bargaining power accounts for a sizable portion of the problem.” He encourages readers to “rally around a simple norm that all workers should share fairly in the economic growth they help produce.”

  • This recent Op-Ed piece published in the LA Daily News, “Americans Should Think Bigger than $15 an Hour for this Labor Day” was written by Cherri Senders. (Senders serves as founder and publisher of www.labor411.org, a consumer guide to goods and services whose employers treat their workers fairly with good wages, benefits and working conditions.) Although there are lots of good reasons to increase the national minimum wage, Senders argues that “a $15 minimum wage is hardly a panacea for a country whose middle class has been declining for more than 30 years.”

  • Here, Ralph Nader gives his explanation of “Why Labor Day Matters,” claiming that “commercialists have transformed Labor Day into a reason for shopping. The fact that Labor Day was conceived as an occasion dedicated to America's workers and what they have endured is sadly under-acknowledged and unappreciated.”

  • And, finally, this longread. “Can Millennials Save Unions,” which appeared in a recent issue of The Atlantic, speculates about the future of labor by looking closely at events in the news right now. It’s worth the time. But, if you want a quick summary, we’ll just mention that this article . . .
    • Traces recent union organizing at Gawker and Salon, in the NCAA, and at NYU.
    • Describes how millennials’ values overlap those of unions. (Speaking about a large-scale survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the article claims that "Without discussing unions at all, the firm . . . found that younger workers share concerns for some of the very things that unions have sought for generations.")
    • Explains that lack of work experience, and particularly experience with unions, leaves millennials with questions about unionization, and skepticism about established union hierarchies.
    • Points out that, "In general, if you ask the majority of workers, ‘If you could have a union, would you like that?’ they say yes, but the opportunity to do that is rather limited” because of broken labor laws and widespread employer opposition.
    • And, too, goes on to predict challenges to the future of organized labor.

Want more tidbits? Just click the “Tidbit” label in the sidebar (or here). Then your screen will fill up with every tidbit we’ve ever posted. (We only started last month, so it’s easy to catch up.) See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.

Five Tidbit Friday: Eighteenth Anniversary Edition!

Today, September 11th, is rich with historical significance both for our union (SHARE turns 18 years old this week), and also, we remember respectfully, for our country. It’s been a busy time for many of us in SHARE, with Summer ending and the new school year beginning, the Labor Day weekend, preparation for next week’s Chocolate Day, and, it turns out, some nice recognition in the hospital for several SHARE members. Accordingly, here are our five informal, informational tidbits for the week:

  1. We want to say a hearty congratulations to the SHARE members and their colleagues on 5 East, who were named “Innovators of the Year” at this year’s Champions of Excellence Celebration. The event also recognized the important and inventive projects being done by SHARE members in the 3 Lakeside Step-down Unit, 4 East, the Anticoagulation Center, the Family Medicine Clinic, and the Cardiovascular Clinic. Nice work, and congratulations to you all!

  1. SHARE seeks more makers & bakers for Chocolate Day. If you would like to share your own fudgy, crunchy, chocolatey contribution at the festivities next Friday on the University Campus, or your recipes for chocolate goodness, please leave a message at the SHARE office (508-929-4020) or email martha.robb@theshareunion.org for details.

  1. Following up from last week’s Labor Day post and tidbits, we note that Labor Secretary Thomas Perez joined President Obama in Boston to celebrate Labor Day. President Obama signed an Executive Order that requires federal contractors to allow employees who work on Federal contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. This will give about 300,000 working Americans access to paid sick leave for the first time.

Also, before leaving town, Secretary Perez dropped off an op-ed piece at the Boston Globe for Labor Day, in which he writes about the importance of workplace democracy in America, pointing out that “employers need to recognize their responsibility — to their workers and the nation — to help make sure that prosperity is broadly shared,” and that, “We should be amplifying workers’ voices, not silencing them.”

  1. Secretary Perez’s comments jive with a report released earlier this week by the Center for American Progress in conjunction with researchers from Harvard and Wellesley Universities. Entitled Bargaining for the American Dream: What Unions Do for Mobility, the report details their findings, including:

  • Areas with higher union membership demonstrate more mobility for low-income children.
  • Areas with higher union membership have more mobility as measured by all children’s incomes.
  • Children who grow up in union households have better outcomes.

  1. Speaking of chocolate: What?! Your mom never sent you the recipe for Two-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake? You really should know how, in a pinch, to swap out your healthy after-dinner square of dark chocolate for something gooier and more celebratory.

We’re looking forward to more chocolate recipe swaps next week. If you’ll be pedalling in the  UMass Memorial Health Care Caregiver and Family Member Bike Ride tomorrow, ride safe and have fun. See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.

Five-Tidbit Friday: September 4, 2015

Happy Labor Day! Again, to all of you who are working this holiday weekend, thank you! And, happy new school year. Whether you're helping the students ease into a new year at UMMS, or getting the students in your own home back into the groove, we hope things are off to a smooth start. Here's a handful of things worth noting this week:

  • You've likely seen in the local news that, this Labor Day, President Obama will be around the corner at the 2015 Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast
  • But did you know that, leading up to Labor Day, US Labor Secretary Tom Perez has been doing a tour of US cities, meeting with workers around the country? He's been blogging his travels. And it's in that blog where we found this statement, in the entry about his Detroit stop: For generations, there has been a direct link − not just correlation, but direct causation − between a thriving middle class and a vibrant labor movement. Membership in a union lifts up workers, empowering them with a voice on the job that translates into better pay and benefits. 
  • Of course, there's still much to do to strengthen the middle class. For example, millions of working people don't get time off for holidays or vacations, including Labor Day. We're looking forward to more vibrancy, doing more good work through our own Union. And we're excited to see groups like Raise Up Massachusetts and Fight for 15 pushing to make paid family and medical leave, and a living wage, a reality in the communities around us.  
  • September is also Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Thanks to advances in research and treatment, the five-year survival rate is 83 percent for all childhood cancers combined, up from 58 percent in the mid-1970s. We're grateful to have fantastic Pediatric Cancer care in our own hospital, for local resources such as Why Me and Sherry's House which do so much to support patients and their families in hard times, and that, as always, the Boston Red Sox are coming out big in support of childhood cancer cures.
  • And, finally, SHARE turns eighteen this month! In 1997, on September 9th, 10th, and 11th, SHARE members voted in favor of having a union, and having a greater say in their worklives, and in making UMass Memorial and UMass Medical School better places to work and receive care. Happy birthday, everybody!
See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.

Five Tidbit Friday: August 28, 2015

This week's Five Tidbit Friday is all about SHARE, a preview of things to come. (Not that there haven't been significant happenings in the outside world, including the NLRB's Browning-Ferris decision earlier this week.) We'll be talking and posting about all of these items with more detail soon:

  • Raises are coming in the first week of October 2015. This raise is the final negotiated raise of the current contract period, which runs until October 2016.
  • Raise time is a smart time to assess your financial plans for retirement, and consider your 401(k) contribution, as we'll discuss in an upcoming post.
  • Of course, we intend to negotiate more raises in the coming contract. We've consistently negotiated strong contracts with good benefits, including our defined-benefit pension and health insurance. We expect the SHARE negotiating team to begin meeting with hospital management next year. This time we're setting our sights on improving our hospital culture. Right now we're having preliminary conversations with SHARE members throughout the hospital system about what we could negotiate to make it feel better to come to work every day.  
  • Speaking of the contract, we've refreshed the "Contract" tab above with a single searchable and printable document. This contract includes all of the current policies and agreements we've negotiated, as well as SHARE's guiding philosophies and principles.
  • And finally, a request: if you'd like to give a shout out to a fellow SHARE member, let us know! Is a SHARE member really helping you in your job? Doing something to make the hospital better? Taking great care of patients? We'd love to recognize them here. Send an email to kirk.davis@theshareunion.org, or call 508-929-4020, and let's share the kudos.

See you here next Friday. Have a great weekend.

Five Tidbit Friday: August 21, 2015

Welcome to the first installment in a new SHARE blogging experiment: Five Tidbit Friday, five observations about SHARE members and our community, and about the broader world of healthcare, personal health, higher education, labor, workplace issues, etc. Here’s five things we note this week:
  • The UMass Medical Farmers’ Market has gotten really good, with lots of fresh and local food right on the quad. It’s happening every Tuesday from 1-5 pm through October.
  • And, Labor Day is coming. One particularly fitting way to spend the day would be at the Bread & Roses Heritage Festival in Lawrence. The festival’s mission is "to recognize, commemorate, inform, and share the labor history and social justice legacy of Lawrence's 1912 Bread & Roses strike with Lawrence's present day residents and people worldwide."

See you here next Friday . . .

Fun Facts: Thanksgiving Edition!

Thanksgiving, it turns out, can be good for you. Studies increasingly show that gratitude improves your health.  One insightful--and funny--psychologist points out that gratefulness inspires better work.

Lately, I hear folks saying, with varying degrees of stubborn optimism, "I'm just grateful to have a job." I sure can appreciate that. I'd like to personally say that I'm thankful for SHARE members, and a certain kind of generous spirit that I'm finding more and more.  I've lately run into several beautiful examples of departments hanging together, and SHARE members looking out for one another. I'm particularly inspired when I add that to the fact that, for a living, SHARE members take care of people, patients who need care.

Having said that, I would like to put aside the studies and the healthfulness and the heartfelt appreciation, and touch on another favorite Thanksgiving theme.  If you're looking for a good last minute dessert idea, then, man, have I got a recipe for you: Baked Indian Pudding with Maple Spiced Nuts.

Thank you all. And have a very very happy Thanksgiving!