Everyday Heroes: AFT Healthcare finalists
Presidents, AFT Connecticut Locals 5049, 5051 and 5123
Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, New London, Conn.
Three locals, one union: That’s the motto of the three union locals at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn. “We act as one voice and one large union family,” says Stephanie Johnson, president of AFT Local 5051, which represents licensed practical nurses and technicians. Johnson works closely with Harry Rodriguez, president of AFT Local 5123, which represents service and support workers, and Lisa D’Abrosca, president of AFT Local 5049, which represents registered nurses at the hospital.
(L. to R.) Lisa D'Abrosca, Stephanie Johnson and Harry Rodriguez with Conn. Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman.
It was the unity of each of these locals that brought members through a fight to keep patient care services in their community hospital—including a strike, a hospital lockout and ultimately a successful contract negotiation this winter.
“I’m thankful for having Lisa and Harry with me through this strike and lockout,” says Johnson. “It was a very difficult time for all, but as leaders, we had to rise above and lead. The three of us would get together and talk, mostly to keep us sane, as no one else understood what we were feeling. I drew my strength from them.”
D’Abrosca agrees. “We are such good friends. I consider myself so fortunate to have shared last year’s struggle with my fellow presidents. I couldn’t imagine myself doing it without them.”
Although only the nurses and technicians were on strike at the hospital, Rodriguez’s members always showed their support during the strike and lockout. “We don’t see each other as nurses versus support workers versus techs, but rather as three locals in the same union looking for the same thing, which is to ensure that our members are well-represented,” says Rodriguez.
The leaders all say that one of the hardest things about having three people in leadership is finding time for everyone to meet. “Because of our schedules, we often refer to the three of us together being as rare as a Sasquatch sighting,” says Johnson. Rodriguez agrees, “Our schedules do get in the way; however, we get past it and accomplish what we set out to do.”
Good communication has been the key to the leaders’ ability to get things done. “With the three leaders, it is all about union, and it is always ‘we.’ What can we do? How can we do it? Then we talk to accomplish our goals,” says Rodriguez.
“We respect each other’s opinions and are able to work cohesively through any problems that management might toss our way. We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” says D’Abrosca.
“To be honest, I don’t think it would have worked without the team that was in place,” Rodriguez says, referring to the strike and lockout at L+M. “The reason we persevered was exactly because of our relationship and our teamwork,” Rodriguez adds. “It was the right leaders, at the right time, and at the right place.”
“Every unionized member of the hospital helped us get that contract and prevent the hospital from outsourcing our unions out of existence,” says Johnson. “Together we took back our hospital.”