Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day: SEIU, District 1199, and Healthcare Workers Rock!!

Another Labor Day…another unofficial, yet bittersweet farewell to the Summer of 2009.

I thought that since today is a day that honors the American worker and the union movement in general, I would take a walk down Memory Lane.

Please, walk with me and share in some of my memories from my days working as an Administrative Organizer (Union Rep) and Political Director for SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH.

I advocated on behalf of employees who had been terminated or otherwise disciplined in arbitration. I helped to negotiate contracts, facility closings, and other issues. I sat through hundreds of grievance mediations.


While those things were important, my fondest memories were things that happened on the fringes of my day to day duties.

I remember helping to run a picket line when our nurses and other hospital employees went on strike at Highlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg, KY.

No one enjoys going on strike, but when you do, you have to try to have some fun with it. Harry, another organizer who was a black guy, mid-late 50’s, 6’5 and about 120 pounds would constantly berate one of management’s security guards.

This guard was about 5 foot nothing, black, and 300 years old. He kept falling asleep just inside the barrier fence. We nicknamed him, Benson. Ha.

When he was awake, Harry would get in his face and calmly say, “C’mon brother, you know your mama wouldn’t be proud of what you’re doing.”

Harry was a hoot. He bought a dashiki for me, and called me, Snoop Matty-Matt. He called another guy on our team named Pat, P-Bone Thug.

When he first met Schmoop at our union Christmas party, all skinny 6’5 of him looked down at Schmoop and said to her, “Man, why you be dating this white boy? Don’t you know he’s always tryin’ to keep a brother down?”

Ha, Harry and I dug each other.

As I mainly represented health care professionals within the Corrections system in Ohio, I spent much of my time dealing with wardens.

What a sorry lot most of those fuckers are. I fucked a warden once…Literally and Figuratively.

If you have never read that lengthy yet amusing story, you can click HERE to peruse it. It’s a keeper.

I remember when a warden was giving one of my nurses at Noble Correctional Institution a cell full of crap because she was off sick so much. The nurse in question had legitimate doctor’s excuses and so on. She hadn’t violated any rule. This guy was just a dick.

I was arguing over the phone one day with him about her, and he said to me:

“You know what? When my wife was dying of cancer last year, I still showed up everyday. What do you think about that Mr. Mahoney?”

To which I diplomatically replied, “I think that makes you a major league asshole bub.”

There was a brief silence, a click on the phone line, followed by me laughing and giving the middle finger to my phone.

A similar incident occurred when I was representing a MR/DD nurse at a facility here in Bagwine. She was in the middle of heated scheduling conflict that had been going on before I even started with SEIU.

In the midst of our battle with the head of HR for the facility, the nurse, who was in turmoil over the issue in question, died.

I received a phone call shortly afterwards while traveling up I-675. It was the HR bitch.

She said, “Matt, it’s Jill “Smith”, I just wanted to tell you that I am truly sorry and incredibly upset about “Joan’s” death.”

I paused and then said:

“Truly Sorry? You’re INCREDIBLY upset, Jill? Holy Shit…You’re the goddamn bitch that killed her. Have a nice life honey.”

Once again…I heard the familiar click of the phone line. Ha…

While I was very good at what I did, perhaps my tactics aren’t the best model to follow when entering a career in Labor Relations.

Nonetheless, the 4½ years I spent working for SEIU were the most incredible learning experience I ever had.

It was definitely a love/hate relationship, but I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.

Happy Labor Day all. Kiss a nurse or a carpenter, or a steel worker…or better yet, kiss a beer mine worker.



katherine. said...

to me....labor day was all about birthin' a baby.

but for you mateo...I'll kiss a Teamster.

Happy Labor Day.

Jay said...

Happy Labor Day dude!

I love your answer to the HR bitch. That's classic. haha

Matt-Man said...

Kat: I bet you'll do more than kiss a Teamster, hubba hubba. Give Yank the "tongue of solidarity" for me. Cheers Kat!!

Jay: Ha. Thanks...Dude, the HR chick was sooooo hot lookin' and yet such a bitch. It was a waste of a good body. Cheers Jay!!

David said...

>>Snoop Matty-Matt

There's a name to strike fear into the evil hearts of managment everywhere. :-)

Cheers and Happy Labor day Matt-Man.

Matt-Man said...

David: Thanks and same to you. My favorite nickname came from the Director of Rehab and Corrections.

After I gave a speech at the State Parole Officers Recognition lunch in which I trashed the Director. He called me, "That Rude Smart Ass." I dig that. Cheers David!!

Michele said...

I wonder how the asshole warden's wife felt about him spending everyday that she was dying at work? Must have been a comfort to her to know that his job meant more to him than she did.

I'm not sure what it is about some people that lose their capacity to be sensitive to others needs. Sad really.

Matt-Man said...

Michele: Your comment is right on the mark. And while I was amused at my comment, I meant every word of it. If he did that, he was being an asshole. Cheers Michele; Kiss JR for me!!