Friday, September 25, 2015

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.
  • 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.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Free Film Screening: The Connection

Over the next week, UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Hospital will be screening The Connection, a documentary film about "the remarkable link between your mind, body & health." For a preview, you can watch the official trailer, or the first fifteen minutes of the film free online. For more information about the screenings, see the information from the event flyer below.

  • Learn more about the practice of mindfulness and the numerous resources available at our academic medical center.
  • After viewing the 70- minute video, participate in an interactive discussion and learn about mindfulness programming and new resources to continue or adopt a mindfulness practice. 
  • We encourage you to take the time to learn about the benefits of mindfulness for yourself and our patients.
University Campus
  • Monday, September 21, 12:00 pm (Lazare Auditorium)
  • Friday, September 25, 12:00 pm (Lazare Auditorium)
South Street Campus
  • Monday, September 21, 3:00 pm (Amphitheater)
  • Tuesday, September 22, 3:00 pm (Amphitheater)
Memorial Campus
  • Monday, September 21, 3pm (Amphitheater)
  • Wednesday, September 23, 3pm (Amphitheater)
Hahnemann Campus
  • Monday, September 21, 11:00am (Ann Nemitz Room)
  • Monday, September 21, 12:30 pm (Ann Nemitz Room)

  • Wednesday, September 30, 6:30 pm (Simonds-Hurd Complementary Care Center)

Friday, September 18, 2015

New to the SHARE Blog: Five Tidbit Friday

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 higher education, healthcare, personal health, labor, workplace issues, etc.

The recent Labor Day holiday yielded a bumper crop of media pieces about work and unions, (including an opinion piece by US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, published in the Boston Globe on the occasion of his visit with President Obama to the 2015 Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast.) Accordingly, the inaugural 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, 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.

If you'd like to give a shout out to a fellow SHARE member in a future blog post, let us know! We'd love to recognize them here. Send an email to, or call 508-929-4020, and let's share the kudos. See you here next Friday. Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

SHARE Chocolate Day: A History

Happy Chocolate Day! Tomorrow, we’ll publish the first installment in a new SHARE blogging experiment: Five Tidbit Friday. Each week, we’ll post five news items regarding our union, our work, and our workplace, as well as other workplaces, unions, higher education, medical research, etc. In the meanwhile, on this festive occasion, for your reading pleasure, in an even more exaggerated spirit of freewheeling randomness, we provide an essay on the history of SHARE’s Chocolate Day . . .

A History

Why does SHARE celebrate with chocolate? Chocolate was selected for its status as the most dignified, if not regal, of the candies, one that has been celebrated since the beginnings of UMass Medical School as a potent emblem of health and vitality.

Actually? SHARE Chocolate Day was first celebrated in 2004. The story of its origins has clouded, obscured as though by a fine dusting of cocoa powder. It is generally accepted that the event began as something of a lark, a harmless piece of mischief, chocolate for chocolate’s sake, and an excuse to get together and smile.

Also, because brownies.

Of course, the earliest human interactions with chocolate actually date back much further. The Aztecs and Mayans were known to use cocoa beans as currency as far back as 600 CE; the rich among them turned the beans into a drink, and literally drank their wealth. In 1652, the drink came to England, when the country’s first coffee house began serving cups of coffee, tea, and--most expensively--chocolate.

According to The History of Chocolate, a person living in Tlaxcala, Mexico in 1545 could buy the following with their cocoa beans:

  • One rabbit (30 beans)
  • One avocado, newly picked (3 beans)
  • One avocado, fully ripe (1 bean)
  • One large tomato (1 bean)
  • One fish wrapped in maize husks (3 beans)

First advertised as an annual event, SHARE Chocolate Day has become roughly that, with a year or three missed along the way. Nothing about the event is fixed. Sometimes it happens on, say, the fifth of May (aka, “Choco de Mayo”), and, in years such as the current one, closer to Labor Day.

In various years, SHARE has collaborated to host Chocolate Day with various others, including Human Resources at UMMS, our sister SHARE union in the hospital, and with nearby local union and community groups. In some years, we’ve held door prizes and bake-offs, and raised money for charity. It has always been a community-wide, community-building event, open to all comers.

When chocolate reached the Spanish Royal Court in the seventeenth century, it was believed to cure fevers, cool the body in hot weather, and relieve stomach pain.

Current studies show that the health benefits of the oleic acids in chocolate might outweigh the negative impacts of its palmitic acid, thus resulting in a net positive effect on chocolate’s regulation of cholesterol levels. In addition, chocolate contains healthful anti-oxidants. (One hundred grams of unsweetened cacao contain 13,120 ORAC units, representing a respectable amount of Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.)

Of course, we know, too, that chocolate holds some culpability in the current obesity epidemic, which is associated with spikes in rates of heart disease, chronic inflammation, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Because, in part, unfortunately, brownies.

Processed chocolate first came to America in 1765 through its first chocolate factory, here in Massachusetts. The factory was operated by The Baker Chocolate Company, where, in 1938, chocolate workers formed Federal Labor Union No. 21243 of Dorchester Lower Mills. We don’t know how labor relations there evolved over time, although we do know that the factory owners and the union collaborated in the construction of a memorial dedicated to Baker’s employees who gave up their lives in WWII. (Incidentally, The Bakery and Confectionery Workers' International Union of America Local 464, which also formed in 1938, continues to bargain collectively, and to work with community and higher education organizations in and around Hershey, Pennsylvania.)

The chocolate coin has many sides. The issues that touch us seem to unfold in nearly infinite ways. Although we applaud current-day Massachusetts confectioners for reviving artisanal Mexican chocolate-making methods and employing fair trade practices, we also know that even now you don’t have to look far to find almost unimaginable working conditions.

SHARE Chocolate Day festivities have developed an odd tendency to associate chocolate with wisdom. Recently, participants have been invited to use the occasion to adopt a Zen-like and/or ridiculous motto for one’s self, such as:

  • “Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together” (Goethe).
  • Or, “Morning peevishness is a considerable emotional hazard” (Amundsen).
  • Or, “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” (Maybe attributed to Confucius? Maybe George Bernard Shaw? Probably neither).

In all seriousness, through our silliness and our wisdom, SHARE is grateful for the prosperity of the union and of its members, and for the occasion to consume chocolate like Mayan kings and queens. We’re excited to work in this vibrant intellectual community, to learn and to share our learning. Still, we know that there’s a lot of work to do to make our Medical School, and our workplace, the best it can be. We’ve got a lot of connections to make, conversations to have, and things to do. And that, of course, calls for a very serious amount of chocolate. Including brownies.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Everyone welcome!  Pure chocolate festivity everywhere you look. 

Chocolate Day is a SHARE tradition, an open invitation to enjoy some tasty things. 

Now is an important time for SHARE. The two branches of our union include almost 3,200 members at UMMS and UMMHC, all of whom face new kinds of change. Medical research and healthcare delivery confront major technological and economic shifts. We all grapple with redesign of our work.

By itself, even the very richest, gooiest home-baked brownie isn’t going to make the challenges any smaller or farther away. We build our strength by sharing our stories with one another.

And so, we invite you to join us to share a couple cookies and some conversation. And to maybe swap a recipe or two.

2015 SHARE NOMINATIONS OPEN September 16th - October 1st.

All SHARE members should receive a postcard at home announcing that the 2015 nominations are open for SHARE Representatives and SHARE Executive Board.

The strength of our union lies in the active participation of it's members! 
There are lots of ways to participate: coming to union meetings, giving your input, reading the blog, keeping in touch with coworkers, signing petitions, asking questions, etc. 

SHARE Area Representatives (or Reps) are members who volunteer to help with communication - making sure that every SHARE member knows someone who is active with the union. Reps are elected for one-year terms, but can serve multiple terms. Ideally there would be at least one Rep in every department or area. As a minimum, we will elect one union Rep for every 50 SHARE members, to keep people connected in their area. The positions are: 5 for the main campus; 3 for South Street; 2 for CCU; 1 for all offsite locations together. Extra volunteers are always welcome.

SHARE Executive Board Members (or E-Board Members) have responsibility for the whole union.  Executive Board Members participate in contract negotiations when they are happening, and make decisions about the direction of our union. This year four Executive Board Members will be elected for 2-year terms: President; Secretary and two at-large Executive Board members.

To run for Rep or E-Board Member you must be nominated in writing, either by a co-worker or by yourself.  You must also have been a dues-paying SHARE member for at least the last 6 months. Nominations open Wednesday, September 16, 2015 and all nominations must arrive at the SHARE office by noon Thursday, October 1st, 2015.

Nominations should include:

  • the name, department and phone number of the person you are nominating,
  • the position for which you are nominating them, and 
  • your name and phone number.  

You may send an email to or fax nominations to the SHARE office at 508-929-4040, but it is a good idea to call to confirm that your nomination arrived. The phone number at the SHARE office is 508-929-4020.

After the close of the nomination period, all nominees will be given the opportunity to decline the nomination.  If they do not decline, their name goes on the ballot. If there are more candidates than positions, we will hold an election on Wednesday, October 28 2015; times and locations for voting will be mailed to all SHARE members.

If you want to talk about what it would be like to be a SHARE Rep or to be on the Executive Board, or if you have questions, please call the SHARE office (508-929-4020) or talk to someone you know who is involved with SHARE.