Friday, April 29, 2016

Personal Essay: A Trip to the Homeless Shelter

The following essay comes from the pen of Kathleen Bateman, SHARE-UMMS Treasurer, who works in the Pathology Department. If you read this and get excited to dedicate some of your own time to families in need, check out this directory of central Worcester homeless shelters.
Kathy, preparing for last year's SHARE Chocolate Day
Just a couple of weeks ago, I volunteered a few short hours of my time at a homeless shelter in Worcester for the first time ever. I had no idea what to expect or what I would be walking into. The host welcomed me and gave me a quick run-down on the layout of the building and some background information about the families living there. Then she passed me the keys and I was left with the families. The adults occupied themselves by cooking dinner or staying in the one bedroom that they shared with their whole family, or watching television in the main family room. Two little girls, with paper and paints in hand, ran straight up to me and asked me to paint with them. So I said ok. They moved very quickly and in about one minute, they were covered up to their elbows in finger paints. Luckily I had some help from another parent cleaning up that catastrophic mess. Shortly thereafter, the person who was the designated cook for this night’s evening meal announced that dinner would not be ready at 6:00 and it would be at least another hour to hour and a half for the roast to be done, that she had put it in the oven too late. I panicked, not knowing if this was something I should involve myself in, or if there was anything I should say or do or not. It was clear that some of the children were hungry. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was in over my head and this was the right thing for me to be doing. After a few minutes, the cook-of-the-day and the other parents decided that the rest of the other food was ready and brought it out to the table. Everyone ate their dinner while the roast continued to cook. It finished cooking at 7:30 and the families munched on it.
There were many children ranging in age from three to sixteen years old. Even today I can picture each child in my mind; however, there was one child in particular, a beautiful ten year old girl, who will remain in my memory. She stood straight and tall, walked up to me with a smile on her face and asked, “Would you help me with my homework, please?” She asked so confidently and unafraid. I said that I would be happy to help her with her homework and said, “I just hope it isn’t math.” She laughed and said, “It is Math”. The homework was to calculate the areas and the perimeters of rectangles! I am no whiz at mathematics, it is my Achilles heel, (again, in over my head), but we sat together and she showed me the “how to” directions at the top of the page on how to calculate the area. She struggled to add up the columns and carry her “1”s, and I guided her as best I could. You could see the effort and earnestness in her desire to learn, and to learn how to do it right. She completed the area calculations into centimeters, however there was no instruction on how to calculate the perimeter of a rectangle. I now believe that Google is a miracle! We googled how to calculate the perimeter of a rectangle – which turned out to be pretty simple. So she finished her homework and we joined the other children and a few mothers in the family room. Some of the older children occupied a few of the younger ones, by playing dolls, brushing their hair, and reading books to them. I was amazed by their cooperation.
We sat, talked, and eventually we got around to singing. This beautiful ten year-old girl said that she loved to sing, that she and her mom sing together and that their favorite song to sing together is, “Killing Me Softly.” Roberta Flack had a huge hit with this song in the late 1900’s, way back in the last century. It was made into a remix recently, which is the version she sang for me, still sung by Roberta Flack. The voice that came out from this girl was so amazingly beautiful – I couldn’t help but think that she should be on American Idol. The other children sang their favorite song, “Stitches,” and they danced along to it too. We read a few books and soon it was time for the children to go to bed. Each child said good night but this beautiful 10 year old girl in the 4th grade came over to me and gave me such a goodnight hug and said, “Thank you.” She hugged me for a very long time. I felt that hug on my whole drive home. Those few short hours have stayed with me ever since and I think of her often.
I will surely be volunteering my time again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

2016 Central Massachusetts AFL/CIO College Scholarship

The SHARE office recently received the following notice in the mail from Joe Carlson, the President of the Central Massachusetts AFL/CIO, about a really great scholarship opportunity for our members. The lottery for these scholarships will be open to any SHARE members, as well as children and grandchildren of our members, who will graduate from high school this year and attend college next year. The details are posted below. Please note that applications should NOT be sent to the SHARE office. If you would like a copy of the nomination form, please click here.


To: All Affiliated Locals of the Central Mass AFL/CIO,

We are pleased to announce that we will be awarding six $1,000.00 scholarships as well as a number of  $500 Platinum sponsored scholarships.

The scholarship recipients will be drawn by lottery at the May community services committee meeting and the winners will be announced at the Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament on Friday, June 3, 2016.

The scholarships will be presented at the Labor Day breakfast September 5 2016

To be eligible, the student must be a 2016 graduating high school senior and going on to college, and a child, grandchild, or member whose local is affiliated with the Central Ma. AFL/CIO. Union members must live or work in the jurisdiction of the Central Ma. AFL/CIO.

All names must be submitted by April 29, 2016 and returned to:

Paul Soucy
AFL/CIO Labor Community Services
Central Ma. AFL-CIO
400 Washington St
Auburn, Ma. 01501

Fraternally Yours,
Joseph P. Carlson, President
Central Massachusetts AFL/CIO

Friday, April 8, 2016

Don't Raise Health Costs for State Workers!

Governor Baker's latest budget proposal includes changes that will affect State employees--including SHARE members at UMMS--by requiring employees to increase their Health Insurance contribution. We ask you to urge your State Representative to reject this unfair cost-shifting.  According to the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Action Network:
The FY 2017 budget proposal put forward by Governor Baker asks the legislature to raise the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) premium contribution rates for active state workers hired prior to July 1, 2003 and retired workers who leave the workforce after June 30, 2016 from 20 percent to 25 percent. State workers would face a substantial financial impact as a result of this change.
When a similar threat was made to insurance rates last year, SHARE members lobbied on Beacon Hill to defend against the bait-and-switch for longer-service employees. SHARE believes that if you put in your years to the State, you should pay the same percentage of your health insurance in retirement as when you were working. This issue affects all SHARE members at UMMS: if we allow lawmakers to go back on this deal made in 2003, it sets a bad precedent, and could weaken all agreements already negotiated with the state.
Thank you for participating by using this link. You just need to enter your name, e-mail, home address and a customizable letter template will pop-up, addressed to your own local lawmakers. (See the full text below.) If you have any questions, you can contact the SHARE union at 508-929-4020 or
Dear [your local Representative will be automatically addressed here],

The FY 2017 budget proposal put forward by Governor Baker asks the legislature to raise the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) premium contribution rates for active state workers hired prior to July 1, 2003 and retired workers who leave the workforce after June 30, 2016 from 20 percent to 25 percent. State workers would face a substantial financial impact as a result of this change, and I hope you and fellow legislators will reject the Governor’s proposal which seeks to balance the budget on the backs of hard-working families.

Even without changes to premium contributions, workers who receive their health insurance from the GIC have been facing growing out-of-pocket costs for their care. Plan design changes implemented by the Group Insurance Commission that have raised co-pays and deductibles have resulted in a significant shifting of costs from employer to employee over the past decade. A review of GIC total plan cost data performed by the Milliman Actuarial firm shows that from 2007 – 2016, the true share of GIC health care costs paid by employees (premium contributions plus cost-sharing) now averages 37%, up from a rate of 28% in 2007[1]. An additional 25% increase to the premium share would result in cost increases of over $1,300 in FY 2017 for many families in premium costs alone[2].

In a budget proposal that does not raise taxes or fees elsewhere, this proposal from Governor Baker stands out as a notable exception. State workers and retirees face the same fiscal constraints as all other working families in this Commonwealth, and in fact have sacrificed especially greatly over the past decade as a result of the fiscal crisis and years of budget cuts. It is simply not fair to place an undue financial burden on this specific group of workers in an effort to balance the state budget.
I strongly urge you to oppose this proposal. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

[1] Based on analysis of Tufts HealthPlan Navigator and the Unicare State Indemnity Plan Basic, plan designs effective July 1, 2006 and July 1, 2015.
[2] Based on FY 2016 premium rates for UniCare State Indemnity Family Plan

SHARE Hospital Reps Learn to Use Lean to Improve their Jobs

One morning in early March, over twenty SHARE leaders from all over UMMHC came together for a special, customized “White Belt” training. We even welcomed a few SHARE colleagues from UMMS who work in related jobs. Our hospital has adopted a "lean methodology," and our union wants to understand that, to know how we can make it work for us. So far, SHARE members’ experience of lean has been uneven: many SHARE members feel that their idea boards are helping make their jobs better, while some have not noticed any change.  Others wonder how to use these tools more effectively.
We began by talking about the purpose of process improvement.  A “good process” is one in which doing a great job is relatively straightforward; in a good process, it is difficult to make a mistake. A “bad process” is unnecessarily complicated, one in which it can be frighteningly easy to make a mistake, leading to high levels of stress and burnout (not to mention worse outcomes).  If you have to struggle against the system to make the right thing happen, leaving you exhausted and frustrated, you’ve got a process that needs improving.  SHARE reps’ stories of processes in need of improvement were hilarious and horrifying, sometimes at the same time.
When some organizations say “lean,” what they mean is “do more with less.” However, SHARE reps learned to substitute an idea of flow, since the point of process improvement is to keep things working smoothly, to remove barriers that get in the way, wasting SHARE members’ time.  Reps learned more about idea board best-practices; many left with ideas about how to improve their department’s board.
One highlight of the morning was a visit from Eric Dickson, CEO of UMMHC, who encouraged the SHARE Reps to "ask what is the problem we are trying to solve?". When a manager or supervisor proposes a process change that an employee is not sure will work, or doesn't understand, Dr. Dickson suggested, rather than just accepting it but being frustrated, or refusing to change, they should ask the manager to clarify the purpose of the change. Ask why. Work to agree about the definition of the problem. He pointed out that when we're on the same page about the problem to be solved, we're more likely to come to consensus about how to solve it.
At the end of the training, the SHARE reps wanted to know more about the flow and problem-solving tools involved in lean. The next step, a “yellow belt” training, is in the works!
All SHARE members can sign up for lean process improvement training (many hundreds have already attended).  You can sign up on Ournet.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Member in the Spotlight: Geoffrey Bottone

By: Laurie Lynch, SHARE staff organizer

Polite, friendly, hardworking, and very much a gentleman: that is how I would describe Geoffrey Bottone. As well as a writer, game designer and an entrepreneur.

Geoffrey has invented several games, including "The Red Dragon Inn." In this card game, participants roleplay as fantasy adventurers . . . after their adventures have concluded, when they’re relaxing and drinking in the tavern. The last player who is both conscious and has money wins.
Geoff also enjoys writing science-fiction fantasy. He has has written and is currently editing several books. Once done, he can start working toward finding a publisher. He does have one published piece of work currently in print, entitled "The Fear Vampire."

Geoff grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut, and graduated from the local town high school before attending Simon's Rock College in Great Barrington, MA. There he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts. He then went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Southern Connecticut State University.

Geoff really likes working for UMass, and he enjoys his job as an Administrative Assistant II for both the Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute (BNRI) and the Center for Comparative NeuroImaging (CCNI). He is very lucky to have an extremely short commute of only about five minutes. He also really admires how beautiful the campus is. He began working at UMass as a temp back in 2010, and was offered a permanent position in 2011, which he happily accepted. The position allows him time in the evenings and on the weekends to continue working on what he is passionate about—writing and creating board games.

25 Random fun facts about Geoffrey Bottone:

  • Favorite color – Black. Why, you might ask? Because Geoff is color blind and black is the one color he can clearly recognize.
  • Favorite season – Autumn
  • Beach or woods – Woods
  • Chocolate or vanilla – Chocolate
  • Dream vacation – Italy AND is getting to go there this summer on a family vacation.
  •  Favorite style of music – Whatever is on is fine
  • Favorite food – Pizza
  • Do you have any siblings – 1 sister and twin brothers
  • Do you have any pets – No
  • If you could only eat 1 meal for the rest of your life, what would it be – Could NOT do it! No way!
  • If you could go back in time, when would you go to and why – 9-10-2001 to warn everyone and stop the attacks on 9-11-2001.
  • If you got stranded on a deserted island with no power source, what 5 items would you bring – A boat, fishing gear, knife, flare gun and a tent.
  • Do you blow dry your hair? or just let it dry on its own, or towel dry – Air dry
  • Do you untie your shoes when you take them off – Depends on the shoe but does not un-tie sneakers.
  • Favorite book – Anything by Lloyd Alexander
  • Last thing you bought – Replacement pads for Swiffer Wet Jet.
  • Favorite day of the week – Saturday
  • T.V. show you secretly enjoy – Rick and Morty on Cartoon Network
  • Favorite Potato Chips flavor – Original Cape Cod
  • Do you play a musical instrument – A flute - for 1 year while in school.
  • What's your worst pet peeve – People who merge into traffic at the last second and force their way in.
  • Do you have dream car – Tesla Model S
  • Who named you and why – His mother named him; she wanted him to have the same initials as his father but not be a 3rd (father is a junior). Also, his mother really liked the author of Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer.
  • What languages do you speak – 4 years of Latin but did not retain any and 1 year of Arabic and all he remembers is how to say in is “انه جنون ليلى. أنا أحبها وتحبني وجملي يحب الجمال لها.” Which means, “He is mad for Layla. I love her and she loves me and my camel loves her camel.”
  • Do you have a favorite life motto – Don’t panic.