All posts by David Lublin

Standing Up for Quality Care at Holy Cross Hospital

Today, Seventh State is pleased to present a guest blog by Suzanne Mintz, a registered nurse working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Holy Cross Hospital and a leader of nurses’ effort to organize with National Nurses United.

It was a sweeping victory. A National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge ruled decisively in July that the registered nurses (RNs) at Holy Cross Hospital (HCH) in Silver Spring had been unlawfully harassed, intimidated, surveilled, and retaliated against by the managers of the hospital [ed. note: decision posted at bottom of post].  On countless occasions, management illegally interfered with our important efforts to organize a union to protect our patients and improve working conditions.

I love the work I do as a neonatal intensive care (NICU) nurse. My fellow nurses and I care for the most vulnerable patients – premature and/or critically ill babies. Together we help struggling infants survive, grow, and thrive, and we are dedicated to giving each of them the best start in life we possibly can. Unfortunately, conditions in the hospital can make it unnecessarily difficult to do so.

It wasn’t long after I started working at the hospital almost six years ago that I began to notice problems that put patient care at risk: significant and regular under-staffing of nurses, shortages of supplies, and dirty spaces. Every parent expects the best care, support and setting for their vulnerable babies, often fighting for their lives, and every child deserves a high level of care.

Consider this:  How does an individual RN properly monitor and care for multiple babies when she is also responsible for a baby born at 23 weeks, is the size of your hand, with skin that comes off with the slightest touch, requires six different medications plus daily blood and platelet transfusions? If you are the parent of that 23-weeker, wouldn’t you be upset if you found out that your baby’s nurse is not able to dedicate 100% of her time to your precious child?  And what about this:  As a parent wouldn’t you be shocked to hear that the reason the NICU floors are filthy and the trash is overflowing because the hospital has cut back on their housekeeping staff?  Yes. That’s right.  At a hospital.

That’s why registered nurses decided to organize at Holy Cross Hospital with the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United.  Starting with the NICU, and then moving throughout the hospital, we galvanized hundreds of nurses to advocate for patient safety and improved working conditions for nurses.  Every step of the way we have been attacked, followed, and intimidated by senior administrators, unit managers, and hospital security. The hospital has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside union busters who have targeted pro-union nurses. RNs have left employment at the hospital in big numbers for reasons that include the hospital’s lack of attention to patient safety and unfair working conditions, and others have buckled under the anti-union campaign of management and its huge parent corporation, Trinity Health.

Despite this pressure, many nurses have stood strong for our patients and our rights, and were attacked for it. Just ask Edith, an oncology RN at HCH who has been helping patients fight cancer for 13 years. Edith was a leader in the nurses’ effort to improve patient safety and care, so she was targeted in management’s union busting. Hospital management fired Edith for no defensible reason – a fact which became obvious when we pushed back and the hospital management was forced to re-hire her and provide 14 weeks of back pay and other compensation.  A major life disruption for Edith is only one of many caused by unfair hospital management practices that have at times prevented HCH nurses from advocating for our patients.

Instead of working with us to improve patient care, hospital management did everything it could to stop us from exercising our rights.  The judge agreed with nurses that management was acting unfairly.  “Credible”, “unrefuted”, “undisputed”– these are some of the terms the judge used to describe nurses’ testimony about the unfair labor practices of management at the May hearing.  And the judge told management to stop violating our rights and required the posting of notices around the hospital about labor law and how it had been violated.

Nurses have been vindicated by the decision.  Despite the challenges posed by the administrators and managers, we continue to work to protect our patients and to organize a union to improve care and conditions at the hospital. All because we care deeply about our patients and providing the care they deserve.

HCH RNs have been deeply touched by the outpouring of support from the community for our patients and our effort to organize to protect them. In February, more than 100 people came out in the cold to stand with us for quality care, including community members, religious leaders, elected officials, and patients. Four area members of Congress, six of the nine Montgomery County Council members, and three quarters of Maryland legislators representing Montgomery County have urged Holy Cross Hospital management to listen to nurses concerns, respect our rights as workers, and stop their attacks on us. Nurses are proud to stand with our community, faith, and elected leaders.

We have continued our efforts to organize a union at the hospital so that we can be effective in our patient advocacy, and can protect ourselves and those we care for.  We urge Holy Cross Hospital management to take this opportunity to stop its unlawful behavior, focus on patient care, and recognize and respect our rights.

Learn more about nurses’ unionization and patient advocacy efforts at www.Facebook.com/HCHNurses.

ALJ Decision Holy Cross by David Lublin on Scribd

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His Announcement Says Council . . . But His Website Says Congress

Screenshot from this morning

After running unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 2014 and the U.S. Congress in 2016, Attorney Will Jawando is making a third bid for public office by running for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council.

While Jawando came in a very respectable fourth with the equivalent of 45.3% of the vote in the 2014 delegate primary, he earned just 4.6% in his quixotic 2016 congressional bid. Unfortunately, his website, including the logo and the authorization line, for his current bid for a third office are still stuck in the past with his congressional race.

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Public Parking Prices Soar

Parking prices on the street at public garages in Montgomery County shot up again on July 1. This is just the latest in a series of major increases.

In Bethesda, street parking prices went up 12.5% from $2.00 to $2.25 per hour. Garage pricing jumped by 25%, rising from $0.80 to $1.00 per hour in regular garages, and from $1.00 to $1.25 per hour in popular garages.

Silver Spring parking is a relative bargain. Street parking prices remained unchanged at $1.00 per hour. Regular garages saw their prices increase a nickel or 7.7% from $0.65 to $0.70. However, pricing in popular garages jumped 53.8% from $0.65 to $1.00.

This marks the latest in a series of increases since 2009 that have raised parking prices well above the rate of inflation. The following graphs compare public parking inflation over the last ten years to the consumer price index (CPI) with all set to 100 for 2009.* Each year shows the price change on January 1, so this year’s bump is shown as 2018.

Bethesda has been especially hard hit. In 2009, prices were just $0.50 for long-term garage spaces, and $0.75 on the street. Since then, parking charges have jumped 100% in garages, 150% in popular garages, and 200% on the street. The CPI went up just 11%.

Despite starting in 2009 at the same base as in Bethesda, prices have increased less in Silver Spring. There have still been substantial price hikes, resulting in parking inflation of 33% on the street, 40% in garages, and 100% in popular garages. Still, it is now relatively cheaper to park in Silver Spring than Bethesda—a real benefit to both consumers and business there.

Montgomery citizens increasingly complain about property and income taxes. But fees like parking rates have often quietly been increased at even faster rates.

*Note: MoCo changed its method of parking charges in 2013. The categories of short term and long term were eliminated in favor of a new division into on-street, lots, and garages with popular garages having a surcharge. I’ve compared on-street parking to the previous short-term rate, and garage parking to the previous long-term rate, as this appears reasonable. If anything, it biases the estimates of on-street parking inflation down.

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How Not to Alienate White Voters

Trump loves to invoke white identity politics to rally his base. In recent days, we’ve seen him triple down on this approach to distract from the scandals and fecklessness of his administration. He began this most recent cycle with an attack on transgender people who serve honorably in our military.

Trump continued with his embrace of efforts to cut even legal immigration and the recent deportation of a Latino kid from Gaithersburg who won a college scholarship. Now, Trump and Sessions plan to fight affirmative action as an effort to end discrimination against whites.

Earlier installments in this series were called “Playing Trump’s Game” because Democrats unwittingly aid Trump’s efforts to rally white voters on racial lines when they play into his frames by portraying whites in negative terms as a group. (See Part I: Are Democrats Buying into Trump’s Narrative, Part II: White Privilege, Part III: Old, White Men, Part IV: Denigrating People’s Jobs, and Part V: Denigrating American History.)

Today’s final installment encourages Democrats to avoid “heads you win, tails I lose” narratives about whites that just communicate whites are bad in a way that plays straight into Trump’s efforts to consolidate white voters.

Gentrification

Much ink is spilled today expressing concern about the impact of whites moving into neighborhoods that are predominantly black or Latino. No doubt there are real effects as occurs whenever there is economic or racial change in neighborhood composition. On the other hand, when I was younger, whites were repeatedly chastised for leaving cities. People cannot help but notice that whites are excoriated for moving in and out of cities.

In contrast, progressives have nothing negative to say about similar movements by black or Latino populations. Just as whites fled DC, much of the African-American middle class decamped to Prince George’s. Now, many black families are moving into Charles or back into DC. Most people have nothing negative to say about either, which is of course as it should be, with criticism perceived (rightly) as racist.

Cultural Appropriation

To the extent people want to condemn the appropriation of intellectual property, as often occurred to black musicians in the 1960s, the idea of cultural appropriation is fine. However, stretching the concept to attack when people from one culture use or mix in something from another culture makes little sense, as cultures are not hothouses but constantly incorporate outside ideas.

The widely-lauded musical Hamilton seems a great example with Puerto Rican Lin-Manuel Miranda taking the history of the proverbial “dead white man” and mixing it with styles of music developed by blacks and Latinos to create an exciting, multiracial, and rich contribution to our common culture. And utterly appropriate, as we all get to claim the history of this country whether our ancestors were among the Founders or even here at the time.

No, not all experiments work out so well. I have serious reservations about the peanut butter chocolate chip bagel. But I’m not offended by it.

Finally, to the extent that claims of cultural appropriation demand that whites remain strictly outside observers of black, Latino, Asian etc. cultures, it flies in the face of simultaneous demands that whites need to learn much more about them. Regardless, separating cultures into neat racial boxes is an impossible task in our increasingly diverse society.

In The Atlantic, Jenni Avins provided a sensible guide to “The Dos and Dont’s of Cultural Appropriation” that applies the idea in a rational way. Her headline points are: 1. Blackface is Never Okay, 2. It’s Important to Pay Homage to Artistry and Ideas, and Acknowledge Their Origins, 3. Don’t Adopt Sacred Artifacts as Accessories, 4. Remember That Culture is Fluid, 5. Don’t Forget That Appropriation Is No Substitute for Diversity, 6. Engage with Other Cultures on More Than an Aesthetic Level, and 7. Treat a Cultural Exchange Like Any Other Creative Collaboration—Give Credit, and Consider Royalties.

Her approach makes cultural appropriation about mutual respect and appreciation rather than a means to catch white people out, which can only alienate people who actually have an interest in cultures other than their own—something to be encouraged and seen as natural in our highly diverse country rather than policed.

Returning to Why This Matters

As I explained in first post in this series:

Democrats don’t need to win back most white voters in order to win—even small gains among whites would have been enough to deprive Trump of his electoral college victory. Giving up on white voters is political folly. Increases in the rising black, Latino and Asian vote won’t be enough alone to win many of the states moving in the Democratic direction, at least in the medium term.

Additionally, geographic distribution renders capturing more white votes key to Democratic control of federal and state legislatures as well as the presidency. In Maryland, white votes will determine the outcome of legislative elections in most seats targeted by Republicans, such as those held by Sens. Kathy Klausmeier and Jim Mathias, and whether Democrats retain their ability to overturn gubernatorial vetoes in both houses  of the legislature.

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Does George Leventhal have the Temperament to be County Executive?

I had planned to continue my Playing Trump’s Game series today but apparently 7S became the subject of controversy on WAMU. Tom Sherwood raised the issue of George Leventhal’s temperament on WAMU’s The Politics Hour last Friday. Councilmember George Leventhal (D-AL) reacted by blaming Seventh State:

Um, you know I gotta say that I think the issue of the Purple Line is a very important issue. There is at least one blogger who has written about an encounter with the unions who is very much opposed to the Purple Line. We don’t have a lot of local journalism. I’m grateful to the Politics Hour, so people rely on bloggers who may have an ax to grind. I think people have written things about me who disagree with me on issues who then try to characterize me in a way that makes me seem an undesirable candidate. And I think with that gentleman in particular, it’s really that we just disagree on the merits of the Purple Line.

Yep, George Leventhal and I disagreed about the Purple Line. Indeed, I disagreed with the entire county council, almost all of our state legislative delegation, and many good friends on this issue. None of these other people have claimed that I have an ax to grind against them. This a red herring–a classic effort to distract.

Debate on policy questions is normal in a diverse, democratic society. My friend and co-blogger, Adam Pagnucco, disagrees with me on a bunch of issues. Seventh State has had blog posts that directly argue against my own point of view, including on the Purple Line compact and a Planning Board appointment. I even did a blog post giving George Leventhal’s point of view on the issue he mentioned in his WAMU comments with no rebuttal.

Councilmember Leventhal’s problem is not his issue positions, which differ little from his colleagues on many issues, or even that he frequently butts heads with his colleagues or media critics. It’s that he targets his own constituents and people who work for the County.

Clips from Council meetings show this plainly:

Berating Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer Hughes from the dais at a Council hearing.

Attacking constituents as tools of lobbyists (with responses by Nancy Navarro and Craig Rice).

Unfortunately, this is not rare and Councilmember Leventhal developed a widespread reputation as a result long before I wrote about it. He takes the same approach on social media and in meetings as he does from the Council dais, comparing term limits supporters to Brexit voters, and likening DLC opponents to whiners at Starbucks. This hostility is why he performed less well than other incumbents in the last two at-large county Democratic primaries despite his long tenure in office.

In the same WAMU interview, Councilmember Leventhal went on to excuse any bad behavior with:

I’m motivated to make a difference for people who most need government on their side.

In other words, George cares so much that it’s okay that he behaves atrociously. There is a difference between standing firm for what you believe and bullying people.

Other politicians manage to have an impact without acting this way. Councilmember Leventhal says he knows that “I need to be a good listener” and “I respect the fact that people will not always agree with me.” But he regularly communicates hostility instead of the idea that reasonable people of goodwill may hold different opinions on issues. It’s not a one off or a bad day.

George Leventhal has trolled David Trone, a potential candidate for county executive, by comparing him to Donald Trump. Ironically, his own efforts to delegitimize media critics and belittle constituents who disagree are the hallmarks of the Trump Administration.

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Translating George Leventhal

Our county needs new leadership.

Please ignore that I was elected to the first of four terms on the County Council in 2002, and served twice as Council President.

We need an executive who plays a hands-on role . . .

I don’t like Ike Leggett.

. . . in addressing the challenges that we face [traffic, school overcrowding, and affordable housing] and who also understands that the challenges that we face are connected to our success.

Please forget that these same problems existed when I joined the Council 15 years ago. Their continuation is due to the amazing job that I’ve done addressing them.

We have a lot of traffic and we need to address that.

Please ignore that I was elected as part of the End Gridlock slate in 2002. (In 2002, End Gridlock flyers declared “our citizens are drowning in traffic” and promised “bold action now.”)

We do need to meet each of these challenges and I’ve worked on all of them for fifteen years as a councilmember and I think I have a good understanding of the leadership that’s necessary to take us into the next decade.

Please ignore what I just said. Our county needs experienced leadership.

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Playing Trump’s Game V: Denigrating American History

Notwithstanding Hillary Clinton’s ultimate loss, the Democratic Convention was very successful. One of its most heartening and effective aspects was its embrace of the country, the flag, and our progress as a people. As envious Republican commentators noted, President Obama’s speech and the audience reaction had the optimism previously associated with Reagan.

Since the election, too many active in progressive politics denigrate American history and America more broadly. This has always been a trope of the extreme Left but it is in danger of becoming far more widespread. When one reads these posts, it sounds like America has never done right, never can do right, and never will do right.

Like many countries, America has deeply unpleasant aspects of its history. Europeans arrived not just fleeing persecution but also as part of a colonial enterprise that exterminated almost all Native Americans. Slavery was the original sin at the country’s founding and the maintenance of Jim Crow after its end continued it. One could also mention the Chinese exclusion acts and the internment of Japanese Americans.

But fear of the future as “American carnage” is Trump’s market. Democrats won’t win by hectoring the country on its sins. Few will vote for someone who comes across as thinking that the only proper way to observe Thanksgiving is a vegan apology dinner. Yes, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slaveholders and (gasp) white men but they also played critical roles in crafting the country’s democratic institutions and the ideals that many have invoked so effectively to bend the arc of history.

No immigrant comes to America because they hate the country—they usually have reason to be grateful for the opportunities and freedom it offers—so the negative approach also has little appeal to the rising Latino and Asian American electorate.

We should acknowledge the past but the emphasis needs to be more squarely on our progress and celebrating the great wonder that is America. No need to celebrate historical figures whose essential contribution was primarily negative, like John Calhoun or George Wallace.  We want to move to the future to continue our amazing progress, which allows us to acknowledge darker moments in our past but as part of a tapestry in which we continue to move forward hopefully and confidently by holding on to our best ideals.

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Perennial Candidate Ficker Reprimanded for Ethics Violation Again

Ficker Reprimand by David Lublin on Scribd

Robin Ficker has been reprimanded yet again by the Maryland Court of Appeals for a legal ethics violation. Specifically, he failed to show up for court and left his client unrepresented, and also employed a disbarred lawyer without the appropriate required notice.

Ficker blamed a conflict and communication problems with the judge’s office for why the judge didn’t know that he wouldn’t appear. Did the client know that Ficker was leaving in the lurch? On the second violation, Ficker plead ignorance of the law as his excuse:

“I did not know about that rule. There was not a single Maryland case which had ever mentioned that rule or any ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals,” Ficker said, adding that he stays up to date on developments in the state’s highest court.

Ficker is a frequent flier at the Court of Appeals for ethics violations and has been previously suspended from the practice of law. When Ficker was suspended in 2007, one judge wrote:

If disbarment is not warranted in this case for these types of issues, with a respondent with this history, it will never be warranted. If it is never going to be warranted in these types of cases, we should modify the rules to say so. I would disbar.

Taking into account his history, Ficker was lucky to once again get away with just a reprimand.

This will not affect his chances of being elected Montgomery County Executive, as those remain nil.

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