By Jim Misunas
LARNED — Mike Marvin, Kansas Organization of State Employees Local 300 AFT/AFSCME/AFL-CIO, director, delivered an opening address during Saturday’s rally at the Pawnee County Courthouse.
“Good morning brothers and sisters, family and friends. Thank you for coming out this morning.
“More than 100 years ago, names like (J. Paul) Getty, (Andrew) Carnegie, (John D.) Rockefeller, and (J.P.) Morgan required employees to work 14 to 16-hour days, six and seven days a week. Many battles were fought to get employees the right to an eight- hour day. We are again fighting that battle at several of our state hospitals. This should not be.
“While today’s event, the first of more to come, may not solve all of our issues — it shows management that you are tired of their abuse of staff and we will no longer stand for it. There can be no other word then abuse.
“The abuse is not only the enormous amounts of mandatory overtime that is required of employees, it is the everyday manner in which they deal with employees and the lack of respect when dealing with employees. Supervisors are hired that have no training in how to supervise or speak to employees. We have had supervisors who have refused to give guidance to employees they believed were not doing their jobs properly.
“They just send emails that say you’re not doing your job properly. A former employee begged for their supervisor to come and show them what he was doing wrong. The supervisor’s email read, ‘I don’t have time to come and show you, I have to do my work.’
“I have copies of the emails to prove it. Not a correct way to supervise. We recently had a MHDD tech who wanted to transfer from their position to a vacant position doing the same job so she could attend school and was told ‘no,’ without reason. I intervened with HR and that employee got to change her shift without quitting. It never should have came to that.
“How does management expect to retain employees? Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents, they happen too frequently.
“This abuse has gone on for far too long unchallenged . Several months ago, I met with Secretary (Shawn) Sullivan and he assured me they were working towards fixing the issues out here. I see no movement in retaining employees, I see little, if any, improvement in the way first-line supervisors and middle management treat employees. The state has worked to hire new employees, but has paid little attention on how to retain current employees. How do they expect to gain, if employees are quitting as fast as they can hire new employees?
“To illustrate this point, there are currently 201 MHDD techs employed at Larned State Hospital. Of that 201, 36 have one year or less seniority — that is 18 percent of the work force and 113 have less than three years — that is 56 percent of the workforce. We are losing experienced staff at an alarming rate.
“Today, we call on Superintendent Tom Kinlen and Secretary Shawn Sullivan to make sure that supervisory staff here at Larned State Hospital are trained in how to do their jobs. How to treat employees with the respect and dignity they deserve and quit treating them like replaceable commodities. They are not. Now, I also need to say that these problems are also present Osawatomie State Hospital.
“We also call upon Governor (Sam) Brownback and the legislature to provide funding to improve wages. Our MHDD techs, despite what the governor’s PR people say, have not had a raise since 2005 with the small exception of in 2011 of moving those with two years or less seniority up one notch on the payline to be equal in pay with those who have been doing this job for 20 years or more.
“Reinstitute step raises and place people at the correct step and you will go along way towards retaining quality experienced employees. This is true in all other agencies also, employees have no way to advance in their job class.
“You did not come here today to hear me go on about the issues. You came to hear employees and former employees talk about the issues. With that I will move forward and after the other speakers I will make myself available to any press who wish to ask questions. Again, thank you all for coming today.”
• VIDEOTAPE — Three current Larned State Hospital employees spoke publicly about working conditions.
About 50 people attended Saturday’s rally, which also included at least one Larned State Hospital supervisor who videotaped parts of the rally, according to Marvin.
“The lot of the current employees were concerned and afraid when they saw one of their supervisors taping video of the rally,” Marvin said.
• NURSING DIRECTOR — Larned State Hospital has dismissed director of nursing Zena Jacobs. She was nursing director since July 2011, following the dismissal of her predecessor Kim Brennan in 2011.
“They’ve got a system in place to cover her responsibilities,” said Angela de Rocha, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which oversees the hospital. De Rocha did not know what measures the hospital was taking to fill the post or how long it would take.
The Larned State Hospital complex features a 90-bed psychiatric unit, a 190-bed forensic unit and the 177-bed Sexual Predator Treatment Program.