Cushing-Gavin Award Recipient
Labor Award, 2020
Janet resides in Arlington with her husband Dale Kutyna, and their son, high school senior, Roger. She grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, and moved to Boston after college. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My roommate wanted to move to hike the White Mountains, so we came to Boston.”
She hoped to “make a difference in the world. Maybe I get that from the missionaries in my family.” She gravitated to issues around women and work, and after working several different jobs, she met Kris Rondeau and the organizers at HUCTW/AFSCME. They had just organized the clerical and technical workers at Harvard University, and were starting an organizing drive at UMass Medical Center. Janet was drawn to their organizing model, which focused on one-to-one relationship building, and organizing around participation in decisions at work. Janet joined the team organizing the SHARE Union local at UMass Medical, led by Elisabeth Szanto. Building the union and winning that election in 1997 was the most intense experience of her career. She says, “Choosing a union changed the future in dramatic ways for 2000 workers.”
SHARE members now number 3000, including public sector workers at UMass Medical school, and hospital workers at UMass Memorial Medical Center. In addition, Janet recently led a successful organizing drive at UMass Memorial Marlborough Hospital. Currently, Janet takes the lead for SHARE in contract negotiations at both hospitals.
The work that Janet is most proud of is the negotiated labor-management partnership at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “Over the last 20 years, we had negotiated region-leading wages and benefits, a great work security program, an innovative alternative dispute resolution process, and we had good relationships at the top. But we hadn’t changed how it felt to be at work for our members on the front-line.” Through the labor-management partnership, they are spreading unit-based teams to all departments. Co-led by a union rep and a manager, the team gives front-line caregivers a voice in improving how the work gets done, improving for workers and for patients. “The partnership has been invaluable for collaborating around the COVID-19 pandemic too,” adds Janet.
In her view, there is tremendous potential for labor and management to partner around the case for high quality affordable healthcare in this country. Janet says, “Our healthcare system is broken. It’s really important to include healthcare workers as key stakeholders in any discussion of how to fix healthcare. We can’t play quality, affordability and good jobs off each other.”
Janet has been very successful in collaborating with her counterparts on the management side and thinks it can be translated to a larger scope. Her career spotlights the mission of The Labor Guild and so, we are proud to present Janet with the Cushing-Gavin Award for Labor.