A Father’s Legacy

GJay Sackmanood afternoon, ProviderNation.

Our newest guest blogger, Jay Sackman, is a long term care expert and consultant with 42 years of experience working with nursing home operators, labor organizations, and elder advocates. We think Jay’s unique perspective on employee engagement and satisfaction, management and staff relations, and performance improvement will make for some compelling and interesting blog posts.

Today, Jay introduces someone who inspired his career path and his desire to help people—his father.

Professionally and personally, I owe so much of my passion for aging services and staff welfare to my father, Michael Sackman, who passed away in 1999. Mickey—as he was known to his friends and family—was born nearly 100 years ago to immigrant parents on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was the youngest of six children, and when his father died he took over as the main financial support of the family at the age of 12.

In 1934, he was making 25 cents an hour as a soda fountain worker on Delancey Street, working 12-hour days, with one day off every two weeks.

One day, he became fed up with the situation and decided to start a labor union to represent culinary workers. He then founded the Regional Clerks International Association 1115. His vision was that the union would be the vehicle for lifting people out of poverty so that they would have a chance to go to school and improve their financial status.

He retired 60 years later.

Dad was either loved and admired or respected and feared. You could not be ambivalent about him. This was the life I was born into.

Jay Sackman and father

Jay and his father, Michael “Mickey” Sackman, in 1994.

The Local 1115 began organizing nursing home staff in the early 1960s. I started working in the office at the age of six and went to work with him frequently over the years. I learned how to shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye when speaking with them, as well as the importance of being on time, keeping my word, and keeping my commitments.

I worked at the union offices as an organizer, started a legal service plan for union members and their families, and represented them for 13 years. I served as president of a local and executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199 United Healthcare Workers East until 2006.

My father and I believed in representing the interests of union members and that strategic and legal partnerships with providers were essential to accomplishing the union’s purpose.

I have learned that the vast majority of people who go to work in the field of long term services and supports have something personal at stake. Their motivation starts with a special relationship with a grandparent, parent, or other elder who played a special role in their lives. They want to know the people they are taking care of, and they want to fulfill their personal needs. They want to hear their stories and learn from them.

And what they expect of their supervisor is engagement, empowerment, and that their own observations will be taken into consideration in the care plan.

In future entries on this page, I will share my experiences and recommendations for engaging and retaining staff. I will try to keep the entries practical and focused on current organizational issues arising in long term and post-acute care settings.

Jay Sackman, JD, is principal of Jay M. Sackman Consulting Services. For two decades, Jay served as an elected leader of labor organizations, including a stint as a member of the International Executive Board of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and as the executive vice president and Nursing Home Division director of SEIU 1199 United Healthcare Workers East. He is now treasurer of the Board of the Advancing Excellence in Long Term Care Collaborative and has served on the Steering Committee of Advancing Excellence in America’s Nursing Home Campaign for six years. Jay works with organizations that are committed to creating real homes for elders in nursing homes and with executive leadership and other formal and informal leaders to facilitate “ground-up” sustainable change.

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