Medina Journal-Register — Last September the employees at Orchard Manor voted to join the Civil Service Employees Association in a highly contentious and publicized campaign.
After the union vote, it was reported that Orchard Manor would wait to negotiate with the union until it determined that the vote was not completed in part due to coercion. Spokesperson Aaron Lichtman said at the time, “There were many complaints made and we’re looking into them,” and that the ownership at Orchard Manor is not “ideologically opposed to unions” and “supports workers having a free right to determine whether they want to collectively bargain.”
On Wednesday, CSEA issued a press release indicating several “positive developments” that have occurred in recent weeks. The release mentioned that the local office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) “dismissed all of the objections to the election filed by management at the nursing home.”
After the original vote in the fall, management “alleged an array of improper activity, which the board determined to be unfounded,” the statement read. It continued, “Second, the same local office of the NLRB rejected additional claims by management that CSEA and workers supporting the union had committed unfair labor practices.”
Negotiations with the union have not begun, though, because, as the release explained, “As a delaying tactic, Orchard Manor has appealed both decisions.”
Furthermore, the release mentioned that the NLRB issued “official complaints against Orchard Manor management for illegally harassing, terminating and suspending union supporters during the campaign. CSEA had filed charges with the Labor Board alleging gross violations of worker rights by Orchard Manor management. The NLRB issued formal complaints after investigating the charges and finding management misconduct.”
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Lichtman acknowledged the complaints were filed, but he added they were withdrawn.
“My understanding is the union withdrew most of its claims of unfair labor practice charges because they had no merit,” he sated. “The NLRB issued nothing.”
Given the contradictory statements from both parties, the NLRB was contacted for clarification. Paul Murphy, assistant to the regional director in Region 3 (Buffalo) confirmed the board was involved.
“We did issue a complaint alleging that they discharged two employees unlawfully and committed other violations by what they said or did to the employees during the union campaign,” he said. Murphy declined to comment further.
The CSEA release added that a number of claims were withdrawn because the employees and Orchard Manor elected to settle. The sides presented differing views as to how the settlements were reached, though.
Management “decided to avoid losing a trial before an administrative law judge by agreeing to pay thousands in back pay to workers illegally terminated or suspended during the union organizing campaign,” read the CSEA release.
Lichtman explained the settlement reflected a compromise “without admission of liability” on some of the claims, and reiterated that they “had no merit.”
The CSEA release stated that while the company may not have been required to admit guilt, “the decision to pay the workers thousands of dollars in back pay and return those still interested to their jobs speaks volumes.”
Also found on the NLRB website were the results of its findings in its investigation into whether Orchard Manor’s objections to the union vote had any validity. The NLRB ruled in favor of the employees, and currently, Orchard Manor is appealing the decision.
“All the facility is trying to do is focus on the real issue, and that is, did the union taint the election?” Lichtman said. “There were some very serious allegations raised against the union by employees, and once those issues are resolved, that will determine whether the facility engages in discussions with the union.”
Just about a week ago, Meghan Carpenter, one of the union’s leaders, was returned to work as part of one of the settlements reached. Pam Fraser, a CNA at Orchard Manor and another union leader, stated in the release, “We started our union to have a voice on the job and to be partners in improving care for the residents. Despite management’s decision to spend valuable resources to fight our union we have won every time. It is time for management to come to the table rather than waste more resources on intimidation and litigation.”
Added fellow pro-union worker Gloria Graham, also a CNA, “Management could have avoided this expensive settlement by simply following the law and respecting our rights.”
Lichtman stood by his comments regarding Orchard Manor’s position in the matter when made aware of each statement in the release, reiterating multiple times that the claims against the nursing home were withdrawn because they had no merit.
But according to CSEA, the claims were warranted. Jill Asencio, a spokesperson for CSEA, stated, “The NLRB found that the employer’s claims against the union were without merit and found that the workers’ claims against the employer were valid thus forcing the employer to return one worker to work and pay thousands of dollars in compensation. We stand by the facts presented in our press release.”
Flo Tripi, the CSEA Western Region President, applauded Orchard Manor’s employees in the release.
“I congratulate the workers ... for sticking together, holding management accountable, and proving their case,” she said. “Clearly, Orchard Manor management knew they were going to lose the trial. Now we urge them to join these fine employees in forming a partnership to improve care by recognizing the union and bargaining a fair contract.”