The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

September 9, 2013

Orchard Manor, employees at odds

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — Workers at Orchard Manor Nursing Home will vote on whether to join CSEA 10 days from now.

However, according to a CSEA spokesperson, management at Orchard Manor has been using fear tactics to swing the vote.

“A lot of people are being threatened, and that will sway how they vote,” said Jill Asencio, communications specialist at CSEA. “That’s the horrible part of all this.”

After Orchard Manor was sold in the past year, workers started to notice changes at the home, Asencio said.

“They approached us in May,” she said. “They said things started to change for them and for residents, as well, this past January.”

Asensio said the workers decided it would serve them better to unionize. In recent weeks, Asensio said some “fishy people” have been spotted at the nursing home.

“They are claiming to be from human resources, but we’ve identified a couple of them from a union-busting firm,” Asensio said. “They were hired by the parent company to do this.”

The “this” Asensio was referring to includes threats to employment, changes in hours worked, and embarrassment.

Asensio said the union busters are being paid between $200 and $300 per hour, which flies contradictory to what the nursing home should spend its money on.

“It’s obvious the management of the nursing home is not making decisions with regards to what’s best for the residents,” she said.

Some of the most vocal pro-union voices include those of Christina Penna and Pam Frasier. Both have been intimidated in some way, Asensio said.

Penna, a part-time LPN, said CSEA was originally contacted to help bring job security to the employees at the nursing home.

“We wanted to have a voice,” she said. “We had meetings, and we wanted to be fair by having a campaign to unionize.

“Now, though, we have a consulting firm in the building and we feel we’re being harassed and intimidated,” Penna said.

Penna said “being able to sit at the negotiating table” to have a respectful discussion with upper management and ownership would help improve the atmosphere at Orchard Manor. The current mood at the place, she said, is not a happy one.

“We want to come to work as employees here with a smile on our face because we love our job,” she said, noting how that has not been the case in recent months.

“We’ve had quite a few employees leave,” she added. Some left voluntarily, and some saw their employment terminated. Penna said several long-time employees were among those no longer working at Orchard Manor.

The leadership regime change has left the nursing home employees with few people to turn to should any issues need to be raised.

“We have nowhere to go because all of management has been replaced,” Penna said.

“We were a family and our family has been broken,” she added. “We want a voice and we want to repair the cracks in the foundation of our family.”

Frasier agreed.

“We’re there to do a job, and we all feel we’re being intimidated,” she said. “We’re there to take care of the residents, but all management seems to worry about is whether we form a union.”

Frasier said the anti-union company hired by Orchard Manor’s parent company has left employees feeling “uncomfortable” in the work place. She said some of the so-called “union-busters” have put up anti-union posters and removed pro-union posters. They have walked around the building, both inside and outside, Frasier said, making residents uncomfortable and making attempts to intimidate workers at odd hours.

“I came in to work a shift the other day at 1 a.m. and there was one of them following some girls who were on an 11 to 7 shift,” Frasier said. “He started talking union stuff but they were the only two girls on staff in that area at that time so they were nice and told him they didn’t have time for him.”

Frasier said having the anti-union people in the building is a “foolish” way to spend the nursing home’s money.

“A lot of people feel this way,” she said. “We need equipment and supplies, but they seem to care more about bully tactics than about residential care.”

“More staffing means better care for our residents,” Frasier said. “Right now we all feel that we don’t get to do what we’re supposed to do, and we feel guilty because we’re rushed.”

Some of that rushed feeling has come from spending time in meetings, only one of which Frasier said she has been invited to attend.

“My first and only meeting I was there an hour and 20 minutes ... and a person with me said how we feel the residents are part of our family,” she said. “The guy leading the meeting looked at her and said she shouldn’t think that way, but she stuck up for herself.”

Frasier said that the meetings are meant to weed out pro-union employees. “Then they either make them quit or do something to get suspended,” she said.

Asensio said the practices currently employed by the nursing home are illegal. According to the Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, “... employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid protection.” It further states that “it shall be unfair labor practice for an employer ‘to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7.’ “

Asensio said CSEA is not surprised by the reports coming from employees at Orchard Manor.

“This is classic union busting,” she said. “But the simple fact that it’s happening is outrageous.”

She added, “The unfortunate thing with union busting issues is that a lot of people vote out of fear because they are being threatened, and that’s horrible because it will sway how they vote.”

Administration at Orchard Manor was not available for comment over the weekend.