The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

September 20, 2013

Manor employees vote to unionize

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

Medina Journal-Register — On Thursday evening the employees at Orchard Manor voted to join CSEA.

Though there is now a process to go through to make their unionization official, the vote was by a “comfortable margin” according to CSEA spokesperson Jill Asencio.

After the vote to unionize was known, a number of employees at Orchard Manor met at Medina Lanes to celebrate.

All of them agreed the decision was necessary to keep patient care at a high level in the home. Now, though, they said the work begins. 

“We’re going to get to work negotiating a contract and we’re going to try to get some people their jobs back,” said Christine Penna, an LPN. Penna, who was suspended a day after the union story broke last week, said the vote showed the “solidarity” among the employees at Orchard Manor.

“This shows how we stood together and that we’re all in this together,” Penna said.

Meghan Carpenter, also a licensed practical nurse at Orchard Manor, had been part of the union organizing committee and was also suspended this month. She said her vote was challenged on Thursday.

“I showed up and they told me my job had been terminated,” Carpenter said. “They hadn’t told me anything and we can’t figure out why.”

Another terminated employee, Sarah Gates, a CNA for almost 14 years at the home, said she learned of her dismissal over the phone. Gates, like Penna and Carpenter, was part of the pro-union group, which include as many as a dozen members. 

Pam Frasier, a CNA, said none of the suspensions or terminations had any merit.

“It’s been horrible to watch the last few weeks,” Frasier said, referring to her colleagues. “I didn’t see any proof or evidence that would have led to a suspension.”

Then, echoing Penna’s remark about solidarity, Frasier added, “We’re all family and when one of us hurts, we all hurt.”

Moving forward, Penna said the Orchard Manor staff, including LPNs, CNAs, and kitchen and maintenance staff, should all feel a bit more secure once a contract is negotiated. However, she noted that there will likely still be residual stress to deal with since, she said, “The administration didn’t want this.”

Carpenter said she hopes the administration works with the staff to get to know and respect the home’s residents better. She said, “It will take some time to sort everything out, but we’ll get back to where we were.”

In the days leading up to the union vote, public support on the employees’ Facebook page increased, with a number of encouraging comments. Penna said that support galvanized the workers.

“Knowing there were people in the community who supported us and understood what we were trying to do gave us hope,” Penna said. “It’s their family members in the home, or their family members who work in the home, and they obviously care or are associated somehow.”

Frasier agreed, adding, “When we started getting public support it gave us the confidence and the oomph to go forward and keep fighting.”

She further stated that the vote finally gives the employees a voice, and it is one they will use to focus on one thing above all else, she said. “Patient care. This means better care for our residents.”

She continued, “Hopefully this will lead to better communication between administration and staff.

“Now we can sit down, talk like adults, get things taken care of and get back to taking care of our residents.”

Frasier said she felt the tension in recent weeks “disrupted the lives of our residents,” but that should stop now. 

Brian Cornelius, a CSEA statewide organizer who helped the employees, said he hoped Orchard Manor “stays true to their word” and works cooperatively with the union. He said, “The hard part starts now and we hope Orchard Manor bargains in good faith.” Cornelius also mentioned fighting to restore the employment of the suspended and terminated pro-union employees.

Neither an administrator or spokesperson for Orchard Manor could not be reached for comment.