ITHACA, N.Y. — This week, Cayuga Medical Center read and posted a notice for employees that states they violated federal labor law. The notice was ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals after the National Labor Relations Board found the hospital unlawfully disciplined nurses who were trying to form a union.

The NLRB recently upheld two cases involving Cayuga Medical Center. In one, the NLRB found in 2016 that the hospital violated federal labor law while workers were trying to form a union, and in the other decision in early 2018, the NLRB found Cayuga Medical Center unlawfully fired two nurses “in an effort to rid itself of the union organizing drive.”

The first case has concluded the appeal process and CMC is now complying the NLRB’s order, but they continue to appeal the second decision. On Wednesday, as ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals, CMC read and posted a notice that alerts employees that they violated federal labor law and says they must cease and desist from “directing employees to cease distributing union literature;” “disciplining employees for engaging in protected concerted activities” and several other activities.

After a hearing in 2016, Administrative Law Judge David Goldman mostly agreed with charges brought by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East that supervisors at CMC asked employees distributing union materials in a common area to leave, interrogated employees about their union membership, activities and sympathies, and unfairly disciplined employees involved in union organization. When issuing the decision, Goldman said in part, “It is clear to me that the hospital, while permitting a significant amount of union activity—which the law requires it to do—took issue with the activism of certain of its nurses.”  (Read the full decision and order below).

Though the decision was challenged by Cayuga Medical Center, the NLRB affirmed Goldman’s ruling for a final time in October 2018.

In a statement, John Turner, vice president for public relations, said Cayuga Medical Center is “disappointed but not surprised by the decision.”

“CMC continues to believe that the policies and actions in dispute were based on valid reasons unrelated to the union drive,” Turner said. “However, the NLRB administrative law judge decided to disregard consistent testimony and documentation from management representatives, and instead believe questionable testimony from certain witnesses. Appellate courts generally focus on questions of law rather than questions of fact, so decisions like this are rarely overturned. One key issue in this case was CMC’s Code of Conduct requiring honesty and professionalism from our nurses. The NLRB found that requirement to be inappropriate and ordered CMC to rescind/revise this policy and the decisions that hinged on it. Although disappointed, CMC intends to fully comply with the court’s order.”

Cayuga Medical Center decis… by on Scribd

The hospital was initially ordered to read the notice after the decision in October 2016, but a series of appeals delayed the reading. In October 2018, the NLRB upheld the 2016 decision.

Between the charges being filed, the hearings, decisions, and appeals, these cases have spanned years. Many nurses who were involved, like former Intensive Care Unit nurse Anne Marshall who was involved in both cases, have moved on to different facilities. Marshall now works in Cortland at Crown Park Rehabilitation and Nursing.

“With these judgments coming out and the vindication of what we were doing was within our rights, that I don’t think that in any way this is a dead issue. I think this is going to resurface and I think you’re going to see activity with the people that are there. They’re not happy and nothing has changed,” Marshall said Wednesday.

Though Marshall and several other nurses who were vocal about unionizing have left, Mark Bergen, vice president of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said: “this campaign is not over.”

Marshall was part of both NLRB cases. In the first case, the NLRB found she received an unlawful suspension, disciplinary warning, demotion and adverse performance evaluation. She was later fired along with another nurse, which led to the second case with a hearing in 2017.

In the second case, the hospital claimed it fired two nurses — Marshall and Loran Lamb — from the Intensive Care Unit because they violated blood transfusion policy and falsely documented it, and the issue came to their attention after the patient complained to the hospital. However, during the hearing in 2017, nurses argued that the way they performed the transfusion and documented it was common practice and the hospital used it as an opportunity to fire two people involved in unionizing efforts. At the time, Marshall was a key union organizer.

To read more coverage from the hearing, click here.

Kimberly Sorg-Graves, the administrative law judge who presided over the second case, stated in the decision, “I find that CMC unlawfully suspended and subsequently discharged Marshall and Lamb in an effort to rid itself of the union organizing drive perpetuated by Marshall. CMC’s claim that Marshall’s and Lamb’s failure to follow established procedures while performing and documenting a blood transfusion was so egregious as to necessitate their discharges is a ruse for its real motivation of removing Marshall’s vocal support for unionization.”

Recently on Nov. 2, 2018, a three-member panel including Chairman John Ring, Marvin Kaplan, and William Emanuel, chose to affirm Sorg-Graves’ ruling. (Read the decision below)

NLRB Decision Nov. 2, 2018 by Kelsey O’Connor on Scribd

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.