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Orchard Manor employees vote to unionize

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 September 2013 at 12:00 am

MEDINA – Employees at Orchard Manor, a nursing home on Bates Road, voted to join the CSEA union on Thursday.

Employees approved the vote “by a comfortable margin,” said Jill Ascencio, spokeswoman for CSEA.

“It wasn’t even close,” she said this morning. “The workers definitely chose what they wanted to do.”

Orchard Manor was owned by Medina Memorial Hospital until it was sold to 600 Bates Road LLC for $4.1 million. The new owner took over Jan. 1 and hired Global Health Care to manage the 160-bed residential healthcare facility.

Chris Penna, an LPN at Orchard Manor, said changes were quickly noticed by the staff, as the new owner and management cut back on staff and basic supplies.

Staff tried to voice their concerns to management about quality of patient care, but Penna said employees didn’t feel their concerns were appreciated or addressed.

Orchard Manor staff started talking about forming a union, which led to seven staff being suspended and at least two terminated, Penna said. She was suspended the day after she spoke with The Journal-Register about the unionizing push.

“It’s a common union-busting tactic,” Ascencio said about employees losing jobs or facing suspensions. “They put on the pressure, they intimidated and they coerced. They tried to get people to back down out of fear.”

Penna said the employees banded together. She noticed that camaraderie when she started at Orchard Manor 19 months ago. She drives about 20 miles from Holley to work in Medina because she enjoys the residents and her co-workers.

“From the first day my feet hit the floor it was like family,” she said. “That why I wanted to work there because Orchard Manor had such a good reputation.”

She is hopeful the union will give the workers a stronger voice to ensure staffing levels and supplies for a high level of patient care.

“We want to make the residents the number one priority,” Penna said.

There are 114 employees eligible to be in the union, but that could change if some job titles are added or removed. Right now, the union will likely be open to CNAs, LPNs, maintenance, transportation, activities and kitchen staff.

They will need to form a negotiating team that will try to meet with management and the owner to discuss an employee contract and quality of care for residents.

Penna said employees have been under a lot of pressure in recent weeks, especially when co-workers were suspended or fired.

“We fought the good fight, that’s for sure,” she said. “We’re a family and we stuck it out. But we know the hard part isn’t over.”