Labor board hearing for Cayuga Medical Center nurses' union effort comes to a close

ITHACA, N.Y. – On Tuesday morning, a brief final session marked the end of the hearing before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to determine whether or not Cayuga Medical Center unfairly attempted to block its nurses from unionizing.

The bulk of the hearing had occurred during the first week of May, during which multiple nurses and administrators from Cayuga Medical Center testified.

The hospital is accused of using coercive rules, coercive actions (such as surveillance), coercive statements (such as threats or promises of benefits), discipline, and changes in terms and conditions of employment to undermine the nurses' effort to unionize.

In particular, the complaints filed with the NLRB claims that certain Cayuga Medical supervisors:

  • asked employees distributing union materials in a common area to leave
  • prevented employees from posting union literature around the facility while allowing other postings
  • threatened its employees with unspecified reprisals unless union activities ceased
  • interrogated its employees about their union membership, activities, and sympathies
  • unfairly disciplined employees involved in union organization

Cayuga Medical Center denies all allegations of anti-union activities and maintains that all disciplinary actions were justified and unrelated to the unionizing effort.

John Turner, Vice President of Public Relations at Cayuga Medical Center previously told The Voice: "We do recognize and respect the right of our nurses to explore third party representation... We respect that, we've honored that and certainly have gone about our way to make sure that accurate information is getting out there in presenting that," Turner said.

What the nurses want

The nurses seeking to unionize have given a number of reasons for why they are seeking to form a union, but one of the most common talking points is the issue of safe staffing.

Some nurses have stated that the hospital is understaffed, particularly in the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room. They say this leaves them feeling stretched thin and they don't feel like they can always give the best care to their patients because they're being pulled in too many directions.

During the hearing, CMC's attorney Raymond Pascucci characterized the claim that the hospital is understaffed as a myth designed to draw more support for the unionizing campaign.

CMC Vice President of Public Relations John Turner noted that there is a nationwide nursing shortage, but said that CMC routinely evaluates its nurse-patient ratios to ensure that they meet accepted standards.

Other issues on the nurses' agenda include:

  • Better security for patients and staff
  • A collective voice with meaningful input into strategic decisions at CMC
  • Standardized and predictable scheduling so that we can balance work and family life
  • Opportunities and resources to advance our education so that we can improve our clinical knowledge
  • A formal process of discipline with representation and recourse to arbitrary management decisions
  • A clearly delineated wage structure which eliminates favoritism and recognizes the value of experience, training, and education above and beyond basic requirements for practice
  • Increased on-call pay which is commensurate with the sacrifice in private and family time

The decision

Administrative law judge David I. Goldman will make the final ruling on the case in the coming months.

If he determines that the case is without merit, the complaint will be dismissed. Otherwise, CMC may be ordered to cease and desist and remedy its unfair labor practices.