Judge: Cayuga Medical Broke Federal Law, Again

Categories Health Care, Ithaca, Labor

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By Josh Brokaw

Cayuga Medical Center, Tompkins County’s only hospital, has been found guilty of violating federal law for firing nurses Anne Marshall and Loran Lamb.

The decision, released on January 9, 2018, is the second time a National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] judge has found Cayuga Medical engaged in illegal union-busting tactics. Both cases stemmed from actions Cayuga Medical bosses took in reaction to a union drive among nurses that started in early 2015.

Intensive Care Unit nurses Marshall and Lamb were fired in October 2016, for what CMC claimed was their failure to follow a protocol during a blood transfusion on September 11, 2016. The regional officer for the NLRB found the action to be retaliation, and so brought charges against the hospital.

A federal district judge ruled in March 2017 that CMC had to put the two nurses back to work, but neither of them are currently working at Cayuga Medical.

“I’m sure they will appeal, there’s no doubt,” Marshall told TruthSayers after the decision was released. “The fact the judge pretty much discredited every single witness they put up there and pretty much lied and our side was all credible … she pretty much nailed them.”

“They’re going to appeal and appeal and appeal like they always do,” Marshall continued, referring to Cayuga Medical administrators. “They’re going to use money and time and resources. They can’t stand to lose — they’re above the law.”

Marshall said that if she is reinstated to her full position as a team leader by federal order, she does intend to return to Cayuga Medical.

“I will go back and I will take that job and I will start this union thing over again from base one if I have to, but they are not going to win this,” Marshall said. “One, because it’s against the law and two, because this is what we wanted and it’s so wrong what they’ve done. I couldn’t be more on fire.”

A request for comment to Cayuga Medical Center vice president of human resources John Turner was not returned. Turner told the Voice that the hospital plans to appeal.

An Informational & Promotional Break

TruthSayers broke the story of Marshall and Lamb’s firing in our first week online. Read it here: CMC RNs Fired: Policy Violation or Union Busting?

TruthSayers founder Josh Brokaw has spent hundreds of hours and written thousands of words covering Cayuga Medical Center issues in the last 15 months. Most other outlets in Tompkins County only cover “positive” things about Cayuga Medical. They only report on when the hospital’s screwing up when our reporting forces the hospital’s bosses to issue press releases. Take a look at the advertisements those papers and stations run, and you’ll see why they don’t want to offend this county’s only hospital.

TruthSayers’ only revenue since launching in October 2016 has been about $2,000 in donations that have covered hosting costs, equipment, gas, etc. It’s been volunteer labor, essentially, and we can’t keep this project going on a volunteer basis for ever.

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Cayuga Medical Center nurses demonstrate in Ithaca on Meadow Street in 2015. Anne Marshall is in the foreground. Photograph via Facebook.

Marshall and Lamb never disputed that they had not followed the blood transfusion policy, which was for both nurses to check the patient’s identity against paperwork on the blood at bedside. Many witnesses for the NLRB said it was common practice in the Intensive Care Unit for two nurses to check the blood at the nurses’ desk, then one nurse to take it into the room.

The lengthy hearing looking into Marshall and Lamb’s firing started in January 2017 and ended in early April 2017, with 16 days of hearings over that time. Attorneys for the NLRB and SEIU Local 1199, the union that nurses wanted to vote to join, spent much time attempting to show that the shortcut Marshall and Lamb were accused of taking was common practice in the ICU. They called witnesses who said CMC had never punished anyone before for this violation by firing them. Raymond Pascucci, the attorney hired by CMC, attempted to demonstrate through witness testimony that the hospital had punished workers before for not following protocols of other types, and had many hospital witnesses state how important it was that protocol be followed.

In her decision – read the full decision below – NLRB administrative law Judge Kimberly Soag-Graves wrote that CMC’s claim they fired Marshall and Lamb because of the protocol issue was a “ruse for its real motivation of removing Marshall’s vocal support for unionization.”

“[T]he administrators chose to ignore information it uncovered in its investigation that other nurses performed blood transfusions in the same manner, disregarded its practices of re-educating staff in such circumstances, and deviated from providing its employees with progressive discipline,” Soag-Graves wrote.

The judge also found that CMC had again violated the National Labor Relations Act by taking down union literature from bulletin boards where other non-CMC sponsored literature was allowed.

TruthSayers will take a longer look at new revelations made in this decision in a future story. You can read lots of stories about our coverage of this hearing and other Cayuga Medical Center issues by hitting this link, but let us recommend a couple of stories on this particular hearing:

Federal Labor Law Broken? CMC Hearing, Day One

Nurses Fired by CMC Testify in Federal Hearing

CMC Union Busting Trial: Why So Long?

Dealing with the ‘Labor Organizing Threat’? CMC Trial Ends

In December 2017, three members of the NLRB upheld Judge David Goldman’s decision that CMC had violated federal law in the first NLRB case. That case was heard in May 2016, and Goldman issued a decision in October 2016. Cayuga Medical vice president of public relations John Turner told the Ithaca Voice that the hospital is planning on appealing that decision in federal court. (It seems to be CMC administrators’ unstated policy not to respond to requests for comment from TruthSayers.)


Judge: Cayuga Medical Broke Federal Law

Upheld: Cayuga Medical Broke Federal Law

Do you have a tip about your local hospital or health care facility not doing its very best to take care of people? Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org

Disclosure: A person quoted in this article is a financial supporter of TruthSayers. There is no requirement to be a financial supporter of TruthSayers for us to report on your issue here, but your money does help keep this outlet doing independent reporting that’s not dependent on corporate advertising.

Cayuga Medical NLRB Decision – 2nd Case (Text)

Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.
Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org with tips, story suggestions, and gentle criticism.
Twitter: @jdbrokaw

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