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The Rest of the Story

To the Editor:

I appreciate Daniel Fitzsimmons’ story on the judge’s finding that the Times Union twice violated labor law [“Back to Work,” Newsfront, Aug. 26]. Mr. Fitzimmons’ story was accurate, and he did a thorough job of finding multiple voices. He sought out a laid-off worker and talked to at least one other colleague at the Times Union, which was more of an effort than most.

I was a bit surprised, however, that he put so much emphasis on publisher George Hearst’s statements that he would appeal and included very little information about the contents of the judge’s ruling and how it came about. I thought your readers might be interested in that information.

The charges were filed by the National Labor Relations Board’s Albany office after they investigated our complaint. A trial was held in May, and witnesses for both sides testified. The judge reviewed both the testimony and the legal briefs filed by the two sides before coming to the same conclusion we had: The Times Union broke the law. Twice.

After only two days of negotiation on layoff criteria—and before even responding to an information request we filed—the Times Union walked employees out of the building in July 2009. In his testimony, the company’s own lawyer said people were walked out to “calm the atmosphere” because other workers were asking if they would be on the layoff list and the company wanted to reassure them. The judge correctly said that action was taken to send an unmistakable message, these are the people being laid off, and to hamper our ability to negotiate over criteria.

The second legal violation occurred when the Times Union management declared an impasse in our negotiations over layoff criteria in September. Mr. Fitzsimmons quotes Mr. Hearst repeating the publisher’s favorite piece of fiction, the claim that the Guild did not provide a meaningful counterproposal.

While Mr. Fitzsimmons allowed me the opportunity to respond that this was untrue, he left out the fact that the judge himself rejected the untruth that Mr. Hearst continues to repeat to every reporter. Here’s what the judge said: “Even though the respondent (meaning the Times Union) had presented the union with a fait accompli regarding the issue of layoffs, the union was exhibiting signs of addressing the respondent’s stated need for flexibility in conducting layoffs. The next day, however, the respondent declared an impasse.”

The judge added: “The record convinces me that, rather than exploring whether the union’s change in position could serve as a basis to move the parties closer to an agreement on this issue, the Respondent declared impasse on September 11, 2009, because of its determination that the layoffs were to be conducted by the end of that month regardless of the state of negotiations.”

If your readers are interested, they can read the judge’s 30-page decision for themselves. It is on the blog attached to our website at albanyguild.org.

Tim O’Brien

President

The Newspaper Guild of Albany/CW

 

Home Game

To the Editor:

Your recent expression of support for Albany County Executive Mike Breslin and his “bold stand” on closing the Albany County Nursing Home (ACNH) in the face of a legislature “more concerned about embarrassing him” rather than trying to right our “fiscal ship of state” [Best of the Capital Region, July 29] is uninformed and therefore inaccurate. Mr. Breslin has acted in a capricious and arbitrary manner throughout his tenure concerning the fiscal and administrative operations of the Albany County Nursing Home. The county legislature acted as the ultimate elected authority and policy maker as defined in the county charter (Articles 2 and 3) when Mr. Breslin’s actions were in (a bipartisan view) seen as going beyond his authority as proscribed by the county charter. He arbitrarily went forward in March 2009 without consulting the legislature in a letter to the governor that he was closing the home (not within his authority) after he had promised the resident’s families to maintain (and even build a new nursing home) after the facility was downsized by Berger Commission recommendations in 2006 (where Breslin testified to encourage downsizing while Mr. Connors supported maintaining beds). In June 2009 the legislature gave the executive 90 days to come up with long-term care plan—including a nursing home.

On Sept. 22, 2009, the legislature was to meet with County Executive Breslin to be presented with a long-term plan, but Breslin decided, on his own, to hold a press conference on Sept. 10, 2009, announcing the closing of the ACNH nursing home, in addition to sending a letter to the residents (with their health care proxy) of the home, their families, and employees of his intentions to close the home.

On Sept. 22, the legislature met with Breslin and announced a resolution to add his long-term care plan that included a nursing home. On Oct. 9, Breslin held a press conference regarding the Albany County budget. The budget included the laying off of County employees, mainly (70 employees) from ACNH. He also directed the director of ACNH to address employees and advise them that he was closing ACNH and that employees would begin to be let go, residents would be slowly removed, and the home would be closed by 2011.

The Albany County Legislature should be applauded for holding Breslin’s feet to the fire as they were directed by their constituents and the county charter. If Breslin had his way, the home would have been closed and because of the multiple needs of the residents and the limited bed capacity in the Capital District, additional hundreds of residents (over 1,450 people in need of placement were sent out of Albany County in 2007 and 2008) would have been transferred out of county and state, away from their families, to inferior facilities while still incurring the same expense to the county taxpayers.

The AC Nursing Home and Ann Lee Home went from state-of-the-art long-term care facilities operating, at nearly 600 beds, with efficiency and a balanced fiscal position that helped to underwrite other county programs. Breslin’s tenure began a period of decline at the homes caused by the lack of reinvestment in the physical plant and poor management under his watch. The NYS Department of Health study regarding the need of nursing home beds indicate that by 2016 Albany County will have a deficit of 69 beds (including the current 250 in ACNH). In line with its 200-year tradition, Albany County continues to need a nursing home as a safety net as part of a continuum of care for the elderly, infirm and indigent population.

Renee’ Barchitta

ACNH Core Family Council member

Albany

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters addressed to the editor. Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length or clarity; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are anonymous, illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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