Feedback: Questions Arise Over EJ Noble's Law Firm Choice

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Hospital officials say despite the hiring of a legal firm with a bad reputation against unions to help with the dissolution of E.J. Noble Hospital and the change into Gouverneur Hospital, there aren't any plans to abandon the two labor unions at the facility.

With the creation of a new umbrella health care system between Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Gouverneur Hospital, all 217 workers at the old E.J. Noble will have to apply for jobs.

The new system also eliminates contracts with the Service Employees International Union and the New York State Nurses Association.

"This is not in any fashion an attempt to not have a unionized workforce," Canton-Potsdam Hospital administrator David Acker told us earlier this month when asked about the E.J. Noble dissolution plan and whether it was a union-busting tactic.

However, there are concerns from some union officials.

The hospital has hired the Pittsburgh-based law firm of Cohen & Grigsby to help with the transition from one hospital to another.

The attorney handling the case is John Lyncheski, who has authored numerous articles, including one from 2002 on ways to keep health care facilities union-free.

SEIU officials in Pennsylvania, where Cohen & Grigsby is based, say they are concerned for the workers' future.

"As Pennsylvania's largest union of nurses and healthcare workers, we are very familiar with Cohen and Grigsby, a large and expensive corporate law firm that markets itself as offering 'union resistance' services to anti-union employers.  EJ Noble Hospital's and Cohen and Grisby's threats to make long term dedicated employees reapply for their own jobs and their efforts to undermine the standards of frontline caregivers are outrageous, unfair to workers, and bad for patient care," said Amelia Abromaitis, director of communications for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

However, officials with the New York State Nurses Association say they're not that concerned about the law firm's reputation.

"A strong union and having good patient care go hand in hand and so yes, I do feel that we will have a union there," said Dan Lutz, spokesperson for the nurses union.
 
Hospital officials declined to speak on camera.

In a prepared statement, Acker said, "When it comes to future labor relations at the new Gouverneur Hospital, we have made it very clear that we have no intention of avoiding our union obligations that arise in the process."

Lyncheski did not respond to our repeated requests for comment.

The dissolution of E.J. Noble and the reopening of the new hospital has a January 1 deadline.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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