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Workers rally to shine spotlight on 'union-busting' efforts at Orchard Park animal hospital

Workers rally outside OPVMC
Posted at 12:06 AM, Mar 04, 2023

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — Workers at a local animal hospital are looking to shine a spotlight on what they are calling “union busting” efforts there.

Workers at the Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center voted to unionize last year, amid worker shortages.

As of this time last year, the American Animal Hospital Association reported, there were about $118,000 veterinary technicians in the U.S., at the end of 2019.

About two-thirds of those vet techs are not credentialed and by the year 2030.

The need for credentialed techs is estimated to skyrocket.

All of that adds up to workers saying they are overworked, and in need of representation.

More than a dozen veterinarians rallied in front of Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center to protest in support of a terminated employee, licensed vet technician, Mary Nowicki.

"No disciplines the whole time she has worked here, but as soon as she got involved with CWA, organizing and being an advocate for her coworkers and for the pets that they take care of, is when the discipline started,” Communications Workers of America Union (CWA) Local 1168 president, Cori Gambini said.

Gambini told Pheben Kassahun Nowicki was fired last week for supporting employee efforts to unionize, while working at the animal hospital.

"We want them to have a voice in the workplace for the first time; working issues, safety issues, staffing issues. When they said, we think we want to organize Orchard Park Veterinarian Hospital,” Gambini explained.

The CWA has filed a charge and are confident the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will rule in their favor and order Nowicki back to work.

A show of solidarity by workers taking place Friday evening, and the rain did not deter a former employee from showing his support.

"I left because I could not continue to compromise my ethics and morality and show up to work everyday,” former Orchard Park Veterinarian Medical Center employee, Ash Gardener said. "We're here advocating to get Mary her job back, advocating for a fair contract for members of the bargaining group with CWA. The amount of turnover that we have at OPVMC is astronomically horrifying. The number of staff members who get wrongfully terminated is terrifying and the number of staff members who leave at their own volition is absolutely horrible."

New York Senator Tim Kennedy also showed up to the rally.

Kassahun reached out to OPVMC for a statement in regards to Nowicki's termination. Here is what was stated:

“Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center recently terminated the employment of a veterinary technician for practicing outside the scope of licensure.

“While no patient was harmed due to the incident, this was a serious violation of professional standards which justified an appropriate response.

“Any suggestion that OPVMC’s actions were motivated by something other than the individual’s misconduct is false and misguided given the serious nature of this matter.”

Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center

RELATED STORY: 140 OP Vet Medical Center workers vote to unionize