Portland Union Calls EMS Personnel Nonsensical - @ JEMS.com


Portland Union Calls EMS Personnel Nonsensical


 
 

Joe Rojas-Burke | | Thursday, October 25, 2007


PORTLAND, Ore.-- When union leaders heave insults, workers aren t the usual target.

But the union representing about 500 Portland-area paramedics and emergency medical technicians labeled its members nonsensical, unrealistic and out of touch with reality when it abruptly disowned the bargaining unit last month, days before members were to vote on a contract with their employer, American Medical Response.

The strange turn of events has left the bargaining unit badly damaged. Some members fear union representation could come to an end, while some want to be rid of unions. Others express hope of joining the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

American Medical Response is the exclusive provider of ambulance services across five counties: Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington in Oregon; and Clark and Cowlitz in Washington.

As it stands, workers have split into at least four factions, some wanting to join the Teamsters, others favoring two different unions. Some employees are fed up with unions.

Workers will decide which path to follow in an election run by the National Labor Relations Board, with votes due to be counted Dec. 5.

The Portland-area ambulance workers have changed unions four times since the early 1990s. The latest union, the National Emergency Medical Services Association, or NEMSA, lasted less than two years.

Bitter union infighting began in June, after members rejected a tentative contract negotiated on their behalf by NEMSA. Torren Colcord, president of the California-based union, riled members when he insisted their demands were unreasonable.

After the union negotiated a second tentative agreement, Colcord held a meeting in August and threatened to walk away from the bargaining unit if members did not vote to accept it, says paramedic Charles Savoie and several others in the union.

Outraged members in Clark County started a petition to leave NEMSA and join the Teamsters.

Colcord said the tentative agreement would give most employees a 26 percent wage increase over three years. Workers who opposed the contract said most would get lesser raises and wages would remain far behind those in other West Coast cities.

A vote count on the tentative agreement was set for Sept. 27, but the national union pulled out Sept. 24 rather than see its work rejected.

Colcord declined to return phone calls. In a written statements to union members and news reporters, Colcord said the bargaining unit had insisted on unrealistic demands that no union could achieve.

Further fanning the flames, the statement listed such demands as big-screen plasma televisions at ambulance stations and paid bereavement leave for the death of a pet.

Union members say those were joke responses from a survey of members before the union began bargaining. Those who opposed the second tentative agreement greatly objected to paying more for health care.

The health insurance was a huge step back, says paramedic Ron Basham.

Savoie said members have had sound reasons to switch unions. The workers have long sought to be affiliated with a medical union, he said, after starting with one representing mostly bus drivers. After forming a short-lived local paramedic union, the group returned to the Amalgamated Transit Union. When NEMSA formed in 2004, Savoie said it seemed to fit the group s long-term goal of building a national union for emergency medical professionals.

Now, jilted by NEMSA and left without a contract, some employees say American Medical Response, or AMR, has seized on the chance to undermine union representation. The company insists that s not the case.

They were abandoned by their union, we don t want them to feel abandoned, said Lucy Drum, a spokeswoman for AMR, a unit of publicly traded, Colorado-based Emergency Medical Services Corp.

The day after the union meltdown, the company notified workers that they would receive a 5 percent pay raise effective immediately.

In addition, we will immediately stop dues deductions from your paychecks, the company said in a memo, which pro-union employees interpret as having an anti-union slant.

Savoie said the company also imposed the cost increases for health coverage that workers opposed overwhelmingly in the first tentative agreement. He said the company later took a step toward splitting the bargaining unit in two, in a request for a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board.

Drum said the company proposed splitting the bargaining unit as a possible way to bring more harmony.

The company soon dropped the proposal, Drum said, because in-house labor relations staff determined the NLRB would not approve it.

Regarding the health plan changes, Drum said, If another union is elected, we d have an opportunity to revisit it.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Leadership and Professionalism, Industry News, Operations and Protcols

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Truck Strikes Pedestrians in Scotland

Six killed in downtown Glasgow.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >