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More Than 450 Calif. Paramedics, EMTs Unionize

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. -- More than 450 workers at two ambulance facilities in San Bernardino County have overwhelmingly voted to join the United Steelworkers, a spokesman for the union said.

Employees of American Medical Response in Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga voted to unionize by a margin of better than 3-to-1. The balloting was held earlier this month and covers paramedics, emergency medical technicians, mechanics and other employees.

The steelworkers union, which represents workers at several health-care related facilities in the Inland area, including Kaiser Permanente and St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, will begin talks on a first contract "as soon as we can get them to the table," said Maria Somma, an organizer for the Pittsburgh-based union.

Somma said the company had until Monday to file an objection to the election with the National Labor Relations Board, which would delay the start of contract talks. She said she is not aware of any objection.

AMR spokesman Douglas Moore said in an emailed statement the firm respects its employees' right to organize although it prefers discussions without a union. Moore could not comment about legal objections and when contract talks might start.

The ambulance company operates more than two dozen facilities in California, Somma said. All but four are represented by unions.

Riverside AMR workers are with a different union, and she added that EMTs in Riverside receive starting salaries $2.50 per hour higher than the nonunion staff in Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga.

She said she's been told by San Bernardino County AMR employees that turnover in those locations is higher than the union shops because the lower pay doesn't entice employees to stay.

"We believe that a more livable wage will allow them to retain more employees," Somma said.



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