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Two new Florida locals strengthen AFSCME family

Photo: Shobeir Ansari/ Getty Images
Two new Florida locals strengthen AFSCME family
By Mark McCullough ·
Two new Florida locals strengthen AFSCME family
Photo: Michael Rivera

MIAMI – The AFSCME Florida family is growing with the addition of two new locals despite the challenging political environment in the Sunshine State.

Paramedics, EMTs and communication specialists who work for the University of Florida (UF) Health Shands Hospital and employees for the Town of Bay Harbor Islands formed new locals after voting to ratify their contracts last month. The UF local will be based in Gainesville – home to the University of Florida – but will cover members across northern Florida.

Turnout rates for both ratification votes were above 90%.

“The biggest win is really the ability to have a voice on the job,” said Scott Coker, a flight paramedic with ShandsCair based in Gainesville. “Because we have teams and staff spread out across the state it has been hard to really advocate for the tools we need to properly serve all our patients. But with this first contract we can already see the AFSCME difference at work.”

Coker and his co-workers won important safety equipment improvements, including additional flight suits, flame retardant jackets and more. The members also won the first pay raise in years with and across-the-board $1.50 per hour raise for all positions and all workers moving up two pay steps. Another win was an increase in the shift differential, especially important for a 24/7 staff that transports over 11,000 patients from across multiple states and countries each year.

The new members in Bay Harbor Islands, a community in South Florida, secured wage increases of 13% over the three-year contract along with additional merit increases, paid holidays, longevity bonuses and the ability to cash out unused sick leave. Members also negotiated a process to ensure performance evaluations are done fairly, the creation of a safety committee., as well as a clear and progressive discipline and grievance process.

“For too long, residents were not getting the services they expect and deserve because of miscommunication and a lack of clarity between workers and management,” said Yusnielkys Ruiz, an administrative assistant for the Town of Bay Harbor Islands. “Now that we have a protected voice on the job, we can speak up for what we need. We no longer have to fear a misunderstanding leading to an instant termination and we can attract workers to fill the vacancies that are stretching us too thin.”

For some of AFSCME’s newest members the union difference is real with better pay, safer working conditions, improved benefits, peace of mind and a real voice on the jobs they do every day. These two new locals, covering more than 133 workers, comes as AFSCME members across the state continue to organize to save their voice and contracts from the union-busting legislation that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law earlier this year.  

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