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Organizing for Power

From state to state, workers are joining AFSCME for a stronger voice on the job

From left to right: Emergency medical technicians Joe Manganello, Eric Milam, Crystal Forschen of Local 4911 (Califronia).
From left to right: Emergency medical technicians Joe Manganello, Eric Milam, Crystal Forschen of Local 4911 (Califronia). (Photo by AFSCME Local 4911)

EMS Professionals in California and Arizona Join AFSCME

AFSCME is the go-to union for emergency medical service (EMS) professionals across the country as they begin organizing in greater numbers for a stronger voice on the job. Another 250 such first responders in California and Arizona voted this summer to make AFSCME their union.

AFSCME represents more than 20,000 EMS workers nationwide, and last year approximately 3,000 joined our ranks. That included 1,800 employed by American Medical Response (AMR) in California. They voted decisively last September to join United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911.

Their numbers rose this August when 136 EMS professionals with First Responder EMS in Sacramento voted to join Local 4911 instead of staying with a small, ineffective local union without the national reach that AFSCME provides.

The overwhelming vote made it “very clear that we, the employees at First Responder, wanted to have AFSCME represent us,” said EMT Joe Manganello. “They have 1.6 million members. I feel like we have a lot more power now.”

“We’re standing together because we want EMS to be seen as a real profession, not just a stepping stone,” said Crystal Forschen, a First Responder paramedic. “The way we get it done is by having a strong, democratic, and accountable union.”

In Arizona, a unit of 110 EMTs employed by AMR, voted in August to join United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 2960. They provide service to Lake Havasu, Kingman, Parker and Quartzsite.

“We’re doing this because there’s a big gap of communication between labor and management,” said Arizona EMT David Owens. By joining AFSCME, he said, they hope to “better our workplace, and to have a voice in our company for the first time ever.”

“United EMS Workers is raising the bar nationwide for EMS professionals,” Owens added. “With numbers, there is power.  And with power, there is strength.”

The Arizona  AFL-CIO presented Local 2960 Pres. Frank Piccioli with an award in September for their latest organizing victory, and also to recognize the local’s newest EMT members.

Workers are also organizing with AFSCME in other states.

Here is a list of some recent victories:


Nine public employees of the town of North Stonington joined Council 4.


Three-hundred and thirty-five residential and transitional center unit employees of the non-profit Maryville Academy voted overwhelmingly to form a union with Council 31, overcoming an intense anti-union campaign by management. The Academy provides therapeutic, residential and transitional services to at-risk children and adolescents. Also joining Council 31: 120 employees of the Stephenson County Nursing Home.


Fifteen campus police employed at the University of Indiana’s Southeast and Northwest campuses voted to join Local 683 (Council 62).


Two-hundred and twenty-four full-time and part-time bus drivers and bus monitors of the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative voted to join Council 93. LPVEC is comprised of seven school districts. Also joining the council: 58 instructional assistants and behavior specialist employed by the Greater Lawrence Educational Collaborative in Methuen; 25 employees of the Westfield Athenaeum library and 11 supervisory employees (including directors, superintendents, tax collector and assessor) in the Town of Groton.


Twenty employees of Crisis Connection, a nonprofit mental health agency based in Richfield, voted to join Council 5. The staff provides statewide telephone crisis counseling. Also, 12 medical examiner inspectors joined Council 5 (Local 2864) through a voluntary recognition agreement with Hennepin County.


Twenty employees of the Bow Police Department voted to join Council 93 (Local 3657).


Eighty-nine certified nursing assistants, and dietary, kitchen and housekeeping aides at the Summer Ridge Center in West Orange joined National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees (NUHHCE)/ AFSCME Local 1199J.


Thirty-six transportation workers at the Petermann bus company in Akron voted to join Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE)/AFSCME Local 4.


Seventy-two juvenile custody services specialists in Multnomah County joined Council 75.


Forty-three LPNs of the Manor at St. Luke’s Village and the Pavilion at St. Luke’s Village of Luzerne County voted to join District Council 87. Joining District Council 83 were 23 support staff of the Harmony Area School District in Clearfield County and six Indiana County Housing Authority maintenance mechanics.


Ten medical workers at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls voted to join Council 94.


Thirty Seattle City prosecutors – members of the Seattle Prosecutors Association – voted to affiliate with Council 2. Joining Council 2 through a card check agreement were 26 Kitsap County probation officers.


Eighteen drug and alcohol counselors employed at the Madison Health Services agency voted to join Council 40.

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