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California EMS Workers Fight for Voting Rights

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AMR bargaining rally
EMS workers rally to demand American Medical Response stop blocking their union election. (Photo by Amir Shariat)

MODESTO, Calif. — EMS workers denied the right to vote for union representation are speaking up here.

Sixty paramedics, EMTs, dispatchers, and vehicle supply techs from across Northern California last week carried signs, wore buttons, and were prepared to deliver a petition bearing several hundred signatures asking their employer, American Medical Response, to allow them to proceed with their union election for a stronger voice for EMS.

That stronger voice, United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911, was founded by private sector EMS workers across the country seeking to have a union with strength and accountability.

“We’re coming out here today to just let AMR know that we want them to help us continue to help the public,” said Amir Shariat who has worked as an EMT since 2003. “United EMS Workers is all about us coming together to help ourselves and to be unified so that we have more access to the tools to continue to help the public.”

Last week’s rally was planned to coincide with an AMR meeting that was canceled after word of the protest got out. Workers will continue to urge AMR to let them move forward for a stronger voice for EMS though. View a video report covering the protest here:

“A majority of us signed cards in favor of AFSCME-United EMS Workers.  AMR is essentially ignoring that. We want them to listen to us.” said Brandon Bigos, a seven-year EMT.

Kathy Ivy, who has worked with AMR for 16 years as a paramedic, also attended the rally.

“We would like AMR to stop blocking our vote so that we can move forward, sit down at the table with them, and have that chance to talk, build a better relationship, and make sure that we have the safety equipment and the units on the road that we need,” she said.

Todd Bourgeois, a paramedic for the last 11 years, said that proceeding with a vote for United EMS Workers is about continuing the mission for safe and efficient care for patients.

“I want people to have confidence every time they see an AMR rig pull up to their house. I want them to know that these guys are well trained, well equipped, and no matter what the outcome my family member got the best patient care possible,” he said.