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California EMS Workers Push for Bill of Rights

April 19, 2017

Jason Brollini, president of UEMSW/AFSCME Local 4911, speaks in support of AB263, the EMS Workers’ Bill of Rights, as the measure’s sponsor, Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (gold tie), looks on. (Photo courtesy AFSCME California Political Action)

A bill making its way through the California State Legislature would make long-overdue improvements to the state’s emergency medical services (EMS) system.

AB263 – dubbed the EMS Workers’ Bill of Rights – would resolve issues that affect emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics and others and the services they provide to their communities.

Jason Brollini, a 24-year EMS worker and president of UEMSW/AFSCME Local 4911 knows the perils of the industry first hand. During a recent press conference, he shared his gratitude for AB263.

“It’s unfortunate that the stresses that we have remained constant over 24 years,” Brollini said. “In those 24 years, I’ve had four of my colleagues and members commit suicide … (due) to PTSD and the critical incidents that they’ve encountered on the job.”

AB263 would provide adequate rest and meal breaks, protections against violence in the workplace, and access to mental health care for EMS workers. To read the text of the bill, go here.

Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, introduced AB263 in February.

“As a legislator and EMT for over 30 years, I am obligated and proud to stand up and speak out for thousands of hardworking individuals who are integral to our healthcare system,” he said. “The EMS Workers’ Bill of Rights will make meaningful changes to the emergency service worker industry.”

The measure has received overwhelming support from members of the Assembly Committee on Health and the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, the University of California, Berkeley, Labor Center, and many California EMS workers. The Labor and Employment committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on AB263 on April 19th.

Despite increasingly low wages and poor working conditions, EMTs and paramedics remain the backbone of the EMS system. These professionals deliver vital care to families and communities when life hangs in the balance. Approximately 25,000 EMS professionals nationwide are members of AFSCME.

– Kevin Brown |

DC EMTs and Paramedics Vote to Join AFSCME

March 27, 2017

Nearly 200 emergency medical services (EMS) professionals serving our nation’s capital have won their union election to join AFSCME District Council 20.

With more than 70 percent voting yes late Thursday, they will now have a collective voice at American Medical Response (AMR), a private medical services provider, to improve professional standards and patient care for D.C. residents.

“We want to make sure we have adequate rest between shifts so that public safety is not compromised,” said Emergency Medical Technician Daniel Hoock. “It’s about making sure our patients are getting the best care possible.”

Workers at the company united to address ongoing issues that affect patient care, such as scheduling, fatigue, training, equipment and employee turnover.

Mosiah Grayton, another emergency medical technician, began her career in EMS because she is passionate about helping people. She decided to unite with her coworkers because she wants to be able to continue her education.

“I can’t further my education because of scheduling,” said Grayton. “We never know when we’ll get off work. I can’t afford to go down to part time because I’ll lose my benefits.”

The union will submit a request for bargaining to AMR’s management team so the two sides can immediately begin the process of collective bargaining and improving standards at the company.

Approximately 25,000 EMS professionals nationwide are members of AFSCME, including AMR employees across the country and the uniformed emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and fire inspectors of the Fire Department of New York.

– Justin Lee |  March 27, 2017

More Arizona EMS Workers Gain a Voice Thanks to AFSCME

March 9, 2017

Tired of not having a voice in their workplace, emergency medical professionals at Life Line Ambulance in Prescott, Arizona, decided to kick off the year by uniting with the more than 25,000 paramedics and emergency medical technicians represented by AFSCME.

(Left to right): EMS professionals Russ Nagy, Marty Matsky, Jennifer Leibin and Ron Hull celebrate their affiliation with AFSCME. (Photo by Jennifer Leibin)

Paramedic Jennifer Leibin and her coworkers were halfway through a 24-hour shift when they heard the news one recent evening.

“We were nervous and then so excited that we clinked our water glasses together and took a selfie,” said Leibin. “Finally someone has our backs.”

In a so-called right-to-work state, and at a private employer that’s routinely hostile toward unions – Life Line is owned by a company called American Medical Response (AMR) – organizing was no easy feat.

But now, with the victory in Prescott, three major emergency medical services operations in Arizona – all owned by AMR – have voted to join EMS Workers United-AFSCME Local 2960. Leibin was among 152 emergency service workers in Prescott who now call themselves proud AFSCME members.

“For me it came down to getting the support that we need,” said Leibin. “Police officers and firefighters are united and therefore recognized for their work, but not EMS. The public has no concept of what we do in the field. We feel like they want us to be seen and not heard.”

Like thousands of other employees of private for-profit ambulance companies around the nation, Leibin and her coworkers are faced with extended hours, cuts to their health care, ambulances in need of repair, and an industry-wide denial of the personal and professional hardships they face.

They had to come together. Now, as AFSCME members, they’re preparing to negotiate a contract with the company and are fighting to achieve quality patient care, fairness for their families, and higher standards in their profession.

–  Justin Lee  |  March 2, 2017

EMS Workers Save Lives and Communities

May 19, 2016

Robert Mills was visiting relatives in southern New Mexico when he heard the sound of a crash. About 150 yards away, a neighbor riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) had driven into the side of a passing vehicle and was lying unconscious on the road, apparently unable to breathe.

read more

Splash Medics Continue Mission to Prevent Child Drownings

April 27, 2016

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. – Splash Medics has provided life-saving water safety tips to more than 2,000 children since AFSCME Local 4911 members founded the nonprofit in 2015.

read more

EMS Professionals File Charges, Appeal for City Oversight

March 29, 2016

Delivering a statement and petition to the city's health director are, from left: Jason Rivera, Tony Bonura, Andrew Kahananui, Sam Faris, Robert Mills, Nate Bunce, Logan Hendrickson
Delivering a statement and petition to the city’s health director are, from left: Jason Rivera, Tony Bonura, Andrew Kahananui, Sam Faris, Robert Mills, Nate Bunce, Logan Hendrickson

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and dispatchers have filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against American Medical Response, and are calling on the company to stop misleading the public when it comes to the employee retention problem.

Company rosters indicate the turnover rate was 23 percent in 2015, but the company spokesman tells a different story when questioned by the media. Workers want to know why the city health director has not stepped in.

“We spend a lot of time training new employees only to see them vanish a year later. It’s become such a problem that now we have new EMTs training new EMTs,” said Andrew Kahananui, an EMT and field training officer who has seen firsthand the impact of high turnover in his 12 years with AMR. “Daily late calls and fatigue cause a lot of burnout.”

As industry reports indicate, this can be problematic for workers and their patients.

High turnover can hurt patient care, so workers are talking with Independence officials about the need to provide basic oversight of the city’s private provider of emergency medical services.

Experience matters. We know that having experienced professionals respond to your emergency can knock off as much as four minutes from the time you call 911 to the time you arrive at the hospital,” said Robert Mills, a part-time EMT and National Guardsman. “That can mean the difference between life and death. I don’t know why the city is not concerned that we have a 23 percent turnover rate at AMR.”

Emergency Medical Service professionals say that transparency and oversight would be a big step forward. They are urging the city’s health director to exercise his authority outlined in the city code and require AMR to measure and report employee satisfaction and retention.

View local media coverage

KSHB41: EMT union claims high turnover rate, seeking additional oversight

Independence Examiner: Union, AMR at odds over turnover rate

Kansas City Star: Little progress has been made in Independence ambulance service labor dispute

KMBZ Radio: Union representing EMS employees asking for help with turnover

– Justin Lee  |  March 29, 2016

New Law Protects EMS from Assaults

January 5, 2016

NEW YORK – A two-year battle for legislation that would help stop assaults on Emergency Medical Services Paramedics and Technicians (EMS/EMT) has ended in a victory for the dedicated first responders throughout the state of New York. read more

EMS Workers Tackle Issue of Fatigue and High Turnover

November 4, 2015

Independence, MO — It’s clearly a problem when 20 percent of a company’s workforce vanishes within 16 months, especially when that company is a local unit of the nation’s largest private provider of emergency services.  Professionals at the Independence/ S. Platte County operations of American Medical Response (AMR) are leaving at an alarming rate of twice the national average for paid EMS providers, and AFSCME members there want to shine some light on the problem. read more

EMT Plunges into Hudson to Save Woman

August 4, 2015

Early on the morning of July 20, as most New Yorkers were preparing to go to work, emergency medical technician and DC 37 Local 2507 member Niall O’Shaughnessy was already on the job – literally up to his neck in the treacherous, choppy waters of the Hudson River, trying to save a young woman who had thrown herself in only minutes before. read more

Riverside County, CA, Deal Would Improve Paramedic & EMT Pay, Patient Care

June 25, 2015

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — Paramedics and EMTs in Riverside County have reached an agreement with American Medical Response that would provide 18 percent pay increases over three and half years, protect health insurance, and perhaps most importantly, create a professional practice committee to give emergency care professionals a voice in patient care issues.

The agreement with the nation’s largest private emergency medical services (EMS) company could usher in a new approach to running EMS systems by requiring managers to regularly consult with their licensed personnel on issues impacting patient care. For residents who may find themselves in need of emergency assistance, this would lead to better outcomes.

“As the professionals delivering the care, we’re the best advocates for patients,” said Paramedic Ricky Rodriguez.  “With our professional practice committee, AMR has finally agreed to listen.”

Profit-driven EMS companies often implement what Rodriguez and his colleagues call a lean model of care. That often translates to outdated equipment, aging ambulances, an exhausted workforce and high turnover.  Securing a commitment from AMR to recognize and act on recommendations from front line professionals was a top priority during negotiations.

“I’m happy and excited that we’ve won a voice in shaping the way patient care is delivered,” said Paramedic Sam Maddaluna. “The county has said they want to have more input from actual field providers, and soon we’ll be able to speak with one unified voice to help shape policies and protocols.”

Members of AFSCME Local 4911 will vote on the tentative agreement in the coming weeks. In the meantime EMS professionals at AMR in Missouri and Arizona continue to bargain for a contract that would raise standards for their families and their patients.

– Justin Lee  |  June 25, 2015