For Washington, D.C., Private EMS Workers – a New Contract and a Path Forward

August 21, 2018

The EMS professionals at American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance service in Washington, D.C., recently ratified their first contract after organizing with EMS Workers United/AFSCME District Council 20 last year. They’re now armed with an agreement that puts them on a strong footing for the future as they seek to elevate their profession while serving their community.

Ryan Allen, an EMT, said, “We’re really excited about the contract, and we’re so happy to put pen to paper.”

The agreement tackles many problems EMTs and paramedics had been facing at the private ambulance service. Among them is poorly stocked and poorly maintained ambulances.

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A Seat at the Table for EMS Workers in Prescott, Arizona

August 8, 2018

Eight neatly arranged stacks of paper sit on a long wood table in a Starbucks in Prescott, Arizona. Several pens are placed beside the documents. The chairs at the table are empty –for now.
Photo Credit: AFSCME Local 2960

If that image carries a sense of weightiness, it’s for good reason. The documents were the first contract of the newly formed Prescott unit of EMS Workers United/AFSCME Local 2960; a contract that promises to curb many of the long-running problems plaguing the employees of Lifeline/AMR, a private ambulance operator.
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EMS Week 2018: Thank You!

May 29, 2018

As EMS professionals, we’re the first to show up when the unthinkable happens. Like doctors, we deliver lifesaving medical treatment; like firefighters, we rush headlong into disaster; like police officers, we calm potentially dangerous situations. Our communities depend on our bravery, skill and clear thinking. All too often, however, our sacrifices are taken for granted.

Last week, during EMS Week, which runs May 20 through May 26, we were recognized for the risks we take to save the lives of others.

As EMS Workers United/AFSCME, we’re making our voices heard and building the power to strengthen our profession and better serve our communities. Our unified voice has national leaders listening.

Listen to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) thank the EMS professionals of AFSCME Local 2960. Hear Rep. Gene Green (TX) share his appreciation for the work of EMS professionals after Hurricane Harvey. Watch Rep. Mark Takano (CA) praise United EMS Workers – AFSCME Local 4911 for their dedication to improving care and safety in our communities.

We also took the opportunity to educate thousands of non-union EMS professionals that having a strong union of over 25,000 members yields real results. This past year, we’ve had notable wins in AFSCME Local 2960/EMS Workers United in Maricopa County, Arizona; Local 4911 in New England; UEMSW (AFSCME Local 4911) in Northern California and more.

As we continue to grow and strengthen our industry, we will be able to further improve what we do best: saving lives and serving our communities with honor and distinction.

EMS Week: Acknowledging EMS Professionals

May 22, 2018

EMS professionals are the first to show up when the unthinkable happens. Like doctors, they deliver lifesaving medical treatment; like firefighters, they rush headlong into disaster; like police officers, they defuse potentially dangerous situations.

Our communities depend on their bravery, skill and clear thinking. All too often, however, their sacrifices are taken for granted.

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EMS Workers at AMR Win Big First Contract in Arizona

March 7, 2018

The 156 members of AFSCME Local 2960/EMS United in Maricopa County, Arizona, signed a 4-year agreement with American Medical Response (AMR), winning a 14 percent wage increase, lower costs for health care and a voice on service quality.

The contract, Local 2960’s first with the company, was ratified unanimously by the membership in late February.

“There isn’t one member who is not absolutely excited about the future ahead,” said Brian Weinberg, a Tolleson-based paramedic who joined AMR/Maricopa from its inception.

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Splash Medics Is Saving Children from Drowning

January 9, 2018

Lisa La Russo remembers watching the TV series “Emergency!” when she was 5.

The 1970s show featured two specially-trained firefighters/paramedics in Los Angeles County who went around saving lives. It wasn’t children’s entertainment but it spoke to La Russo.

“I felt really excited about what they did,” she recalls. “I wanted to be like them.”

Now a paramedic with American Medical Response in Riverside County, California, and a member of AFSCME Local 4911, La Russo has a rightful claim to be living her childhood dream. She became a paramedic by age 20 and has been saving lives for nearly 30 years, just like her two fictional heroes.

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EMS Professionals at Falck Northern California Join AFSCME

November 16, 2017

More than 400 emergency medical services (EMS) professionals at Falck Northern California have won their election to join United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911, a victory that will strengthen their efforts to improve the services they provide to their communities.

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AFSCME Members Are on the Front Lines of a Disaster

August 28, 2017



HOUSTON – During what may be the worst natural disaster in Texas history, AFSCME public service workers and first responders are making heroic efforts to keep people alive, restore essential services and protect property.
This we know so far about the work AFSCME members are doing on the front lines:
“The truth is, we prepare for emergency evacuation situations like this all the time, I work with the best crew and some of these correctional officers worked all night and the next day,” said Sgt. Jackie Parsonage, a member of AFSCME Local 3114 in Angleton. “In fact, the Brazos River has flooded twice and we have had to evacuate units in May and June. Neither of those situations or what happened today puts anyone in danger – not the inmates or the staff.”
However, Parsonage added, if the transfer had not been properly planned and executed, “the consequences would be grave – but we would never let that happen.”

  • Many of the hospital workers of Harris County Local 1550 have been unable to leave work to check on their own homes.
  • An AFSCME member, Cory Marshall, used a dump truck to rescue a pregnant woman who later gave birth at a hospital.
  • Houston municipal workers and road crews – all members of HOPE (Houston Organization of Public Employees) – are working with firefighters and police officers to rescue those trapped by the floods and deliver clean water.
  • AFSCME emergency medical services (EMS) members from California came to Texas to help; their first action was to evacuate a hospital in Victoria, Texas.

Public service workers like these deserve our respect and admiration for putting the safety of their communities ahead of their own. But they, too, get hurt by natural disasters. There are about 8,500 AFSCME sisters and brothers living in the areas ravaged by Harvey. To help affected AFSCME members, please donate through the AFSCME Fallen Heroes Fund.

– Namita Waghray, Clyde Weiss|

(Contributing: Justin Lee)

New England Advanced EMTs & Medics Secure Much-Deserved Raise

August 10, 2017

More than 100 paramedics and advanced emergency medical technicians (EMTs) at American Medical Response (AMR) in New England are receiving an average raise of 21.1 percent this week, thanks to members of AFSCME Local 4911.

After a year of tough negotiations with the private company, members ratified an agreement that will begin to bring wages up to par with other providers of emergency medical services (EMS) in the region.

Armed with comparison charts and employee surveys, Paramedic and Local 4911 New England Director Frank Cushing Jr. and his coworkers began approaching AMR managers last year about the problem of employee retention.

“Not only have we lost good employees, we’ve struggled to fill positions,” he said. “At one time, we lost three paramedics to a hospital system. We’ve been overstretched and overworked. We had to act.”

Their persistence paid off. Members negotiated a memorandum of understanding that calls for AMR to invest more than half a million dollars in the workforce while helping to attract and retain experienced paramedics and EMTs.

Studies like this one show that high employee turnover and fatigue can have a significant impact on patient care. These issues are not unique to AMR’s New England operation. AFSCME members in Washington, D.C., and Arizona are negotiating with AMR and are committed to raising patient care and professional standards at their workplaces.

– Justin Lee| August 10, 2017

EMS Week: Celebrating Those Who Save Lives

May 22, 2017

In life’s most frightening moments, emergency medical service practitioners stand between us and tragedy. EMS Week, which kicks off today, is a time to thank them for everything they do. With skill, courage and dedication, EMS workers serve on the front lines of society, providing care in the most perilous conditions – often at great cost to themselves.AFSCME is proud to represent more than 25,000 of these brave women and men, and has been fighting alongside them for the right to organize, for better working conditions in often hostile workplaces and better mental health treatment.

Hidden Heroes, Hidden Costs

In Washington, D.C., EMS workers at a private medical services company – American Medical Response (AMR) – fought to join AFSCME’s District Council 20 to secure better scheduling, fairer wages and more respect from management. This March, 200 workers won their election to join AFSCME.

Lindsay Washington

One of those people is Lindsay Washington. For her, being an EMT “is one of the most challenging and rewarding things that one can do” because of how it benefits others.

“With this job I can help people,” she said with pride.

In Arizona, three major emergency medical services operations, also owned by AMR, have voted to join EMS Workers United-AFSCME Local 2960. Those EMS workers dealt with all-too-familiar challenges: extended, erratic hours, cuts to their health care, ambulances in need of repair, and an industry-wide denial of the personal and professional hardships they face.

Indeed, among the most pressing concerns EMS workers face is stress –coping with non-stop trauma day in and day out. All too often, the mental toll EMS workers struggle with gets ignored or minimized. Having to witness tragic occurrences, yet having few outlets with which to process them, as well as receiving little public appreciation, lead many EMS workers to feel isolated.

In California, AFSCME members like Jason Brollini, a veteran paramedic and president of UEMSW/AFSCME Local 4911, are making progress in getting some of these long-running concerns addressed. The EMS Workers’ Bill of Rights, a piece of legislation making its way through the California State Legislature, would curb some of these problems in that state.

Unified in Service

Despite the obstacles Brollini and other EMS works face, the driving force behind the work remains the same: the people they serve.

Jason Brollini

“We all get in this to help people,” says Brollini. “We do this to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Brollini’s thoughts mirror almost exactly those of another paramedic serving across the country with the New York City Fire Department, Cindy Stewart of AFSCME Local 2507 (DC 37).

“We love what we do,” says Stewart, a Brooklyn native. “We love the job. We work hard and we love our neighborhoods. We’re here to help out as much as can.”

Sometimes, however, an EMS worker’s role can be misunderstood. One of the biggest misconceptions about what a paramedic does comes when an EMS team arrives and family members expect them to immediately whisk their loved one to a hospital.

Cindy Stewart

“It’s not always a load-and-go situation. We have to assess the patient first,” says Stewart, an 11-year veteran.

Those first moments on a scene are when she and her colleagues bring much their skill and training to bear to decide how best to treat a patient.

Honoring that skill, as well as the sacrifice and the dedication of the brave women and men who steer us away from danger back to safety, is what EMS Week is all about. To learn more about how to thank an EMS worker, click here.


– Pete Levine | May 22, 2017