RIVERSIDE, Calif. – When American Medical Response (AMR) entered negotiations in early November saying it wanted to fill shifts with the “least expensive resource available,” EMS professionals in Riverside County were more than a little put off to be reduced to commodities. They responded Nov. 18 by showing up in force with a petition, signed by nearly every worker, demanding respect and a fair contract.
The company’s comments were shocking to members like EMT Himelda Rivera, who earns roughly $12 an hour and works 60 hours a week to make ends meet.
“When they refer to us like that, they discount the fact that people have experience and a face. It’s like they don’t care,” she said. “I understand it’s a business and they have investors, but they need to remember the boots on the ground. Show a little compassion.”
Calling EMS workers “resources” downplays their devotion and sacrifice, their long shifts with little pay, the fact they save lives and help people in their toughest times.
AMR is a multimillion dollar subsidiary of Envision Health Care, which had net revenue of $385.3 million, an increase of 16.7 percent in the second quarter, according to SEC proxy filings and a report to an investor’s conference by Envision CEO William Sanger, who pulled in $8.9 million in 2012. It can certainly afford to treat its EMS workers much better.
Paramedic Sarah Merten, a United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911 member who presented the petitions to the company, says workers are valuable employees. "I'm an employee, but more than that, I'm a good paramedic,” she said. “I feel like I should be treated as more than a resource.”
As a result of their action, workers secured favorable tentative language on filling shifts.
EMS workers in Riverside County built their union with AFSCME because they want to keep experienced professionals on the job. With a strong union, they have a voice to improve standards in EMS for their families and their communities.