The 450 emergency medical services (EMS) workers of United EMS Workers/AFSCME Local 4911 in Riverside, California, have reached a groundbreaking, four-year tentative agreement with American Medical Response after months of difficult and contentious negotiations.
The contract – ratified by 90 percent of the membership this month – will significantly improve the entire EMS profession. But the keys to this victory were the bravery and unity of members, according to Jason Brollini, executive director of Local 4911.
"Over the last few weeks, members, friends and family members regularly attended bargaining meetings, participated in solidarity actions and used the squad structure to help organize our union and improve our communication," said Brollini. "All these actions showed management that we are united in solidarity and that our service deserves respect."
The agreement includes 43.8% in compounded wage increases for paramedics and 35.6-39.4% pay raises for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) over four years with no caps on medic wages. Additionally, the agreement provides better health coverage, increased access to mental health services, and several improvements to work place policies. For instance, the contract includes seven extra hours of holiday pay for both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and language blocking an accelerated and potentially unfair disciplinary process.
For Craig Dailey, an EMT and president of Local 4911, this contract proves that members can win when members come together.
"This is one of the biggest wins I have ever seen," said Dailey. “This contract makes massive strides towards professionalizing EMS by improving the pay, benefits and working conditions for EMS workers so that we can provide better care to our patients. The more we stand together, the more we win."