ST. GEORGE, Utah - Paramedics in southern Utah are preparing for a potential strike. Unionized Gold Cross Ambulance workers say the company has treated them unfairly since they started working there two years ago, and they said they are fed up.
State officials granted Gold Cross an exclusive license to St. George 911 calls in 2013. The employees unionized with Teamsters Local 222 last year and say negotiations with the company, headquartered in Salt Lake City, have failed to produce results.
“They take things away that they’ve already agreed to,” said Teamsters Local 222 secretary treasurer Spencer Hogue. “They do not have people at the table that have the authority to make decisions, that is against the law.”
The employees have complained about poor compensation, starting at just over $11 an hour, and high turnover due to deteriorating work conditions. Gold Cross president Mike Moffitt said the stall seems to hinge on one demand, allowing employees to withhold money from their paychecks to pay union dues.
“They’re trying to blame this on the company because we wouldn’t do union dues,” Moffitt said. “They’ve known for a year we wouldn’t collect union dues. So I think the union has acted in bad faith.”
Hogue said that’s not what Gold Cross employees believed. He said negotiators have made a series of policy changes during successful negotiations, and it’s causing a rift throughout the company.
“The employees in Salt Lake are not happy either, at least a good portion of them are not,” Hogue said. “There are some of them that still really want to unionize and make it a better workplace.”
The unionized employees will vote on Saturday whether to take some kind of concerted action, which could include picketing or striking.
Moffitt said he hopes that can be avoided, but they don’t plan on budging from their position on payroll deducted union dues. He said if a strike does happen, they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure EMS service continues.
“Paramedics from Salt Lake and up north here are already, as early as this evening, headed down there,” Moffitt said. “More will go down tomorrow, another batch will go down on Saturday, and be in place and ready.”
A countywide mutual aid agreement also ensures the area will be covered in the event of a strike.