Emergency medical technicians who work for American Medical Response have rejected the latest contract offer from the company and authorized a strike. The Seattle Fire Department says it's "exploring various contingency options."
Seattle emergency medical technicians (EMTs) have rejected a contract offer from their employer, setting the stage for a potential strike if negotiations continue to stall.
The EMTs, who belong to Teamsters Local 763 and work for American Medical Response (AMR), voted 310-46 to reject the latest contract offer from the company, according to the union. The city of Seattle contracts with AMR for EMT service. The contract vote also authorized the union’s bargaining team to call a strike, according to Teamsters Local 763 Business Agent Liz Brown.
Union members are seeking better pay and health insurance, said EMT John Moore. Teamsters Local 763 represents about 450 EMTs and paramedics, according to the union.
“All we’re looking for is just the ability to live and coexist and do our jobs,” Moore said, citing increasing costs of living in Seattle that he said are pushing EMTs to live farther from the city. “People can’t call this a career.”
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According to the union, wages for AMR EMTs in Seattle start at $15.54 an hour. In its latest offer, AMR would have increased starting pay to $17 an hour, Brown said. But the union argues that pay would still be just above Seattle’s minimum wage, which is set to increase to $16 for large employers in January.
In an emailed statement, AMR said, “We were hopeful that the contract would be ratified and are disappointed in the outcome.” The company did not respond to questions about the details of its contract offer or how it would respond to a strike.
In order to walk off the job, Teamsters Local 763 will first seek approval from the Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and labor councils in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, Brown said. Federal law also requires unions striking at a “health care institution” to give at least 10 days notice to the employer and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. That notice would come after getting sanctions from the other labor groups, Brown said. The union has requested more negotiating meetings with AMR and the company said it would respond by Monday, Brown said.
Exactly how the city would navigate an EMT strike remains unclear. Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Kristin Tinsley said in a prepared statement the department “is committed to providing ongoing quality care to the community of Seattle. We are in the process of exploring various contingency options internally.” Tinsley declined to elaborate on those contingency plans.
The EMTs began publicly raising concerns this summer, prompting the Seattle City Council to adopt a nonbinding resolution saying Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration should seek better pay and benefits for the workers.