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Why are we organizing now? Not only is now the right time, it is the only time under the NLRA we are allowed to certify another union as our bargaining representative, because our current CBA has expired. Our conversations with members over the past few months have shown NEMSA’s great departure from its founding principles: democracy, representation and EMS development. While we grew in members, the quality of representation has gone down; at every negotiation, our contract is getting leaner; our stewards are left to fend for themselves with no training and support. What has happened to the additional resources of new membership? NEMSA’s leadership has wasted our resources to fight unnecessary power battles that only weaken our union. Our needs have become secondary and the power of our employers has grown to the point where they are no longer processing grievances. We, the members, have become the enemy. We have more to fear from the people we are paying for our representation than our own employer. We need to organize to show to our Employer that we are united. We can make decisions that are good for us and we will not let them take away what we fought for over the years. We will do that with the power of AFSCME under our own EMS local, without the distraction of NEMSA’s leadership.
What is United EMS Workers? United EMS Workers/AFSCME AFL-CIO is a local union being organized to represent EMS workers across Northern California. The concept of this union is to be a Local affiliate of AFSCME International. It is entirely locally run, locally administered and locally funded. Its mission is to retain democracy for the membership, provide a voice for the members, advocate member participation and of course to negotiate and win contracts and protect working conditions for its membership. AFSCME is the second largest union in the United States. They represent 1.6 million members in both the public and private sector, professions such as public safety, EMS, nurses, doctors, public utility workers, public service employees and yes child care workers, among others. United EMS Workers is the Local affiliate that will consist of 100% EMS ONLY workers in the areas they will represent.
What are these cards I’m being asked to sign? The cards you may have seen are a statement of intent to form a new union. It allows the government to hold an election in order for members to choose, A) Remaining with NEMSA. B) Joining UEMSW or, C) No union at all. Once a sufficient number of cards are collected, we will petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for the right to represent the Northern California Unit of NEMSA. The cards will be sent to the NLRB for verification. No other concerned parties are informed of the card signers’ identity, choice or intent. All of your information on that card is private. It remains protected in the hands of the NRLB and the UEMSW. This is the identical process our members used when leaving our previous union, Local 250 to start and to join NEMSA.
Won’t current contract/transition negotiations be in jeopardy? Just like 7 years ago when we were organizing NEMSA out of SEIU Local 250, the terms and conditions of the agreement will remain in place. AMR, Rural Metro or Paramedics Plus have to abide by it and bargain in good faith with us to reach an agreement. The more support we show in the field and at the bargaining table for our union, the better the contract and the faster we will get it.
Will Union dues go up? It does take money to sustain a local union; however, all financial decisions are to be made by vote of the membership level to make dues fair and reasonable. At UEMSW, it is not anticipated that dues will increase. AFSCME has a minimum monthly dues rate, but locals can set the dues rate higher. Our Organizing Committee is suggesting we maintain the same dues structure of NEMSA which was the same at Local 250 in order to have enough resources to make our local autonomous.
Who is Jimmy Gambone and the Transition Team? Is Jimmy going to be our president? Jimmy Gambone is a 14-year medic and labor organizer from Massachusetts who has over a decade of experience in labor organizing. He has held positions as Shop Steward, Chief Shop Steward, and Labor Representative. The "Transition Team" is a dedicated group of Chief Shop Stewards, Stewards and other Activist Leaders throughout the area that have come together to organize UEMSW and help EMS workers take back their union. Our organizing committee had decided to nominate 2 interim officers, Jimmy Gambone and Megan McNamara, for the newly created local in order to comply with DOL rules and regulations for registration of a Labor Organization. When we vote for our union, there will be an officer’s election in which our members will be voting for the permanent officers of the UEMSW. It will be up to our members in UEMSW to decide who the next officers and president will be. Isn’t AFSCME anti-private EMS? No, they are not. AFSCME does have a position on privatization of public sector jobs but there is no definitive anti-private EMS message. AFSCME protects and fights for their members. They represent private sector employees across the spectrum all over the country. Each Local is guided by their particular constitution that is drafted and amended by the vote of the respective membership. ANY position on private/public issues that affect directly our local is decided at the local level, by the membership. For example, UEMSO/FDNY Local 3621 AFSCME takes a position for the accommodation of its membership that chose to work at private EMS agencies.
Isn’t AFSCME corrupt? Many organizations across America face incidents of leadership corruption. An article quoted in a recent “Facts...” website used a story describing misconduct of an AFSCME official in the Midwest (Their source was an anti-union website). However, robust oversight of union activities and leaders occurs on multiple levels, from the executive board at the local level on up. UEMSW will be no different with oversight provided by guidance from the International AND Local Constitutions.. If corruption is found in AFSCME, the internal judicial process takes over and can lead to indictment, and arrest. Aren’t my dues going to be funding political parties? No. To quote AFSCME PEOPLE,“ Federal election law and some state laws prohibit using dues for campaign contributions and other political activities. AFSCME PEOPLE enables our union to be strong politically and help enact legislative programs that protect our jobs.”  ASFCME PEOPLE is a voluntary program that members can donate private funds to support AFSCME’s Political Action agenda. Unions traditionally endorse politicians and issues that are sympathetic to labor/union causes, AFSCME is no different. However, each Local can amend or submit clauses in their respective constitutions providing guidance on how best to approach political agendas be it a particular position, or no position to be taken as submitted to and voted on by the membership. UEMSW will be no different. Furthermore, for any political or ideological expenditure that is not prohibited by law, the AFSCME constitution (Article IX, Sec 14) provides a process for members who object to those kinds of expenditures to be sent rebates.
Sources: 1) President’s report 1/18/11 UEMSO, “Conflict of interest...”http://www.uemso.com/011811-PresidentsReport.htm 2) Labor Union Report website, http://laborunionreport.blogspot.com/ and http://biggovernment.com/author/laborunionreport/ 3) AFSCME Constitution ‘‘Bill of Rights for Union Members.” http://www.afscme.org/news/publications/afscme-governance/afscme-constitution/bill-of-rights-for-union-members 4) AFSCME Constitution Appendix C, “Constitution for Local Unions, Article VII, Sec 6. “The Executive Board shall...” http://www.afscme.org/news/publications/afscme-governance/afscme-constitution/appendix-c-constitution-for-local-unions 5) AFSCME Financial Standards Code, “Article V. Expenditures-Authorization. http://www.afscme.org/news/publications/afscme-governance/afscme-financial-standards-code/article-v-expenditures-authorization http://www.afscme.org/members/afscme-people 7) AFSCME Constitution Article IX, Sec 14. “Subordinate Bodies” http://www.afscme.org/news/publications/afscme-governance/afscme-constitution/article-ixsubordinate-bodies 8) National Labor Relations Act, United States Code. https://www.nlrb.gov/national-labor-relations-act 6) AFSCME PEOPLE website,
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