Letter to the Editor: Urquhart on Gold Cross Ambulance, Teamsters

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — The Teamsters Union would like to unionize healthcare in Southern Utah, starting with the workforce at Gold Cross Ambulance. (Kessler, Gold Cross Employees Call for Better Work Conditions, 7/6/15). That unionization drive will run its course one way or another. In the meanwhile, it is important that the citizens of St. George and Washington know some facts regarding the ambulance service provided by Gold Cross Ambulance.

First, quality. Gold Cross paramedics in Southern Utah are dedicated, expert professionals. Each paramedic has earned advanced certifications and continues to improve skills through continuing education. They are committed to arrive quickly and to expertly take care of business. Union-organizing statements to the contrary do a disservice to these professionals.

Second, service. Gold Cross reports response times to the City of St. George, and the City monitors the ambulance service that is provided. Those response times exceed all national standards. The previous provider did not report (or even track) response times, and the City did not monitor the quality of service. This is an improvement.

Third, equipment. Gold Cross runs more ambulances at all times than the previous provider did (4-7, as opposed to 2-3). Gold Cross ambulances are newer and better, with state-of-the-art equipment that allows for advanced treatment protocols that the previous provider could not deliver. This is an improvement.

Fourth, staging.  With twice as many ambulances, Gold Cross stages ambulances and crews in multiple locations. The previous provider staged ambulances in one location. This is an improvement.

Fifth, wages. The average (and median) wage for Gold Cross paramedics in Southern Utah is $45,000/year, making them the highest-paid paramedics in Southern Utah. These wages are higher than those paid by the previous ambulance provider. This is an improvement.

Sixth, overtime. Overtime work at Gold Cross is voluntary, with many employees eager to get the extra income. Claims to the contrary are a union negotiating tactic.

Seventh, benefits. In addition to wages, Gold Cross provides health benefits worth $10,000-12,000/year, along with generous vacation, sick pay, and bereavement benefits. The previous ambulance provider did not provide health benefits to workers who were not related to the owners. This is an improvement.

Eighth, firefighting. Gold Cross employees do not double as firefighters. With so many ambulances, each crew typically attends less than 5 calls per shift. Some paramedics desire to work as firefighters or in a more intense setting, and leave when those jobs come up (often in Las Vegas). This is a constant.

Ninth, careers. Gold Cross Ambulance has operations in several Utah locations, allowing employees to voluntarily transfer within the company and voluntarily get additional shifts and income at other locations without seeking second jobs. This is an improvement.

Tenth, union dues. The main issue for the Teamsters is to force Gold Cross to automatically withdraw Teamsters dues from the paycheck of Gold Cross employees. That is a decision that employees should make for themselves.

Regardless how the Teamsters conduct their unionization efforts, facts do matter. Ambulance service in St. George and Washington has improved significantly with the arrival of Gold Cross Ambulance and the resources that Gold Cross has provided to the dedicated paramedics who serve us. When citizens call for an ambulance, they can know that skilled professionals will get there quickly and provide expert care.

Submitted by Steve Urquhart, attorney for Gold Cross Ambulance

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.

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Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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  • htown July 10, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Why are we running ads for Gold Cross?

    Can my business get a free story too?

  • Brian July 10, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Unions suck even more than lawyers and politicians. And that’s saying something. Forced unionization is evil.

  • ru1096 July 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    It’s sad that these employees feel the need to resort to unionization. “Gold Cross paramedics make a median wage of 45,000 a year, making them the best paid paramedics in Southern Utah”. Gold Cross paramedics are now the ONLY paramedics in Southern Utah. Derr. Not sure his math is correct either. $11 an hour does not equal $45,000 a year. If they are making that, it’s with a lot of overtime. Not much of a life, staging in a rig in 103 degree heat for 12 to 24 hours a shift. Not to mention the physical and emotional toll a job like this takes on an individual. Again, sad they feel they have no recourse but to unionize, but I’m proud of them for doing so, if that’s what it takes to get fair and civilized treatment.

  • Steve Urquhart July 10, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    RU1096, to keep things factual, Gold Cross serves the cities of St. George and Washington. Several other cities in Washington County have paramedics, as does the multi-jurisdictional fire district on the east of the County. All of those, of course, operate using tax dollars.

    Gold Cross has physical locations with beds for crews in strategic areas across the City. This is better than the one location of the previous provider.

    • ru1096 July 10, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Yes please. Let’s keep things factual. The other paramedics in Washington County are fire/paramedic and as such are better paid. You are comparing apples and oranges. Please show me anyone working for Gold Cross outside of their administrators who make $45,000 in base wages. You can’t, because they don’t.

      • ru1096 July 10, 2015 at 11:23 pm

        Storage units with cots do not living quarters make. Nice try though.

        • ru1096 July 10, 2015 at 11:25 pm

          Whether you’re paid to say it, or you’re attempting to legislate it into reality, you’re not presenting the facts as they currently stand.

  • beacon July 11, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Unions are not always the answer, but I think it’s important to recognize that unions have often lifted the wages of others. Don’t know where wages would be without their influence, but I do know that when working in Alaska, BP’s oilfield was union and ARCO’s was not. Consequently, ARCO always paid slightly more than BP because they did not want a union to deal with. Had BP not been union, I doubt ARCO would have been so generous. With Alaska oil workers being some of the best paid in the nation (some made over $200,000 per year), you could argue that BP’s union was not a good thing overall for oil company costs since labor was the greatest budget item, but it did support the wages of non-union workers.

  • fun bag July 11, 2015 at 11:15 am

    All this talk of unions is gonna make it easier for obama to take the guns!!!

  • factcheck July 16, 2015 at 8:59 am

    This is inaccurate. The highest paid paramedics in Southern Utah work for the hospital. IHC’s DRMC interfacility tranport crew name STARTING $16+ an hour, over $5 an hour more. plus better benefits etc. $11 for medics eho save lives is an insult, fast food workers make more. Those medics wish they were making $45k a year. Not even close, do the math.

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