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
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