OPINION — My name is Spencer Hogue and I work for the Teamsters. I would like to respond to some of the points that Senator Steve Urquhart discussed in his letter to the editor about Gold Cross in St. George.
First, I would like to point out that the senator is currently an attorney for Gold Cross. He also has been the benefactor of campaign contributions from Gold Cross. For these reasons it is obvious why he would be quick to defend the Moffitts and their company. The truth is Gold Cross is a corporate bully and the senator is their mouthpiece.
In early 2014, the employees at Gold Cross in St. George came to the Teamsters seeking representation due to poor working conditions, low pay and broken promises from the company. In September of 2014, the employees voted overwhelmingly to form a union. We began negotiations with the company in October and have been bargaining for ten months.
The senator claims that the Teamsters have talked poorly of the employees at Gold Cross in St. George. This is absolutely false. These are some of the hardest working men and women you will ever meet. What they deal with every day on the job is not something many people have the stomach to do. I have heard Mike Moffitt, on the other hand, complain that his employees just get paid to sleep, sit around watch movies or surf the internet.
The senator makes the claim that these are the highest paid paramedics in Southern Utah. It is my understanding that Iron County paramedics are paid at a higher hourly wage. The senator boasts about the $45,000 median wage. Here is the reality. A new paramedic will work 52 hours per week to make $37,000 annually. Currently the paramedic that works saving lives in your community makes $11.29 per hour to start. According to a recent help wanted sign at the restaurant, a new hire at In-N-Out Burger in St. George can expect to make $12.50 an hour.
The senator claims that employees are eager to accept the overtime they work. The truth is employees are forced to work overtime in order to make a decent living. With 50 plus hours of their time committed to Gold Cross each week, it is difficult to find other jobs to supplement their income.
The senator goes on to say what a great benefits package the employees are given. The truth is their insurance is very expensive for the employee and does not include some basic items typically covered by employer provided health insurance. The claim that these employees receive sick leave and bereavement is not entirely accurate. Employees are currently given PTO (Personal Time Off). We have been negotiating for both sick leave and bereavement leave but the employees don’t currently receive those benefits.
The senator claims that employees leave to become fire fighters is because they enjoy the more intense setting. The reason employees leave Gold Cross is because they are not happy with the company. I personally have spoken with some of the employees who have chosen to leave, and they stated to me that they would have preferred to stay in St. George and continued to work as a paramedic had the circumstances been better.
The senator claims the main issue for the Teamsters is the collection of dues. This is a lie. The truth is we have eleven remaining issues including wages, working conditions, retirement and health insurance to name a few. The company has engaged in what the union believes to be regressive bargaining, a tactic which is against the law. They have agreed at the bargaining table to resolve an issue only to take it back months later. This is a major reason why we have yet to reach an agreement.
The facts are important. It is unfortunate that the company and its attorneys choose not to share them.
It is time for Senator Steve Urquhart to start working for the people of St. George instead of the corporate bully that pays him and supports his campaigns.
Submitted by Spencer Hogue, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 222
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