Whoopshie

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Greetings from Washington state,

Let me start by saying, I love my job and what I do. Co-workers are great, supervisors are approachable and available, and the schedule has been flexible while being in college. However, overall morale and views about our company are poor, full of animosity and resentment towards management. I'm a relatively new EMT but I know this is common in most EMS systems. I've heard all the complaints about how the AMR is run as a whole. However, I know that each region is different and some regions are better than others. From what I've been told, our region ended up with a very poor union contract due to the inexperience of a past representative that signed the initial offer without negotiating.

I'm hoping to get some input from fellow AMR employees about their experience with the union and the differences between contracts and how different regions are operated. I'm not very familiar with how unions work but I would like to find ways to improve our region, if at all possible.

There are numerous employee complaints, but most of the employee frustrations are due to being paid lower wages than we initially signed on for. Our wages decrease for shifts over 8 hours. For a 24 hour shift, EMTs make 11.00/hr and medics make a tragic 11.50/hr or 12.00 I believe. Not much more than EMT's. The way it is explained is that "With overtime, it evens out." But part time employees rarely get overtime, and decreasing wages still apply to them. Also, each shift length has a different rate, and if you work different shift lengths within a pay period they will "average" each rate and use that to calculate your hourly pay, but calculations don't match up and it is impossible to tell where the hourly rate was calculated from. Our full hourly rate (what we were told we would be paid upon hire) was applied to our orientation week only. After that our pay fluctuated (to various lesser amounts) constantly thereafter. Everyone feels defeated, frustrated and confused. Our supervisors are not even sure what our base pay is or how it is calculated. Our area has an extremely high turnover rate due to employees making much less than they originally signed on for. No one seems to be doing anything to improve it and supervisors have not been able to provide me with a clear explanation of the rates or a mathematical formula used to calculate hourly pay.

I have read WA state labor laws and they mention no such thing about decreasing pay rates for working longer shifts. I have also been told that "EMS is exempt" from a lot of state labor laws. I also have not been able to find any supporting information on this internally, or through online searches. We are also required to do continuous online training (AMR policy updates, etc.) on our own time, and do not get compensated for it. Most days we are too busy to complete online training while on shift. When it doesn't get completed we receive text/emails while off-duty threatening suspension until it is complete. We are also required to be at the station 15 minutes early to begin rig checks but are not allowed to clock in until four minutes prior to shift start. The time is rounded up to our shift start time, so we are not getting paid for the 15 minutes spent checking equipment for shift start. There is a labor law on this issue: RCW 49.12 REPLACES: ES-016 WAC 296-126. It is lengthy but to summarize: anytime employees are required to be on the premises performing duties related to work, including preparatory time is to be considered paid time.
I realize that this may be more an operational issue, not union. However our union agreement doesn't define or address definitions of hours worked at all.


Our contract negotiations are coming up in a few months and what I hope to find on here is other AMR employees in Washington state (or anywhere) that are reasonably happy with their union contract and what changes could possibly be made here. Everyone works so hard taking care of patients with kindness and professionalism, it's really disheartening to see people so frustrated behind the scenes.

Thanks for bearing with me on this giant post.
 

DrParasite

The fire extinguisher is not just for show
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From what I've been told, our region ended up with a very poor union contract due to the inexperience of a past representative that signed the initial offer without negotiating.
sorry to hear that your union reps screwed you.
There are numerous employee complaints, but most of the employee frustrations are due to being paid lower wages than we initially signed on for. Our wages decrease for shifts over 8 hours. For a 24 hour shift, EMTs make 11.00/hr and medics make a tragic 11.50/hr or 12.00 I believe. Not much more than EMT's. The way it is explained is that "With overtime, it evens out."
it sounds like they are trying to make everyone make the same amount per week, regardless of if it's an 8 hour workday, 12s or 24. Its kinda stupid, but some people are willing to work for that type of a pay structure.
I have read WA state labor laws and they mention no such thing about decreasing pay rates for working longer shifts. I have also been told that "EMS is exempt" from a lot of state labor laws. I also have not been able to find any supporting information on this internally, or through online searches.
I have never heard that EMS is exempt from state labor laws, unless they were firefighters. However, your union might have agreed to some questionable things in their legally binding agreement
We are also required to do continuous online training (AMR policy updates, etc.) on our own time, and do not get compensated for it. Most days we are too busy to complete online training while on shift. When it doesn't get completed we receive text/emails while off-duty threatening suspension until it is complete. We are also required to be at the station 15 minutes early to begin rig checks but are not allowed to clock in until four minutes prior to shift start. The time is rounded up to our shift start time, so we are not getting paid for the 15 minutes spent checking equipment for shift start. There is a labor law on this issue: RCW 49.12 REPLACES: ES-016 WAC 296-126. It is lengthy but to summarize: anytime employees are required to be on the premises performing duties related to work, including preparatory time is to be considered paid time.
sounds like you should call someone to investigate this potentially illegal practice. Might I suggest the Washington department of labor? http://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/Wages/default.asp or if you don't like what they have to say, call the Federal department of labor and file a complaint for them to investigate https://www.dol.gov/whd/howtofilecomplaint.htm give them a call or send them an email, explain your situation, and let them determine if it's legal or not.
Our contract negotiations are coming up in a few months and what I hope to find on here is other AMR employees in Washington state (or anywhere) that are reasonably happy with their union contract and what changes could possibly be made here. Everyone works so hard taking care of patients with kindness and professionalism, it's really disheartening to see people so frustrated behind the scenes.
One thing I have learned is management will never give you something they don't have to, especially when dealing with for profit companies. And while I am 100% pro-union, a union local is only as strong as the contact it has with management, so if you had sucky representation the first time, you might be screwed.

The first thing I would do is speak to your union's shop steward to get a copy of your union contract. Review it. ask questions. it might explain some things. If you still think something questionable is going on, call an enforcement agency (department of labor). let them investigate, and decide if what AMR is doing is legal. If everything is above board, they will close their investigation and you are stuck with a ****ty contract. but if it's a little shady, and I have worked for one such agency that claimed to be allowed to do something, and when the DOL investigated, found out they were wrong, they will help you get what is owed to you.
 

PotatoMedic

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File a complaint with L&I about the rig checks being required to be done 15 min prior to shift and not being allowed to clock in. Though also check with your contract to make sure it is not something that was negotiated away.
 

chriscemt

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it sounds like they are trying to make everyone make the same amount per week, regardless of if it's an 8 hour workday, 12s or 24. Its kinda stupid, but some people are willing to work for that type of a pay structure.

This is essentially true in many labor disturbances. Unless the union is rock solid (and I'm not sure that any Fire/EMS/LE would qualify) there is always someone willing to work for otherwise what would be inequitable wages. We have the same issue in our operation, with some shifts getting differentials and others not. And the reason that some don't comes down to there's plenty of people willing to work for that reduced level of compensation.

We're not union here, but we have many of the same issues. I'll say this for myself... I'm fine with getting to work early for truck check, but the second a supervisor starts talking to me I walk over to Kronos and clock in. Haven't had one yet take issue with that.
 
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RocketMedic

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The root of your issue is low wages.

Only way to counter that is to move.
 

PotatoMedic

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DrParasite

The fire extinguisher is not just for show
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We're not union here, but we have many of the same issues. I'll say this for myself... I'm fine with getting to work early for truck check, but the second a supervisor starts talking to me I walk over to Kronos and clock in. Haven't had one yet take issue with that.
I am not in a right to work state, so no unions either, and the stupid pay structure. It's one of the reasons why I didn't want to do 24s.

But I must disagree with you. If my shift starts at 7, than that is when my shift handoff is given, that's when work starts. if i take an early shift, than i will clock in early, and I better get paid for my time. if my boss wants me to do my truck check 15 minutes before my shift starts, than they can move my start time to 15 minutes before 7 (as one of my part time jobs did; the shift was 6am to 6pm, but report time was 545 to get the truck check completed, and you were paid for 12.25 hours every day).

Any time I am doing work, i should be getting paid. if i take a early cal, if i get stuck on a late call, or I have to attend a mandatory meeting, mandatory con ed, or if i'm getting called into the boss's office when I'm off the clock, than I am should be getting paid my hourly wage (and if i can, I'm going to schedule it on a long week so any extra time is at time and a half, and not in that 4 hour straight time period). Either it gets done during my shift, or i'm getting paid for the time I do it off shift.

I have moral and ethical objections to doing work for my employer, that only benefits my employer (and cannot be used elsewhere), when not getting properly compensated for it.
 

chriscemt

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But I must disagree with you...Any time I am doing work, i should be getting paid...

For clarification's sake, I am not required to or asked to check the truck out on my time. If my shift was to start at 0700, I am required to go in service at 0715, giving me time to check out the truck while on the clock. I have worked previous jobs where commute times can get messy, and got in the habit of arriving to work 45 minutes early (in order to offset the potential delay in commuting). On the days where I actually got to work 45 minutes early, I would have breakfast, go for a walk, or sometimes even work (salaried engineer, not hourly EMT). A typical day here has me getting to work, shooting the **** with my friends and checking the truck out, clocking in, and then getting some coffee - and waiting until 0715 to go in service. In the past I've actually been able to sit down for breakfast before going into service. I think of it as a bit of a treat, really.

Agreed on all other points regarding training, meetings, etc. I clock in for all of those, and also am able to "schedule" those for 40+ hour weeks to take advantage of overtime.
 

NightHealer865

Nationally Registered Paramedic
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AMR Knoxville’s Union is a joke. The new president is buddy buddy with the management and can’t negotiate for ****. Employees haven’t been able to order uniforms for over a year because negotiating is on going. Only benefit from it was the pay increase. AEMTs are starting at $12.00 and Medics are starting at $15. That was a about a $2/hour starting pay increase across the board.
 

DrParasite

The fire extinguisher is not just for show
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The root of your issue is low wages.

Only way to counter that is to move.
respectfully disagree.

While low wages are one issue (and frequently the cause of many labor arguments), I think the "forced to do company work without company compensation, company modifying employee time clocks not in the employee's favor, and questionable calculation of hourly pay and supervisor not even able to explain hourly pay rates" are all issues that raise eye brows that the company may be doing something shady (a for profit ambulance company doing something shady to avoid paying their employees properly? I know, it never happens), and could warrant an investigation. Not saying they are doing anything wrong, but it should be investigated to make sure everything is above board, and to allow for more transparency on how things are being done.

For clarification's sake, I am not required to or asked to check the truck out on my time. If my shift was to start at 0700, I am required to go in service at 0715, giving me time to check out the truck while on the clock.
Which is how it should be. At a former job of mine, my shift started at 6am to 7am, and I could clock in only 6 minutes before my shift started, and at 7:01, I was considered available for a assignment.
 
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Whoopshie

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Thanks for the responses! I'm still figuring out this forum thing so I'm not sure how to respond to you individually.

Dr. Parasite: I do have a copy of the union agreement (which is teamsters). It is very hard to interpret and it will give a statement, followed by another statement that says that the employer reserves the right to implement changes to the previous statement if necessary. Basically, the employer can do whatever they want. As of right now, we do not have a union rep - that person got hired on with fire and left. I have been looking into our pay system and the "FLSA" wages. The "average rate" is calculated from the sum of straight dollar amounts for each shift type, divided by the total number of hours for that work week. To me, an average rate should be calculated by the sum of each rate, divided by the number of shift types. Confusing..but long story short the FLSA method ends up being less wages paid to the employee. Also, you were right..everyone is making the same amount here, regardless of shift types worked. Only the full time employees make more with overtime. I have been reading and learning more about unions and you're right, unions are only as good as the people that are willing to participate to make things better.

Around here, everyone hates their job and is desperate to get hired somewhere else. They stay the minimum time to transfer and go somewhere else, or find another job completely. We are lucky if an employee lasts three months. We have brand new medics and EMT's barely cleared from training on a rig together because we don't have enough experienced employees.

In regards to our wages, each new-hire class is taken as a group to the union office to sign paperwork. We signed a single piece of paper with an appealing hourly rate, and given a union book. Nowhere on the paper that we signed does it mention the way rates are calculated nor do they go over this at any point during orientation week. We are not given time to read the union book prior to signing anything and the option of signing papers at a later day after reading all the fine print was not given. Everything appears great until a couple paychecks in.

PotatoMedic & ChrisCEMT: I've been asking other employees on how they handle their arrival time/rig checks. I have heard a few different things. Some begin rig checks as soon as they arrive and clock in when they're "allowed". Others recognize the problem with this and arrive at the station only after they are "allowed" to clock in. Some have been corrected by management, and some haven't. The union book or AMR policy doesn't address this anywhere. The union book does state that training required to maintain state credentials is not required to compensate employees for training time. It states that any company mandated training should be considered paid hours worked. AMR is not complying with this and threatens to discipline employees when online training is not completed.

It's looking like the only way to change things is with the Union. I'm not sure how involved I really want to get in all this because I don't want to lose my job over it or ruin my reputation with future prospective employers. If I could do things anonymously, I would. I'm not trying to go against AMR, but if there's a way to help employees love their job and stick around, both sides would benefit. I've read about IAEP and might contact them for some guidance. Anyone have them as their Union? I would think since they are EMS specific it would be a better fit. But I don't know what kind of a deal AMR has with Teamsters, maybe they use them exclusively. Or does anyone else work for AMR, have Teamsters as a Union, and has a reasonable contract? I'm also not sure on what policies are in exchanging contract information. If you think it might get you in trouble, don't share.
 

DrParasite

The fire extinguisher is not just for show
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My EMS union was the teamsters. Whether you chose IAFF, IAEP, teamsters, or whatever, your union local is only as strong as the contract it signs with management. The biggest difference is what experience and resources does your union bring to the negotiating table. that being said....
Dr. Parasite: I do have a copy of the union agreement (which is teamsters). It is very hard to interpret and it will give a statement, followed by another statement that says that the employer reserves the right to implement changes to the previous statement if necessary. Basically, the employer can do whatever they want.
sounds like your previous union leadership signed a crappy contract that gave management the power to do whatever they want. sorry the previous leadership screwed you, you might be stuck until it's time to renegotiate.
As of right now, we do not have a union rep - that person got hired on with fire and left.
you might not have a shop steward at this time (although most large EMS agencies have more than one), but you should have a union contact, even if it's in the union business office (IE, not an AMR employee) who you can call for union advice. after all, that's why you pay union dues. or maybe you should ask to become the new shop steward? sounds like no one else is stepping up to do the job
I have been looking into our pay system and the "FLSA" wages. The "average rate" is calculated from the sum of straight dollar amounts for each shift type, divided by the total number of hours for that work week. To me, an average rate should be calculated by the sum of each rate, divided by the number of shift types. Confusing..but long story short the FLSA method ends up being less wages paid to the employee. Also, you were right..everyone is making the same amount here, regardless of shift types worked.
I am inclined to agree with you, but it appears AMR doesn't (and it's not in their best interest to either). If it isn't explicitly state in the contract, it is often left up to management's discretion (I know it's not the answer you wanted to hear).
Around here, everyone hates their job and is desperate to get hired somewhere else. They stay the minimum time to transfer and go somewhere else, or find another job completely. We are lucky if an employee lasts three months. We have brand new medics and EMT's barely cleared from training on a rig together because we don't have enough experienced employees.
I understand exactly what you are saying: maybe management will change when they realize they have a turnover problem? But staffing is a management issue, one that have discretion on how they want to handle it. maybe you should also explore other options as well, and see if there are better options you can pursue?
In regards to our wages, each new-hire class is taken as a group to the union office to sign paperwork. We signed a single piece of paper with an appealing hourly rate, and given a union book. Nowhere on the paper that we signed does it mention the way rates are calculated nor do they go over this at any point during orientation week. We are not given time to read the union book prior to signing anything and the option of signing papers at a later day after reading all the fine print was not given. Everything appears great until a couple paychecks in.
fairly common practice. when you start a new job, you sign a ton of paperwork. however, you should consult your union rep to see if what they are doing is a violation of the contract
PotatoMedic & ChrisCEMT: I've been asking other employees on how they handle their arrival time/rig checks. I have heard a few different things. Some begin rig checks as soon as they arrive and clock in when they're "allowed". Others recognize the problem with this and arrive at the station only after they are "allowed" to clock in. Some have been corrected by management, and some haven't. The union book or AMR policy doesn't address this anywhere. The union book does state that training required to maintain state credentials is not required to compensate employees for training time. It states that any company mandated training should be considered paid hours worked. AMR is not complying with this and threatens to discipline employees when online training is not completed.
sounds like a union violation. your union should address this. If needed, they can file a lawsuit to reclaim the lost wages due to violations of the contract.
It's looking like the only way to change things is with the Union. I'm not sure how involved I really want to get in all this because I don't want to lose my job over it or ruin my reputation with future prospective employers. If I could do things anonymously, I would. I'm not trying to go against AMR, but if there's a way to help employees love their job and stick around, both sides would benefit. I've read about IAEP and might contact them for some guidance. Anyone have them as their Union? I would think since they are EMS specific it would be a better fit. But I don't know what kind of a deal AMR has with Teamsters, maybe they use them exclusively. Or does anyone else work for AMR, have Teamsters as a Union, and has a reasonable contract? I'm also not sure on what policies are in exchanging contract information. If you think it might get you in trouble, don't share.
In my experience, union reps (those employed by your agency) have to walk a fine line between fighting for their people and not pissing off management too much. That being said, out of the last 5 supervisors we promoted, 4 had been union shop stewards.

Most bosses understand that a union shop steward has a job to do, and isn't personally attacking management, however it is their job to make sure the members rights are being enforced, the contract is being followed, and to file grievances when violations occur. They aren't going to barge into the boss's office and threaten them until they get their way, but they will meet with them, explain what the contract says, and what is actually happening, and if management fails to abide by the contract, a lawsuit will be filed.

Oh and know your Weingarten Rights. Don't know what they are? well, here they are, direct from http://teamsterslocal97.org/:
Most union members do not understand their Weingarten Rights. Everyone should have a card that says: If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative or steward be present at this meeting. Without representation, I choose not to answer any questions.

Simply put, if you are getting in trouble, or feel as though you may get in trouble by meeting with your boss, supervisor, department head, mayor, whatever, you should always, always, ALWAYS request to speak to your union rep or shop steward, and have them present at that meeting.

If after you request your union rep, your employer asks you if they can talk to you without having them present, you should always refuse. If you comply, then you are not using your Weingarten Rights. You are actually allowing your employer to waive your Weingarten Rights.

DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR WEINGARTEN RIGHTS. Do not answer questions after you request union representation, unless your union rep is there. This is why you pay dues. Don’t be bamboozled into signing, meeting or saying anything that could lead to damaging your job or your character.

Many employers will trick you into waiving your rights. They do not have to remind you of your rights. Once you use your Weingarten rights, your employer must either wait until you have had a chance to meet with your union rep, or reschedule for a time when the arrangements can be made. Until that time you have the right NOT to answer any questions in regards to the matter.
want my advice? call your local. most have business offices. send them an email. schedule a meeting with one of your officers. You pay for this service, and are entitled to it.

check out https://teamster.org/, they have a lot of information, and can help you track down your local.
 
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