Over the past year we had pretty prolonged and at times nasty debate over whether to change unions, which we ended up doing. While I wasn’t happy with the previous union’s representation( they in fact screwed me on the one issue I needed them to grieve for me), having sat in on the last contract negotiations I had to give them and the negotiating committee serious props for being hard-asses and fighting for a decent contract. Based on that, I supported the old union, as did most of the senior people. We lost. That’s life.
Over the past year there was a lot of tough talk about striking if we had to, and how we were going to win a decent contract, particularly after an incident where the company was accused of possibly bugging our negotiations.
Of course, as everyone knows the economy has taken a nose dive, unions are giving back all over the country and many people are losing their jobs. While our company appears to be recession proof, who is to say? I don’t know their finances. I wasn’t in on the negotiations, and I give credit to anyone who spends their time fighting for their union brothers and sisters.
That said the contract that was finally agreed to, without getting into any of the dollar figures — and dollar figures aside — screwed the senior medics and screwed future employees. Not that the people in the middle got a gold mine, but they apparently got something to vote for. All the senior people I talked to said they were voting no (and from the results they did). At the same time many of the people who had done tough-talking about getting a new union to get a better contract were now counseling others to vote for the contract because the public would not be on our side if we voted to strike. A contract vote is either to approve the contract or authorize a strike. It doesn’t mean there will be a strike. Last go around we voted the contract down, voting to authorize a strike, went back to the table, and won a fair contract. Many don’t like the idea of public safety personnel going on strike, but the right to strike is one of the few bargaining chips unions have to win fair contracts. Everyone has to have their line in the sand. Once a contract is signed, the contract forbids work-actions during the course of the contract. In the end this contract was approved with something like a 70-50 vote. I guess people were scared or else they thought they were getting a good enough deal for their situations, considering everything.
Now it doesn’t impact me directly all that much as I am extremely fortunate now to have a second job with better health insurance (I didn’t even mention the insurance changes in the new contract), and don’t have to compete for what has become nonexistent overtime.
Nevertheless, the episode has left me saddened. I heard one younger medic saying if we went on strike, her kids would starve, and I felt like saying, if we approve this contract, which destroys the concept of increased pay for seniority and lowers what future medics can expect to make, you eventually will need to find another job(another profession), so you might as well start looking now.
I almost didn’t take my new second job as a clinical coordinator because I love being a paramedic. Even working as a medic three days (40 hours) a week, I miss being out there on the other days (back when overtime was plentiful). I feel like a half-medic. I feel bad for my long-time coworkers with families who can’t live on a 40 hour week salary and who can’t get the overtime they relied on because in this economy there is a seemingly endless stream of new and part-time EMTs to take those shifts. Some of them — good medics- are going to have to quit the jobs they love.
Its just got me down. I thought for awhile we were getting ahead as a profession.