EMS Workers at AMR Win Big First Contract in Arizona

The 156 members of AFSCME Local 2960/EMS United in Maricopa County, Arizona, signed a 4-year agreement with American Medical Response (AMR), winning a 14 percent wage increase, lower costs for health care and a voice on service quality.

The contract, Local 2960's first with the company, was ratified unanimously by the membership in late February.

“There isn’t one member who is not absolutely excited about the future ahead,” said Brian Weinberg, a Tolleson-based paramedic who joined AMR/Maricopa from its inception.

Weinberg, a bargaining team member, explained that AMR/Maricopa was one of the first instances where AMR hadn’t purchased an existing operation, which meant they were starting from scratch.

As a result, policies were being distributed haphazardly, via memo rather than an established handbook. In short, important rules that governed day-to-day operations were a moving target.

“When you’re up against a company as big as AMR, you need a (union) just as big,” said Weinberg. “We chose AFSCME because of that. There was incredible transparency and [AFSCME’s] track history. It’s been a match made in heaven.”

For Dave Olin, an EMT, a big issue the agreement addresses is “holdovers,” a practice under which crew members are asked to remain on duty without appropriate compensation.

“We’ve got a spine now for the employees,” said Olin. “Now the rank and file have something to fall back on. It’s not just their word against management. They have resources available.”

Stephanie Garafola, an EMT who works in the Queen Creek 911 unit, said having a ratified collective bargaining agreement is good for both rank-and-file employees and managers.

“Everyone knows the rules and knows the guidelines. Everyone’s going to be happier moving forward,” Garafola said. “We’re incredibly proud of what we accomplished.”