Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle) released the following statement in response to the threat from American Medical Response (AMR) that it will pull out emergency services if the members of the Teamsters Local 763 do not accept the latest substandard collective bargaining agreement proposed by the company, which offers the workers at least two dollars below prevailing wage:
“In August, members of the labor movement and I stood with emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who work for American Medical Response (AMR), the nationwide for-profit corporation that employs the 430 basic life support workers who serve the City of Seattle all year round with dedication, professionalism, and self-sacrifice.
“The EMTs save lives. Yet, I heard from EMTs who can’t afford to live in Seattle on the starting wage of $15.54/hour, who end up having to work multiple jobs just to get by, and even some having to donate plasma to make the rent.
“Emergency medical services in Seattle are at risk, because of the greed and bullying of the company that the City contracts with, and also because the political establishment have failed for years to enforce good labor standards for our EMTs.
“These brave workers are members of Teamsters Local 763. Working closely with my office, the EMTs forced the Seattle City Council to unanimously adopt Resolution 31831, which rejected the substandard wages and benefits for AMR’s workers and called on the Mayor to:
‘…include in The City of Seattle’s contract for Basic Life Support Emergency Services provisions that contractors and their subcontractors: 1) pay EMTs in Seattle the prevailing wage similar to the wage paid to EMTs in cities of comparable size and cost of living and 2) provide mental health and healthcare benefits comparable to other emergency workers employed in similar sectors in the City of Seattle.’
“In advocating for the resolution, the EMTs produced data to City Council showing that the prevailing wages for their work in comparable cities are $19/hour and higher.
“Despite this, when Mayor Durkan finalized a new multi-year service agreement in September with AMR, the City failed to get any new language in the contract that would hold AMR accountable for paying those prevailing wages and benefits. Why is Mayor Durkan’s office ignoring the City Council resolution?
“And now, I just learned over this past weekend that in a letter distributed by hand to all workers on Friday, AMR is threatening to abandon Seattle if workers refuse to accept substandard wages and benefits.
“The EMTs, as members of Teamsters Local 763, are voting this week on AMR’s proposed collective bargaining agreement. The company is insisting on a starting pay level of just $17/hour – at least two dollars below the prevailing wage. Worse, AMR has told workers that if they reject this substandard offer and authorize a strike, then AMR will pull out of Seattle:
‘…A rejection of the company’s offer and an authorization to strike will have a direct effect on our customer relationships. In the event, a work action is initiated it will cause the Company to exit not only the Seattle Fire District contract, but many of our other long-term existing customer agreements.’
“AMR is threatening not just the workers. The company is also threatening all community members with loss of vital emergency services if the EMTs refuse to have substandard wages and benefits shoved down their throats.
“This is corporate bullying straight out of Amazon’s extortion playbook on display earlier this year.
“I support the EMTs who justifiably reject AMR’s lousy contract proposal. I urge workers and community members throughout the city to stand with the EMTs who are fighting for the decent wages and benefits they deserve. Their fight is our fight, and is linked to the larger questions of the pervasive income and wealth inequality in our city, the housing affordability crisis, and the power differential between billionaires and working people.
“As we stand with the EMTs, let’s learn from the example of Amazon warehouse workers, who have been exposing horrendous working conditions. Their courage, alongside that of Seattle’s Tax Amazon movement, pressured Amazon and Jeff Bezos such that the company was recently forced to announce a $15/hour minimum wage for all its employees. The courage of the workers and the movement stands in stark contrast to the capitulation of the Seattle City Council majority and Mayor Durkan, who shamefully repealed the Amazon Tax less than a month after approving it. And it shows that movements of working people can bring pressure to bear on big business.
“I call on Mayor Durkan to hold AMR accountable to the City Council’s resolution. If AMR refuses to back off its extortionary threat, then the City must move toward bringing Basic Life Support services in-house, so that vital, life-saving services that we all depend upon will be publicly owned and operated, just like the Fire Department and City Light, and won’t be subject to threats and bullying by for-profit corporations.”