EL CENTRO – The Teamster Local 542 strike against Gold Cross Ambulance Service continues with negotiations at a standstill.
The strike began July 28 after negotiations failed to produce any results.
The last meeting between the union and Gold Cross was July 17.
Approximately 60 Gold Cross employees are beginning their second month of not working.
These employees work as ambulance drivers, paramedics, and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) for the 911 service that covers Imperial County.
Some requests by the strikers include safer working conditions, increase in pay, no proposed cuts in medical benefits, and better treatment of employees.
Phil Farias, President of Teamsters Local 542, was arrested Sunday, September 1st, after an incident at the Gold Cross Ambulance Service facility for allegedly assaulting Gold Cross Division Manager John Goodall.
“Our mechanic had come to our facility Sunday to pick up a tool,” said Goodall. “As he was leaving, a striking employee began saying things about his wife. Words were exchanged and the striking employee spat is his face. I walked out there and another striker and the union president also came out. I calmed the mechanic down and sent him home. There were words between myself and the president. He then stepped forward and placed his foot on mine. I told him to remove his foot and he said ‘make me.’ I pulled my foot back and he shoved me. It was assault. He was arrested. It’s all on videotape.”
Farias could not be reached for comment.
Michael Morales, Teamsters Business Agent, said, “There are no negotiations going on. We’re going to have to wait for the vote whether the Teamsters Union will remain representing the employees of Gold Cross or if it’s re-certified and no longer represents the employees. The vote is September 26. If the Union is voted out, the striking members of Local 542 will be out of a job. We’re hoping for the best. Some of these people have years of experience. They know the Valley. The people that have replaced them have little experience and are not from here. We feel the residents of the Imperial Valley deserve better than that.”
Eddie Baxter, striking employee, said, “We didn’t want to go on strike but we haven’t had a raise in 6 years. We’ve been negotiating since January.”
“If the Union is voted out, employees will have to wait one year to vote to reinstate the Union back in,” said Morales.
Imperial County Emergency Services monitors Gold Cross every 30 days for emergency response times. Since the strike began, response times are being monitored daily.
“Response times are being met,” said Goodall. “We submit our daily logs to the county every day at 5 pm. We only have 3 units in the Imperial Valley that belong to other companies. The rest have been cut loose. Right now Gold Cross is operating 7 units a day. We have new staff with replacements and some individuals who have crossed the picket line and resigned from the union. Employees submitted a petition to the Labor Department to request a desertification hearing back on August 28. The hearing was supposed to be September 4 but it was cancelled in lieu of the vote on September 25th, 26th, and 27th. If the employees vote not to certify the union, then the union will be out of here.”
Employees can then bargain for themselves with a committee they designate. The committee can discuss labor disputes and negotiate other issues on behalf of the employees.
“The enthusiasm here is up with the new people and the employees that have crossed the strike line,” said Goodall. “Hospitals and fire departments have commented on the professionalism lately. The company is experiencing a reinvigorating time.”
Brawley Fire Chief Chuck Peraza said, “Were very happy with the service since the strike began. The level of service is very professional.”
Cedric Cesena, Imperial County Emergency Services Manager, said “Gold Cross Ambulance Services are continuing to meet minimum performance standards set by the contracts that they have with the County. Those response times are 10 minutes for urban communities like El Centro or Brawley, 30 minutes for rural like Westmorland or Calipatria, and 60 minutes for wilderness like Glamis or Ocotillo Wells. Response times are running at 95%. We are monitoring the response times every 24 hours during the strike. The comments we are getting from first responders are very positive. Excellent customer care and a more professional workforce is what we are hearing.”