Opinion

Union pressure behind emergency services bill

Emergency workers at a Malibu auto accident on Pacific Coast Highway. (Photo: EGD, via Shutterstock)

Providers of emergency medical services across the state are opposing AB 263 authored by Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez.  Under the pretense of an “Emergency Worker Bill of Rights,” AB 263 is nothing short of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The legislation  is a public union power play that is seeking to confuse the facts and misguide members of the Legislature and the public. AB 263 will do absolutely nothing to protect EMS workers from violent patients or improve their mental health; it will simply restrict or eliminate private EMS providers from operating in California.

AB 263 requires private emergency responders to release their employees from their duties even if it places public safety at risk.

The author claims that creating a list of patient attacks on private EMS employees will stop them from occurring. Theses types of attacks are already considered an enhanced crime and providers are currently required by law to report them to OSHA — yet attacks have not diminished.

Generally, patients who attack EMS workers are in an altered state due to injury, illness or intoxication, and we have an ethical responsibility to treat them. Creating a second list is great for news headlines and press releases, but it does nothing to solve the problem. What’s more, the author excluded public EMS employers from reporting attacks. Why?

Another misleading component of AB 263 regards wages. The claim that our workforce makes minimum wage is absolutely false. Our average California EMT salary is $43,000, with the top 10% earning $74,000; and our average paramedic salary is $71,000, with the top 10% earning $120,000. Minimum wage is approximately $22,000 a year.

What is fact is that when it comes to public safety, the standard practice of EMS is that the closest ambulance to an emergency responds.  The rationale behind this practice is patient care takes precedent to rest and meal breaks, always! AB 263 will prohibit this standard for private first responders.

AB 263 requires private emergency responders to release their employees from their duties even if it places public safety at risk. It allows private EMTs, paramedics, and emergency medical dispatchers to walk or drive away from their ambulances, station houses, or dispatch centers while on break. Even worse, AB 263 prevents break interruptions for Code 2 calls, which can include responses for sexual assault, difficulty breathing and broken bones. This defies all common sense and reason.

Moreover, our employees are paid for their entire shift, including breaks and meal periods. Under our current labor contracts, we have already agreed to pay an hour of compensation if a break or meal period is interrupted and not rescheduled, which only happens on 6% of meal periods and 1% of rest breaks. In fact, on an average 12-hour shift, eight hours are spent inactive.

Further, AB 263 is punitive in nature and heavily penalizes private – but not public – employers of EMS personnel for break interruptions during responses to disasters and other major medical emergencies. Under the requirements of AB 263, providers will literally be paying huge financial penalties during a response to a terrorist attack, an event that they neither caused nor are responsible for. During all the chaos that events like these can create, we will be required to schedule and work around rest breaks and meal periods, which simply defies logic.

If AB 263 becomes law in its current form it will place restrictions on private EMS providers that will be impossible to comply with, and make it unsustainable for us to continue to provide emergency services in numerous California counties. The wolf unveils himself of the sheep’s clothing.

Ed’s Note: Jason Sorrick is director of communications and government relations for American Medical Response.


  • http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fubar FUBAR

    Sure does not look like that EMT in that picture has missed any lunches, and based on all them commenting on this page does not seem they are too busy either, #livesbeforefacebook https://www.facebook.com/LivesBeforeLunch/

    • Allan Scott Christopher

      Savage. That being said the only reason the annual salary gets that high is because we work 240-300 hours a month not a 160. Pretty easy to double your minimum wage when you don’t sleep. Lives before lunches is a joke, it doesn’t require to give us uninterrupted lunch breaks it requires to give us a chance to have a lunch break and an hour pay aka $12 if that so called lunch break is interrupted with a call. Stop misleading the public. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/11d53764eab321e9859e7ed66046f6901a61aeab0d1cd971c9c7f4e084bf3cba.jpg #staffingforlives #betterworkingconditions

  • Medic

    Your boss tells you to go to a room and wait for an assignment. You do. Ten min later he sends you to another room to wait. 2 min later another. Gives you an assignment which you deliver but are told to wait. You may wait mins or hours. You don’t know. The entire time the assignment requires your attention. You finish that assignment and get another. Again you wait. Then got to room. Then another. An assignment. Wait. Then another room. At the end of the day you are told you received your meal breaks while waiting in the rooms. But how were you suppose to eat then if you did not know it was your break til it was over. Also all the time you spent waiting at your assignments was inactive time.
    Not to mention You get off 1-4 hours late daily. Making large pay levels for them to report. And while you are tired and hungry everytime you complain you hear, “So your sleep and food is more important then someone life.” It’s there trump card. And rarely do you run a call where someone life is on the line and those seconds/mins really matter. You feel more like a glorified taxi on most calls.
    Add to that after a patient punched and bit you. Which occurs on a regular basis. Your supervisors response was “Why did you let that happen.” “You should have had control of the scene.” But any injury the patient may receive while struggling to control the scene is viewed as accessive force. If we just leave them it is abandonment and you can be sued.
    After those hard calls that really unnerve you there is usually no attempt to check how you are processing it by management. You have to seek help. If you ask to go home to deal with what you just witnessed; you will be given an attendance infraction. You can call and talk to a councilor but you may get an assignment during it. Which you must respond to. You may also get 5 therapy sessions but if you need more you are on your own.

  • EMT

    No idea where they are pulling the average wage number but it isn’t even close to reflecting what actual AMR employees in San Diego make. Think closer to 28-30k for EMTs and 40k for medics all while working 50-60hr work weeks. Talking from first hand experience here…

  • Juliana

    How can anyone even be opposed to this. It’s dangerous to NOT allow breaks. I can’t even tell you how many nights I’ve had where we will get a response and I’m too tired to drive but have to anyways. I can’t tell you how many days we’ve had where we get a call as soon as we walk in and don’t have time to eat till 9 pm. I’m sorry, Grossmont hospital, for all the puddings I’ve stolen out of a hungry desperation. I mean have the idiots against ems worker rights even done a full 24? They have no idea what goes on. Some days are good but sure as hell not most of them. And we dont report our missed meal breaks because by the end of the day we are too tired to drive all the way to headquarters to put in a piece of paper. There is no easy way to do it. It’s just not worth the effort.

  • calwatch

    This is kind of ironic since Freddie is a part time AMR employee when he is not legislating.

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