March 27, 2013Not getting the answer they were hoping for, emergency medical technicians at the Crawford County Emergency Medical Services will have to proceed with an election if they wish to continue pursuing plans to form a union.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, meeting in regular session Thursday night at the judicial complex in English, did not approve a request by the Carpenters Industrial Council to voluntarily recognize it as the bargaining agent for the EMTs.
CIC officials first approached the commissioners a month ago, saying a majority of the EMTs, who are frustrated with working conditions, had signed cards in favor of the organization representing them.
Doing so wouldn't necessarily mean the EMTs would unionize. An actual union would be formed only if a contract between the EMTs and the county was agreed upon, CIC officials said.
Saying there were still questions that needed to be answered, the commissioners in February said they would consider the request in March.
Following a lengthy discussion with CIC officials, District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius Thursday night asked the EMTs in attendance if they favored moving forward with the process.
"We haven't been to three consecutive commissioners' meetings just because we want to hear you all talk," one replied.
Noting that the outcome would be the same if an election was held instead, Crecelius moved to approve voluntary recognition of the CIC as the bargaining agent for the EMTs. However, with neither District 2 Commissioner Jim Schultz nor Randy Gilmore, the board's president, offering a second, Crecelius' motion died.
Doug Wendt, one of three organizers with the CIC at the meeting, then pushed the commissioners to vote to allow an election.
"We need to get together to agree on rules for an election process. They need to be submitted to the Department of Labor of Indiana, and we'll start moving through that whole process," he said. "And, under their rights of law, they have a right to have a union."
"Nobody disagrees with that," Gilmore said.
Wendt, however, reiterated that the commissioners need to vote "to observe the rights under law to start the process, through the Department of Labor through Indiana, for an election."
Gilmore, who noted that all three commissioners have been pro-union in their careers, asked if the CIC shouldn't first come to the commissioners with the information for an election.
"I just gave it to you," Wendt replied.
Gilmore, explaining that he meant in writing, turned to county attorney John E. Colin for clarification.
Colin said he would research the process and present his findings to the commissioners by next month's meeting.
Wendt then presented the commissioners with a sample agreement that would be needed to move forward with an election.
Asked by Wendt if the commissioners, at their April meeting, would begin moving forward with plans for an election, Gilmore wondered if doing so is the CIC's responsibility.
"If you're not going to recognize them," Wendt said of the EMTs, "then you need to pass that you're going to allow them to have an election for representation. And, then, if you don't want to allow them to exercise their rights to representation, then I've got to make some calls and figure out what we're going to do next."
Councilman Steve Bartels, who was in attendance and said he has experience regarding the formation of a public union, told Wendt that he doesn't believe the county "has to provide the space or the time off … They can't discourage it, they can't do anything to say you're going to lose your job if you do this, they can't influence it, but it is your responsibility to do that."
Gilmore, however, said that, if a vote were to be held, there likely wouldn't be a problem with conducting it on county property.
The next commissioners' meeting will be Thursday, April 25, at the judicial complex. The public meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be preceded by a closed executive session at 5.