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EMTs may be looking to unionize

March 06, 2013
Frustrated with working conditions, a majority of emergency medical technicians at the Crawford County Emergency Medical Services are considering forming a union.

Cliff Kerce, of the Carpenters Industrial Council, told the Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its meeting Thursday night at the judicial complex in English, that the EMTs have asked his group to represent them.

Kerce, of Leavenworth, asked the commissioners for voluntary recognition that a majority of the EMTs have signed cards in favor of having his organization represent them.

"There's nothing here binding. All this does is give us the opportunity to sit down here with you," he said.

Terry Brothers, also an organizer with the Carpenters Industrial Council, said that, without voluntary recognition that a majority of cards have been signed, the EMTs would have to have an election through the U.S. Department of Labor to have the Carpenters Industrial Council be their bargaining agent.

"When you have to do an election, there's money that's spent in closed ballots and stuff and getting people off from work to come and be able to vote," he said.

Brothers explained the actual formation of a union would come later and would be contingent upon his group negotiating a contract on behalf of the EMTs.

"At that time, if we got a contract, then we would come back to the people on a separate piece of paper and get them to sign up to become a union member," he said. "So, just because you sign the card doesn't mean you're a union member."

District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius said the EMTs, if they want, will form a union regardless of what the commissioners do.

"That's right," Kerce said. "This is just the friendly way of doing it. We want to work with the commissioners. We want to work with the EMS workers. I mean, ultimately, at the end of the day, that sounds bad, (but) once a group of people have had enough and want to be treated better, it's going to happen, regardless. This is just the gentleman's way of saying, 'Let's work together to improve Crawford County's EMS service.' "

Neither Kerce nor Brothers publicly offered specifics about the EMTs complaints, but the EMTs did present a list of grievances to the commissioners last month. EMTs then were given the opportunity to address the commissioners in closed executive session prior to Thursday night's meeting.

Brothers met individually with at least one of the commissioners earlier in the week. However, District 3 Commissioner Jim Schultz, who is a member of the teachers union, said more questions still need to be answered.

"I'm a union guy. I've been in the union 34 years," he said. "I've served on the bargaining team most of that time. You know, I'm pro-labor. There's just a lot of questions here on this end of it. I've got to look at the big picture, see exactly what we're talking about and go from there."

The commissioners said they will consider the matter at their next meeting, which will be Thursday, March 21, at the judicial complex. The public meeting will be at 6:30 p.m., with a closed executive session at 5.

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